May 13, 2011

Good exercises for neck and back

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 1:07 pm
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So, you’re already past step one. You’ve hurt your back/neck from extended sitting, scribbling notes all night, forcing words out till long past your bedtime. What do you do now?

Well, since I’m one of you, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need a yogi or a fitness instructor to help with stiff necks or backs. You can do it all in the comfort of your own home.*

Start the day with five of these. This yoga warm-up exercise will not only get you limber and ready to start the day, it’ll stretch your back and neck (and all other parts of your body) without hurting it. It only takes a few minutes and it’s a great short break from writing if you’re stuck. If I could only recommend one exercise, this is the one I’d choose.

Luckily, I can recommend more. The second thing I want you to do is stand up straight, breathe deeply and just roll your shoulders. First roll the right shoulder backwards, followed by the left. Repeat 10 times. Then roll right/left shoulder forwards 10 times, then roll both shoulders backwards at once, and lastly, roll both forwards.

Now that you’re all limber and ready, it’s time to challenge yourself. Try a bridge. It’ll stretch out your back and push your shoulders back (which is great if you’re one of those people, like me, who rounds their shoulders forward when they write on the computer). If you can’t do a bridge right away, start with a modified bridge. If you find doing a bridge easy, then it might be time to attempt a one-legged bridge or a one-armed bridge. Do a bridge as usual, relax, remember your slow breathing and keeping your shoulders low, gently shift your weight to the left and lift your right leg. Stretch it straight out and hold. Do the same for right arm, left arm and left leg.

Another way to challenge yourself is to attempt the standing yoga pose The Crow. It’s a good way to ground yourself and to square your shoulders. Plus, it works your core.

The most important thing you can do to prevent injury is to stretch. I just learned a great shoulder stretch. Stand up straight. Put your arms in front of you. Rest your left elbow on your right arm at the point where your lower arm hits your upper arm. Try to interlace your fingers and then push your left shoulder blade backwards. Feel the stretch? Good. Hold it. Then repeat on the right.

Finally, it’s time for some back stretches. Start with the well-known child’s pose from yoga. Rest back on your knees, lean forwards and rest your forehead on the ground. Like so. Rest there for at least 30 seconds.

Then lie on your back, hug your knees to your chest and roll gently left/right and forth/back. Let your weight massage your back into the ground. Lie your legs back on the floor, stretch your arms out along the floor. Breathe here. End on this.

And that’s it!

Remember that you can do any and/or all of these exercises whenever you want throughout the day. The most important thing to do is to avoid becoming too stationary. Also remember that these are just a few examples. Use your body. Try stuff you find fun and challenging. If you have an exercise you want to try but you’re unsure whether or not it’s good for your back/neck, feel free to comment and I’ll do my best to advice you on it.

This is the latest thing I like to do when I’m stuck. It ain’t pretty, but it sure makes me believe I can do anything.

*Disclaimer: if you have sharp, immediate pain go see a chiropractor or a physical therapist. Listen to your body. If you feel like it’s getting worse from any of these exercises, consider seeing a physician.


April 21, 2011

Life lessons

Filed under: Uncategorized — nascentnovelist @ 1:04 pm
Tags: , ,

In my twenty-six years of life I’ve fluttered from job to job like a confused worker bee searching for the perfect flower. In the cold nights when I stand in a pile of unpaid bills, trying to ignore the unsettling number of zeros on my student loan payments, I tell myself that the myriad of work experiences have all taught me valuable lessons about living life. (It works about fifty percent of the time, the other times I drown out the noise with Uncle Whisky.) Now I’ll share one of those life lessons with you.

The year I managed a chiropractic clinic, I learned about the importance of good posture. I made a list of good advice I’d tell patients that came in complaining about backaches and neck troubles. Of course, I was running my ass off making sure the massage therapist and chiropractor were on time, the patients were happy, the filing was in order, the plants were watered and that I was properly caffeinated, so I didn’t need to test my theories. Now that I’m working full-time as a writer, however, I’ve gotten a chance to take my own advice.

The first thing is to start out in a good position.

It should look something like this:

(Image from

Looks easy, right? Well, it isn’t. I’ll sit down in the correct pose, but less than five minutes later, I’m sliding all over my chair. My legs are up on the desk, my hips pushed forward, my shoulders are raised and my neck sticks forward like a turtle. The way to avoid this is practice (at least, that’s what I keep telling myself) and changing your position. Every time you stand up to get a glass of water or go to the restroom, you have another shot at getting it right.

That’s why I told my patients to keep a stopwatch next to their work station. It sounded like a good idea. Just set the timer for forty minutes, get up and do some stretches. (Forty minutes in one position is the max amount of time you should spend by the way, taking a short break every twenty minutes is the goal.)

Now, here is where I went wrong. As a fiction writer, I need to keep my focus when I get it. Having a timer counting down next to me makes sure I’m never fully committed to creating. Not to mention how bad it is for your flow to have to take a break mid-sentence to do stretches. Trust me, not the best advice I’ve given.

Instead, think of it like this: The longer you stay seated in the same position, the stiffer you’ll get and the more likely it is that you’ll experience neck and/or back problems. And the longer you stay locked in one position, the more likely is it that your writing’s growing stale. When I’m stuck at a phrase or unsure of how to move a scene forward, I go take a look in my fridge. I get a fresh cup of coffee. I do ten push-ups. Anything to break the slump. And by doing that, I’m making sure my back and neck suffers as little as possible from my choice of career.

See? If I hadn’t worked at a chiropractic clinic, I wouldn’t know how to sit. And if I hadn’t worked as a writer, I wouldn’t know how to stay seated. You think I could pay my bills with life lessons?

*Image from

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