Tag: lifestyle


In fiction as in life

 Yesterday, I posted about authors getting into shape. That got me thinking about the physical fitness habits of fictional characters. “Person versus nature” is a classic literary theme. A character engaged in an outdoor activity like backpacking, skiing, or trekking might find themselves combating nature’s fury in the form of a landslide, earthquake, or avalanche. A character might undergo physical training as preparation for battle against their antagonist. Even if you’re not a fan of sports films or boxing, when someone says, “Rocky,” you imagine Sylvester Stallone’s triumphant run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Dr. Strange” features several scenes of Benedict Cumberbatch enduring physical as well as magical training. Superheroes require physical toughness to fight the forces of evil. Two my favorite movies, “Stripes” and “Private Benjamin,” present the rigors of military physical fitness as both a literal antagonist to overcome and as metaphorical antagonist for the characters’ battles against themselves and others who are betting on them to fail. Christine Sneed, one of the authors interviewed for the article, “How the bookish stay in shape,” (William Hageman, Chicago Tribune, November 11, 2015) includes college athletes and distance runners as characters in her novels. Author Philip Brewer wrote a 2013 blog post, “Fictional characters getting in shape,” describing how he enjoys scenes showing the protagonist engaged in fitness activities. He lists Man on Fire, Wise Man’s Fear, Critical Space, and, of course, “Rocky,” as examples. Commenters on the post mentioned the Travis McGee, Doc Ford, and Elvis Cole series as others. What about you? Are you a fan of physical fitness in fiction? As a plot device to put a character in jeopardy? As preparation for the ultimate battle? As a metaphor for a battle against self-doubt? Or as a way to show that characters are as human as we are? Leave a comment on the blog or come over to Facebook to share and discuss. 

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Lifting a pen burns calories, doesn't it?

 I’m on a diet. Not some trendy, named diet that makes me give up carbs or give up fats or eat both carbs and fats but only on alternating Tuesdays. No cleanses or detoxes. I joined a free program, sponsored by my health insurance company, that combines good, old-fashioned calorie reduction with increased physical activity. I earned a free weight scale and pedometer for signing up. There’s online access to a health coach and video lessons on topics like, “Be a [Fat] Detective,” “Eating Out,” and “Manage Stress”. I confess the videos aren’t super-helpful to me. I’ve always known what I should do, I just lacked the motivation to do it. Then a visit to my doctor, and the resultant lab report, provided all the motivation I needed. My test results were only a point or two away from being diagnostic of a variety of illnesses. Time to change my sedentary ways. The plan seems to be working. Approximately 1200 calories a day and a combination of barre and Pilates three-to-four times a week translated to a six-pound weight loss since my doctor’s appointment. The temptation to sit and eat hasn’t left me. It lurks in the background like a prowling hyena. You don’t realize how much chocolate there is in the world until you’re actively trying to avoid it. When my motivation wanes, I pull out my lab report to remind me why I started this. Or I try on clothes that had been relegated to the back of the closet because they were too tight. Those adorable pencil skirts fit now. And the pants I bought several months ago in “the size I am now”? They need a belt to hold them up. Yipee! Although eating less doesn’t require juggling between my day job and my writing, physical activity certainly does. I have to be at the office between 7:30 and 8:00 am. The thought of getting up at oh-dark-thirty to exercise, shower, and change before reporting to work leaves me cold. I found barre classes in the evening and Pilates classes on Saturday morning. Pilates gets me out of bed on Saturday (buh-bye, sleeping-in) but barre in the evening makes for long days. I come home, eat, shower, and fall into bed. Writing on weekdays has suffered as a result. Fortunately, I’m between rounds of edits on book four right now so I have some time to get back on the writing track. I suspect I’m not the only author who struggles to balance a healthy lifestyle with writing. A Google search turned up an article, “How the Bookish Stay in Shape,” by William Hageman in the November 11, 2015 issue of the Chicago Tribune. He interviewed three female authors, all over-forty, who described engaging in a variety of physical activities such as cycling, hiking, weight training, and, in one author’s case, baling hay on her farm. Three authors. Only three. Did he only try to find three physically active authors? Or maybe he tried, but failed, to find more than three. Writing is a sedentary, solitary activity that lends itself to over-eating and under-exercising. Combating this tendency requires conscious effort. What are your tips and tricks for staying in shape in a bookish world? Leave a comment or visit us on Facebook to share and discuss.

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