The Runner’s Guide to Better Writing

Runners Guide to better writing

Admit it.

You want to become the kind of writer who has the energy to turn up every day in front of the blank page and create.

You’re looking for a way to focus on your current writing project without getting distracted.

And you’d like to finish what you’re working on.

If only there were something that would help you do all this…

There is.

It’s called running.

For me, the best days are the ones when I run and I write.

Wait a minute, I hate running. What’s in this post for me?

Don’t worry, I know running is hard, tiresome and not for everyone.

If running is not your thing, read on anyway, because I’ve included a tip at the end of this post that will help you apply all these productivity lessons – even if you’re not a runner.

Here are four reasons why running is a key to better writing, will make you more productive and help you achieve your personal and professional writing goals.


1. It helps you focus


Meditation is scientifically proven to aid concentration, improve our memory and make us smarter. Those who meditate for twenty minutes or more thrice a week are better able to focus on a task and less prone to mood swings.

Running is a lot like meditation.

Think about it:

Both meditation and running demand that you turn up several times a week on your cushion or in your trainers, and commit to one difficult task for an extended period of time.

Both activities involve focusing on the breath at length, just as an aspiring writer must learn to focus on the words in front of them.

The runner knows one bad training session doesn’t mean they are unfit or unprepared for a race. The next day, they simply put their trainers back on and keep going.

The meditator acknowledges day-to-day setbacks alongside small accomplishments, accepting both as they move forward.

If you’re a writer who runs (or meditates), a short story, an article, a blog post or even a book can feel more achievable. You can take the lessons learnt on the track or the cushion, and break down a complicated writing project into a series of small milestones.

Then, you can focus on achieving small personal victories, overcoming minor setbacks and making slow but steady progress towards your writing goal.


2. It gives your brain a much-needed break


If you’re a desk monkey like most of us, you spend up to eight hours a day looking at a screen in your office, on your phone, and in front of the television.

If you’re like me, you might see your bloodshot eyes in the mirror and wonder if all this screen time is rotting your brain, killing your concentration and making you go blind.

Our eyes and minds crave a break from the glare of screens, monitors and devices.

Give them what they want.

Then when you sit down to write, you will be able to see the hook for your article, the typo on page two and the plot twist that your tired, overworked mind missed an hour ago.


3. It makes you a more productive writer


As a writer, I’m fascinated by how other writers get things done.

Here’s what I discovered recently:

Most writers are nothing like Ernest Hemingway or Scott F. Fitzgerald. Productive writers aren’t alcoholics; they are disciplined, sober and health-conscious (even Fitzgerald and Hemingway tried to sober up towards the end).

Take Haruki Murakami.

He is one of Japan’s greatest novelists, and the author of books like Kafka on the Shore and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

He’s also a serious athlete who runs at least one marathon a year. When Murakami is writing a novel, he says he runs or swims for at least an hour a day.

“Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as well. I believe many runners would agree,” he writes in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

When I’m in pain I think of that sentence. I force myself to run a little farther, a little harder. And then I try to write awhile longer and go that much deeper.


4. It helps you eliminate stress and fight depression


Steven Pressfield writes in Turning Pro that when the professional writer is in pain, he or she takes “two aspirin and keeps on trucking.”

Even Pressfield would agree it’s easier to write when you’re not in pain.

The good news is that running helps you lose weight, fight disease and sleep better. And when you are physically and mentally healthier, you are better able to concentrate on your writing.

If good health isn’t enough of a reason to run, anyone who trains several times a week experiences (I can vouch for this) the runner’s high. The natural feel-good endorphins that running releases carry over after you’ve finished, into your work.

When I run five or ten kilometers, the chair by my computer, the keyboard, the blank screen, and the flashing cursor – all become irresistible.


Stop, I hate running!


Swap running for any aerobic activity, and you’ll get all the benefits listed above.

You can swim, cycle, box, golf, row, ski, dance, play tennis or squash, hike or even cut grass, and still become a more productive and creative writer.

I picked running because that’s my passion.


The final mile


Runners preparing for a five- or ten-mile race typically train two to three times a week, just as aspiring writers begin by writing several sentences every other day.

Marathon runners train longer and harder; they run four or five times a week, just as serious writers must create every day.

Whatever type of writer you are, running can help your overcome many of the problems writers face.

When you’re naturally fit and healthy, you will feel more inclined to turn up every day in front of the blank page and create.

Running – or any other physical activity of your choice – builds the inner discipline and cultivates the focus you need to work on difficult writing projects for extended periods.

And because you’re capable of hitting milestones on the track (or on the road), you will feel more confident about hitting them on the page too.

If that sounds daunting, remember that in the end, you’re competing against yourself.

I find running is the answer to the perennial question we face: how to focus, create and get it done as a writer.

How do you get your writing done? Let me know in the comments below.

About the author

Bryan Collins

Bryan Collins helps writers become authors. This post is based on his new book The Art of Writing a Non-Fiction Book. Get his 101 Writing Prompts for free and kickstart your writing today.