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Write Strong: A Personal Journey

Text Only LogoI’ve always been frustrated by false presentations of fitness and health these days. Over the years, I’ll admit that I’ve fallen prey to plenty of the gimmicks, the fads, the ads promising six-packs in eight weeks or your money…er…not back. Our stores are stocked full of powders and pills that sound rather miraculous in how they’re supposed to transform our bodies. We have armies of instructors, personal trainers, and professional fitness gurus who all have their branded version of fitness wisdom to bestow on those willing to listen…and pay.

How do we find our way through such a warren of confusing and often conflicting advice, scientific studies (often funded by a commercial entity), or sensationalist claims? That’s one of the big questions I’ve been wrangling with in my own life. Let me give you a brief rundown of my experiences so you have a bit better context of where I’m coming from for the Write Strong series.

I’ve been a regular in gyms since middle school. My first real introduction to fitness beyond the usual P.E. class was a weight training course run by our biology prof, who had been a competitive bodybuilder in a previous career. Because I went to a Christian school, our prof had to wear long-sleeve dress shirts to hide the tattoos covering most of his torso—but he cheated a bit, wearing thin, white shirts so you could still see the inked designs through the fabric.

Anyways, that early exposure to the gym and all it could offer has stuck with me ever since. I discovered I could lift rather well, and enjoyed the progress I made. I started wrestling in high school and went to Regionals and State a couple times. Then, as a freshman in college, I put on 50 lbs in less than six months. Yeah. Freshman 50, rather than the Freshman 15. This came about thanks to a lot of factors, such as constant 8-hour gaming sprees, desk drawers full of cheap Halloween candy, and a tendency to go through bags of Frito chips dunked in jars of French Onion dip.

I was not wise. Let’s leave it at that.

Once I realized how bad I’d let things get, I started going to a martial arts studio and, over the next few year, kicked and punched my way back into reasonable fitness level. Even got my black belt in Shao-lin kung fu. Since then, my fitness journey has seen its share of highs and lows.

This has included a handful of half marathons and obstacle course races—y’know, the ones where you crawl through mud under barbed wire and flip monster truck tires. For a couple years, I returned to martial arts at a studio that mingled Krav Maga with CrossFit classes. That, plus a renewed focus on eating well, got me in some of the best shape of my life (so far). Currently, I’m returning more to basic weight training with the occasional run, swim, and crossfit session.

Throughout all this, I’ve learned a few things about myself:

  • I like feeling healthy and fit. “Well, duh,” you might be thinking. “Who doesn’t?” But sometimes the lure of laziness can be overwhelming and I can rationalize taking weeks off a routine at a time. When I get back into being active, I’m reminded of how good it feels to push myself and maintain healthy habits. Same applies when I’m staring at a blank page. Even though it can be daunting at times, I know I’ll feel much better once I hit a daily writing quota or finish a scene or draft.
  • I’m easily bored. In both my writing and fitness, I love variety. In writing, this means exploring numerous genres, story formats, and publishing venues. In fitness, this means I enjoy switching things up often. I love lifting weights, swimming, crossfit, martial arts, the occasional run, and more. I’ve even dabbled in fencing and parkour.
  • I’m an emotional eater. Yup, when stressed I tend to head for the fridge or down jellybeans by the bagful. Getting better at this, but even when I do indulge, exercise can help curb some of the waistline consequences.
  • I work better with goals and within a community. Again, a truth for both writing and fitness. Even though writing is a solitary thing, I’m much more inspired to keep at it when connected with other authors, whether online, at cons, or my local critique group. Going to a crossfit class or lifting with others is far more motivational than just putzing around the gym by myself.
  • I like to be informed. I’ve done tons of research on writing and publishing because I want to have a good grip on the realities of the industry as well as the many tools and resources available to me as a writer. In fitness, I’ve read plenty of books, blogs, and scoured forums to gain at least a basic understanding of how the body works, how nutrition affects overall health, and what sorts of exercises are more effective than others. Knowledge is power.

I also got a better sense of how my overall health and fitness affected my writing. For one thing, during periods of more consistent activity, I often feel far more energized and motivated to write. Writing while resting after a good workout is also satisfying in many ways. In the end, those periods in my life where my writing and fitness efforts coincided have been decidedly more positive and productive, inspiring me to try and keep up on both as much as possible.

What has your fitness journey been like up until this point? Do you feel like it has impacted your writing in any way?


  1. Gina
    Gina June 9, 2014

    My journey would take too long to fully tell in a comment. I’ve been weight challenged my whole life – the only thing that has ever let me even attempt to control it has been brutal levels of exercise, which I can’t sustain.

    But what I can say here is I love the clarity and vibrancy of thought that comes with regular exercise. I connected with what you said about the positive impact on your writing. When I’m not doing something to move, I can’t seem to focus on more than what is essential, which limits the writing.

    • JRVogt
      JRVogt June 12, 2014

      I know what you mean. It often comes down to why we exercise. Is it to fit a particular image or because we know how much it’s helping us in many other areas of life? I think the latter can be far more fulfilling, especially in the long-term.

  2. Karen Anderson
    Karen Anderson June 12, 2014

    I found fitness very late in life. Exercise — particularly yoga — is having a dramatic and positive effect on my writing.

    I’ll look forward to following this series of posts; I’m always looking for inspiration to keep going with the exercise.

    • JRVogt
      JRVogt June 12, 2014

      Glad to have you along for the adventure, Karen!

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