“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” – John Wooden
I read a book called “Spark” by John J. Ratey about how exercise affects the brain. Really interesting read if you’d like to know more on the subject!
The reason I got interested in it was because i’ve never really been interested in physical activities. I played football (that’s soccer to some of you!), basket and took some judo lessons until I was 14 but it was never anything I devoted much time to. I much preferred to be indoors just hanging out, playing videogames, listening to music or reading comics.
Now, some of you might be wondering: “How the hell does this apply to creativity?”. To you I say: Shuddup n’ listen!
Seriously though, i’ll tell you how you can be more creative by letting exercise work for you. First, i’d like to tell you a story about dealing with weight and health issues!
I was a chubby kid (here come the violins!) and was one of the last to get picked in gym. Classic huh? Well, I found a friend in that “picked last”-group and we asked the teacher if we could do something else instead of spending time on our pudgy asses firmly placed on the bench. He saw the logic, we weren’t exactly getting any benefits from being there so we got a free pass to do 1 hour of cycling instead. Wohoo! So out we went!
The weird thing was that we actually found it fun to bike around, so sometimes instead of just “hanging out” after school doing nothing we would go on these bike rides. We’d done it before but it wasn’t anything frequent and usually only when the sun was out. By 8th grade we were out there rain or shine. For hours!
Now, to be honest we didn’t get awesomely fit doing this since we didn’t really push ourselves. But we felt healthier and it helped relieve some of the stress of being an “outsider” and having to cope with bullies, keeping the grades up etc.
I was overweight until I was in my 20’s. One day I looked at myself and decided: “No, I deserve better than this.” and that was that. The following day I decided that i’d take walks every day and that 3-4 times a week i’d pack my music gear and walk the 15 kilometers (approx 9 miles) to rehearsals instead of taking the bus.
It took me 6 months to lose 25 kilos (66 lbs) but once I did it was an amazing moment. I hadn’t been this slim since, well, I couldn’t even remember! I continued to lose some weight even after that but I didn’t keep tabs.
Then I decided to never let myself go like that again.
The years went on and like with anything else you start to take things for granted. I hadn’t exactly been a saint when it came to diet and exercise but I exercised and kept active with fishing trips and outdoor activities and a LOT of walking.
Well, it took a failed relationship, having to move back in with my parents after a fire (fun stuff at 25!) and the break up of my band before I found comfort in just “hanging out” again. This time with fast food, alcohol and other recreational devices.
I “remember” times when i’d go all weekend and suddenly have an entire day that’d gone by with me just sleeping through it. Rock n’ roll baby! Yeah, not so much. Especially when you have to sneak in silently so you don’t wake up your parents. Once again, at 25!
I managed to pull myself together enough to get my own apartment and get back into a normal routine. Still no exercise though.
Around the same time I got into music production. It was a lifesaver in a lot of ways. I’d felt pretty lost and didn’t exactly know what my next move should be. But just getting out of a toxic environment and getting to focus so wholeheartedly on your passion, it was just so important for me to get that distance.
Unfortunately though, it still wasn’t conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Sitting in a studio hour after hour, forgetting to eat and even if you remembered it’d mean heading to the closest fast food joint to slam a kebab before heading back.
Finally I felt enough like crap to do something about it again. I looked back at what had lead me back here and had to laugh. I realized that it was my go-to coping mechanism and that unless I did something about it now it would continue to be. So, at it again!
This time I consulted others with regards to diet and exercise. I’d learned that if you want the best results you go to the best. It was pretty easy because all I had to do was to look at the lists and make sure to only have that stuff at home. I’m not going to give dietary advice here so consult your physician or nutritionist for advice!
All I had to do next was to set up a schedule and routine for dragging my butt out the door. That coupled with a good nights rest got me back on track. Once again, it took me 7 months to get back to where I was, this time losing 40 kilos! I’d never been that fit.
Unfortunately I went overboard for a while. I’d become so focused on losing weight I kept the same regime but not balancing my intake to match the activity. I became underweight and had to find that balance again. I didn’t want to shock my body so I slowly introduced some of the stuff on the “no-no”-list in small doses.
So, after all of this, what is your damn point man!?
Well, in the book Ratey mentioned something about how exercise could benefit our cognitive functions like problem solving skills etc which lead me to the conclusion: This means creativity!
I thought back, trying to be as unbiased and only looking at my output during different stages in my life whether or not the material was in fact more, less or equally as creative.
Turned out after comparing that, in fact, the material i’d produced when I was more active was basically equally as creative. Damn it!
But, and this is a big ass but, when I was more active I also produced 3 times as much material. That was weird. I should have had less time to do the stuff, right?
My reasoning goes like this, it probably took me longer to go through the process and polish the material to get it up to snuff since my brain wasn’t working at a optimal level of creativity. Hence, less material of that quality was produced.
When I on the other hand made sure to give my brain the nutrition it needed it worked a lot more efficiently. As a result more quality work. I’d also like to think that it sped up my learning curve. If your doing 3 times the work your probably learning quicker too, no?
Like I said, if you’re really interested read it for yourself to learn more. But here’s the take home message from the book: A lil’ is good but MOAR is better!
I’d just like to amend that with saying that there’s a limit to everything. Don’t overdo it, pace yourself and set yourself up for the long run!