Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Guest: Susan Lyons

Please welcome Susan Lyons to the convertible today.  After reading her post, I'm already sitting up straighter.  Dare I even consider going outside for a walk?  ;-)

Take Care of You!

Recently, a writer posted to one of my loops that she was spending so much time at the computer that she was popping acetaminophen like jelly beans. That reminded me of the days I used to pop over-the-counter acetaminophen with codeine because it was the only thing that would even dull my constant headaches. And yet today I work, for the most part, pain free or close to it. You can imagine what a huge difference that makes to my state of mind, and my creativity.

Our anatomy evolved over a very long time, and it’s been only an eye’s blink of that time since we’ve become mostly sedentary. Our bodies were designed to be physically active, and most of us are anything but.

I’m a writer. What with writing, some day job consulting work, email, and all the admin, promo, and bookkeeping work that goes with running my own business, I’m probably at the computer 9-10 hours a day. I probably sit for another 3-4 hours a day. How about you? How many hours a day do you spend sitting on your butt? And how healthy do you feel?

I’d like to share the suggestions that I, and various other people on that loop, came up with, and I’d like to hear yours. (There’s a free book in it for you!)

CAUTION! Every body is different. What helps one person might injure another. If you try different exercises, office configurations, or treatments, ease into them and see how you feel before diving in whole-heartedly. If you have significant physical issues, consult your doctor.

Now, here are some suggestions:
·      Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water. Caffeine dehydrates you.
·      Get lots of sleep.
·      Pay attention to your posture.
·      Get your eyes checked regularly.
·      Have an ergonomic work setup that’s good for your body. Check out this article:
·      Invest in a chair that’s good for you.
·      Vary where and how you work: desk, coffee shop, laptop in the living room (maybe try a lap desk), high chair at the kitchen island. 
·      Try working standing up. Consider using a treadmill under your desk:
·      At least every half hour, focus for at least 30 seconds on something that’s a different focal length than your computer and preferably is relaxing (e.g., trees outside the window, a painting on your wall).
·      At least every half hour (set a timer), get up, move around, and stretch. Alternate desk work with activities like housework and gardening.
·      Stretch throughout the day – e.g., see and Yoga is great too.
·      Walk, swim, or cycle regularly. Aerobic is terrific, but even a 10 minute walk a couple of times a day is great. Walk whenever you can (e.g., to the grocery store), but be careful how much weight you carry, and how you carry it.
·      Schedule regular workouts to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, and work off stress – whether it’s on the yoga mat in front of the TV or at a fitness club.
·      Do exercises for carpel tunnel and repetitive strain. This book has been recommended to me: (and check out this free download for computer users:
·      Consider visiting a massage therapist, a physiotherapist, and/or a chiropractor. For me, one visit to the chiro can save me days or weeks of pain.
·      Relax in the bathtub (and Jacuzzi and hot tub if you’re lucky enough to have them).
·      Use heating pads, bean bags you can warm up, or gel packs you can heat or chill.

The thing that made the biggest difference for me was finding a personal trainer who, over the course of months, gave me a progressive set of exercises and stretches to build me up and maintain me. If I stretch every day and do half an hour of her exercises 3-4 times a week, I will be pain free 80-90% of the time, which is pretty awesome.

Staying fit takes time, and it’s time away from the computer. It may cost money, too. But think of how much time you lose when you’re flat on your back with muscle spasms, how much money you spend on painkillers, and how much mental focus and creativity you lose when you’re in pain. Good health is worth it! 

Now I’d like to hear from you. Do you have tips to share for those of us who spend a good part of our day sitting on our butts? One person who comments will win an autographed copy of my second Wild Ride to Love book, Love, Unexpectedly.


Susan Lyons, who also writes as Susan Fox, is the award-winning author of sexy contemporary romance that’s passionate, heartwarming, and fun. She is published by Kensington Brava, Kensington Aphrodisia, Berkley Heat, Harlequin Spice Briefs, and The Wild Rose Press. A resident of both Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., Susan has degrees in law and psychology but would far rather be writing fiction than living in the real world. 


Alan said...

I recently visited your blog. It is a very interesting one. Keep it up.

Leanne said...

Fan Girl time! I looooooove Susan's books! They really have a great combination of sexy, fun, thinking and feeling characters! Regarding exercise, I'm a slug and tend to successfully ward off any any fleeting thought about getting off my butt. But everything Susan said about exercise is right, so I may get on my treadmill or put in my yoga dvd today! Welcome Susan!:)

Betina Krahn said...

Susan, thanks somuch for the list of things to help keep us healthier! We can all used it, writing or not!

I'll rush right out to get LOVE UNEXPECTEDLY! Sounds wonderful!

Laurie said...

Get started!

Think positively!

Put a song that you love on and dance.

Stand up from your chair and do a couple of jumping jacks. It'll get your circulation going.

Eat fruits and vegetables for a snack.

Limit alcohol. It's a depressant.

Stop smoking. You need your airways free to breathe.

Exercise outdoors. You'll feel better in the fresh air.

When you take a break go outdoors walk around the house. Smell the fresh air, smell the flowers, smell the grass. Anything to distract you for a few minutes.

Think happy thoughts!

Tell yourself that you can do it. Reinforce your belief in yourself.

Helen Brenna said...

Welcome Susan! Love your list. It's right on. I herniated a disk in my lower spine a little more than a years ago from just, basically, working too much at my computer. So this is serious stuff.

The only thing I'd throw in is adding some good supplements to your diet. Omega 3s, D3, magnesium.

Susan Lyons said...

Hi Leanne, and thanks for the kind words. And also for the wonderful cover quote for Love, Unexpectedly! Definitely hit the treadmill or the yoga mat - or, hey, it's the beginning of summer - go out for a walk.

Susan Lyons said...

Thanks, Betina, I hope you enjoy the book.

Helen, ouch! I think people figure that if they're just sitting, they can't cause themselves major injury, but obviously they're wrong. Thanks also for mentioning supplements. I take the omegas, vitamin C, a multi-vitamin/mineral supp, and bone density supps because I have low bone density. Add in a flu shot each fall and - fingers crossed, touch wood, and all that stuff - the worst illness I've had in 4 years is a couple of days with a scratchy throat and sniffles. (Yes, I know I'm very lucky!!)

Susan Lyons said...

Laurie, great suggestions! Thank you. I do believe in getting outside and you're so right about, to use the cliche expression, stopping to smell the roses. I also find that if I do move around, and particularly get outside and get some fresh air, it recharges my creativity. It's one of the best things I can do if I'm feeling stalled in a story.

Debra Dixon said...

Susan-- awesome post! I'm struggling with "hours at desk" and have been for a couple of years. It's gotten worse this last year so this was great "reminder" advice, which I need to have tattooed on my forehead.

Katt said...

Great advice Susan,
I live within minutes of a beach where I take the dog walking once a day, but that's not nearly enough.
I need commitment or I won't leave the computer so I'm setting up a walk schedule with my sister. My neck and shoulders love my chiropracter/massage therapist. If only I could afford her once a week!
A friend of mine uses an exercise ball as a computer chair, says it works wonders for her. I may give that a go too.
Happy writing!
ps, thanks for the headsup on the gvc loop, I'll make this blog a daily visit now.

Susan Lyons said...

Deb, if you get it tattooed on your forehead, remember to get it done backwards so you can read it. LOL. Maybe try your forearm instead?

Susan Lyons said...

Katt, dogs are great for getting you out of the house, aren't they? And having a walking or other exercise schedule with someone else works wonders. I used to have a walking partner and we'd go out first thing every morning.

I've heard people recommend exercise balls as office chairs. I'm sure they work for some backs. Seems to me you'd need a super big ball to get the right height for most desks. My exercise ball is great for using with free weights (rather than a weight bench), but is too low for my desk. I know they make different sizes, though.

Sherri Browning Erwin said...

Fatastic tips! Thanks! I started drinking a lot more water, and that has helped boost my energy levels and keep me feeling better. I think a lot of us are more dehydrated than we realize.

Susan Lyons said...

I think you're right, Sherri. People may drink a lot of coffee and tea, and think they're hydrating themselves but really the caffeine is a diuretic that dehydrates you. I'm really lucky because the tap water where I live tastes great. (Gotta love the Pacific Northwest!)

Virginia said...

I don't exercise enough and spend way to much time on my butt! I am hooked on the computer and books if that tells you anything. I get on exercise kicks some times but don't stay with it! What must we do?

gigi said...

Hi Susan,
I really enjoyed your blog.
I really agree with using the treadmill or going for a long walk.
I try to hop on the treadmill a half an hour most days and walk as fast as I can.
It really helps the blood to circulate.
I was injured years ago and the physical therapist said walking and swinging my arms would help force the blood into the injured area and over time promote healing and relieve the pain.
It really works.

Susan Lyons said...

Hi gigi. That's great advice about swinging your arms. Most of us spend a lot of time with our hands up - at the keyboard, holding a book, etc. It's really great to get the blood flowing again to our hands.

Susan Lyons said...

That's weird, I posted a reply to Virgina but it didn't show up. Hope it doesn't appear twice!

I think the key to keeping up the exercise is finding something that works for you. If you love to read, then maybe use a treadmill or exercise bike and read while you're walking or pedaling. Of course it's not as good as swinging your arms, but it's something.

For me, doing my half hour of exercise in the evening in front of the TV makes it pretty painless. It's an excuse to watch TV! I think one of the biggest motivators is when you start to feel and look better. And, for me, if I don't keep up with my exercise, I start to feel lots of pain, so that's the strongest motivator of all.

Dara Girard said...

Thanks for a wonderful article and great advice Susan! A healthy body is certainly important for a creative mind.

Now I'm off to go for a walk...

Susan Lyons said...

Hi Dara. Hope you have a wonderful walk and come up with lots of great story ideas. The trick for me is remembering them! I keep thinking I should take a mini tape recorder.

Patricia Rosemoor said...

Eyestrain--mine was so bad for the usual reasons with the beginning of cataracts making it worse. I finally shifted from Courier 12 to Arial 13 and single space it. Plus I needed to adjust resolution and color and such on my computer. What a difference that all makes to eyes that tend to blur. Unfortunately, I have the beginning of cataracts.

And yes, I work with a personal trainer twice a week and do stretches (I have a sacroiliac joint inflammation) daily. The other tip is to get up every half hour. Go get a drink of water or make the bed, or clear the sink. But five minutes of walking around really helps.

Best, Patricia Rosemoor

Susan Lyons said...

Patricia, great tips. You're right that there are things we can do with our computer screens to make it easier on our eyes.

And now, I'm getting up and heading off to the chiropractor. I managed to misalign my back (gardening, not typing) and he's getting me readjusted. After a week of pain (I was out of town so couldn't visit him), it was a huge relief to get that first adjustment on Monday. Now I'm healing but figure one follow-up visit is in order.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Welcome, Susan!

My sister is a massage therapist, deals with knotted up human beings on a daily basis. I wish she didn't live half a continent away. There's nothing like a good massage, but I rarely treat myself to one.

I struggle with some of your suggestions, which I know to be valid because I've been doing this forever, and these are tried and true recommendations. It's just that getting up every half hour breaks my hard-won concentration. When I'm getting up often, that's usually when the writing isn't going well.

I haven't had any major physical problems caused by writing since I typed my first couple of books. Pounded those babies out on a typewriter, an primitive device that looks a little bit like a computer keyboard, but you put the paper right into the device itself, and there's no delete, and some people used to stiffen up because they hated making mistakes, so by the time they finished their ms their necks were frozen, so they had to have somebody unscrew their heads like the cap to a pickle jar. (Yeah, I know that was a bad sentence. I was a bad typist.)

But that was in the olden days, my children, before your ergonomic chair and your gel wrist rest, and your wireless mouse, and your giant display screen. Everything's different now. Oh, except for the neck bone. It's still connected to the shoulder bone. Which is still connected to the back bone ...

Enough silliness. Gotta get my head bone connected to the writing zone. But first I'll stand up and touch my finger bones to my toe bones.

Thanks for hanging out with us today, Susan!

Susan Lyons said...

Kathleen, thanks for the nostalgia trip back to the days of typewriters. Being blessed with a computer, I always think how amazing it is that people managed to write fabulous books on typewriters. And I'm sure the first people who used typewriters thought how amazing it was that people managed to write fabulous books by longhand. I wonder what's coming in the future that will make us think our computers are archaic?

catslady said...

With summer finally here, I make a point of going outside during the day. I water my plants, etc. I have one cat that cries and cries unless I let her outside so at various times in the day I go out with her for 5 or 10 min. (she's really an inside cat who disagrees with me lol). I will also give my other cats attention - playing catch the string can be good exercise for all of us. Then of course there's always housework (yuk). Playing bocce is also a fun way to get a little exercise.

Susan Lyons said...

Congrats, catslady, you've found ways to incorporate exercise throughout the day, doing things that are fun. (Well, except for the housework...)

Opal Carew said...

Susan, you always do such great and useful blogs! THere have been so many wonderful suggestions.

I've tried various things to get my exercise level up, but in the past few weeks started the simplest of all and am having great success. I decided to walk everyday. I used a pedometer to track how many steps.

My doctor recommended I up my number of steps to 10,000 in 3 weeks (I was starting at about 4000). I'm now 2 weeks in and am doint 8500!

For me, the key is to go somewhere. I like goals, destinations, something to aim for. My husband and I walk to the local Timmy's (Tim Horton's donuts--we don't eat any, just have a tea), but we play cards, then go home again, so it's a fun outing. An added benefit is, we keep running into people we know and they often join us for cards!

It is time away from writing, but the other amazing thing is, I'm writing more than usual, and more often. This book is going more smoothly than any one before.

Congratulations on all your new books! I love the cover for LOVE, UNEXPECTEDLY, and SEX ON THE BEACH is really sexy!


Karyn Gerrard said...

Wonderful blog! And wow, do I so need to take a walk, I spend waaayyyy too much time in front of the computer, I am taking some of your suggestions to heart!

Cindy Gerard said...

Hi Susan
Thank you, thank you, thank you for laying it out for all to see. it's so important that we take better care of ourselves and I'm one of the worst offenders of all. I am going to print your list and hang it where I HAVE to look at it and hope it will guilt me into being better about taking care of my body!

Great book cover BTW. And thanks for visiting with us today!

Susan Lyons said...

Hi Opal. I've heard the thing about walking 10,000 steps a day and at one time even used a pedometer (hmm, wonder where that thing went?). It's great that you and your husband are having outings together (though I don't know how you can resist the donuts at Tim's!). And it's fabulous that you're finding your writing is coming along even better. We're all so paranoid about cutting into our writing time - and yet some exercise or R&R, or a combo of the two as you're doing - can actually improve our productivity as well as our health. Thanks for the inspiration!

Susan Lyons said...

Karyn, I'm glad you're taking some suggestions to heart. Your heart will thank you - along with your legs, butt, back, neck, shoulders, arms... LOL

Susan Lyons said...

Thanks, Cindy. It's such a pleasure being here. Okay, as for guilt... Yeah, it's a motivator, but when we start saying, "I should do this, I should do that," and feeling guilty when we don't, that's a rather negative energy. How about trying, "I want to..." instead? For example, "I want to feel better, I want to increase my productivity and creativity, I want to look even more fabulous, I want to get out in the world and smell the roses." Try creating some positive energy.

You know what else is good? (Well, of course you all do. Rhetorical question.) Goals. Like Opal with the goal of 10,000 steps, and working up to it. I've been dipping into Eric Maisel's "A Writer's Space" and (I'm totally paraphrasing here and probably don't have it entirely right), he said something like, each morning try thinking about what you WANT to do for your writing, for your promo efforts etc. So I now have a post-it stuck to my day-timer with "Write, Market, Health, Me" on it. Each morning I think about what I want to do for each of those things today, and those become my goals. (The "Me" things are ones like having lunch on the balcony in the sun, going to buy fancy shampoo, seeing a friend, having a glass of wine with lunch (no, definitely not every day!), allowing myself an extra half hour's reading break, having a bubble bath before bed, etc. See, I could do a blog on "Me" tips even mor easily than doing one on fitness tips!

s7anna said...

Stretching out your legs and doing mild exercise i.e. lift your legs straight up and repeat - they're pseudo leg presses using your own body weight. It feels awesome and you get a bit of resistance exercise.


Susan Lyons said...

Good one, Anna. I just tried it. Resistance exercises are good. That reminds me of another I like. Arms in front of me at shoulder height, elbows bent, palms together, fingers interwoven. Press hard (equally on both sides) on your palms. Hold for 20 seconds or so, then release. I'm not sure about the science of resistance exercises, but it seems to me that when you exert concentrated energy like that, then release, you really feel the muscles relax.

s7anna said...

Oh that's good...I just tried it... will definitely be doing that from now on...

You know what's another great one... Grab one arm of chair and twist your body to the other's sorta like wringing your body. Releases all the tension in your back and just re-aligns everything. A couple of times is good enough.

Armenia said...

Hi Susan. Lots of good tips. I often stand when working on the computer to work on my circulation. And add leg lifts to work my lower body.

I've also brought in the kids huge bounce ball and use it like a pilates ball where I can do low impact sit ups, and side ab twists and leg lifts.

Susan Lyons said...

Anna, that's another great one. My desk chair doesn't have arms but I tried it just gripping the edge of the desk instead, and I think it worked. Thanks.

Susan Lyons said...

Armenia, I've been trying standing as well, and trying to remember to not lock my knees but keep moving my legs. And the ball is great for ab twists and so on. I haven't tried it for leg lifts. Will have to do that. I love slowly leaning back over it and letting my spine stretch out as far as it will go, then slowly rolling up again.

Jennifer Stevenson said...

Great advice, Susan!

I've found the secret to my increasingly busy exercise program is simple: do what I love doing. I started swimming every day because I love the sensation of floating & flying underwater, plus, no sweat and I can do it lying down. (mmmmm) I started riding horses because I'd been horse crazy from a child, and that led to doing situps and back excercises so that I didn't hurt myself or the horse. I started roller derby because I have a screw loose, and when I got booted out for being too old--well, I was 54--I moved over to competitive speed roller skating, which is almost as fun. Not quite. But close. I still swim every day, too, and if my thumb ever heals I'll go back to riding.

Do an exercise that you love love love doing and you won't have to hate yourself for not exercising.

Susan Lyons said...

Jennifer, you're so right. If you can find something you love that's also healthy, you'll find a way to fit it into your days. For those who think they aren't at all athletically inclined, how about dancing? Even if it's just at home in your living room to your favorite music.

Rachel said...

Such an interesting, practical post, Susan!

Alice Valdal ( gave a workshop to the Vancouver Island Chapter of RWA about how normal walking (one foot forward as the other-side arm is forward) not only is good for muscles and cardio, but also for your brain.
The movement of alternate arms and legs apparently stimulates and connects both sides of the brain.

So we never have to think about exercise taking time away from work or writing – it is part of our work! I love that.

Susan Lyons said...

So that's why walking so often seems to "jog" my muse into action. Thanks, Rachel. And kudos to Alice for teaching something useful and memorable.

Anonymous said...

get wireless mouse
and a type computer cushion

strecth feet ankles and arms
stand up regularry and rotate your head

congrats on the book


Susan Lyons said...

Thanks, kh. Good tips.

mbreakfield said...

Swimming is a great exercise, especially in the hot summer months.

robynl said...

my physio therapist told me to take a break at the computer by:
sit straight with shoulders back and down; head straight over the shoulders; tuck in chin and sit like this for 20-30 sec.

I sometimes stretch each leg and rotate the ankle clockwise and counter clockwise.

Susan Lyons said...

mbreakfield - yes, swimming is wonderful, especially if you can do it in a lake or the ocean rather than a chlorinated pool.

RobynL - That's an interesting one. I'll have to try it. Thanks!