In a previous post, I said I wanted to test if physical exercise improves my mind, hence writing. My tests are by no means scientific. For starters, the subject is only me. Also, I haven’t settled on what measures indicate “writing improved”. But in the meantime, I figured I could get my body ready for exercise.
Self-experiments like these, you have to do it for at least a year to gather good data. Or better, multiple years. That takes grit. Have I mentioned that I’m physically lazy and yearn to be a disembodied brain? I’m not unhealthy, but I’m no athlete. The only thing I’ve got going is my curiosity and need to test things.
To make things easier for me, I concentrated on two areas: cardio and strength. In plainer English: I ran and lifted barbells. Yes, I ignored flexibility, except to always stretch after a workout. For running, I did a lot of 5ks and 10ks. For strength, I chose the stronglifts program because,
- focuses on increasing max strength
- involves only five exercises
- I can get away with doing only two workouts a week.
Today I’m going to talk about the strength training results:
Strength Training Progress Report
As you can see, I haven’t followed the stronglifts program to the letter. I also took a two-month break, though I don’t remember why. Best guess, I was feeling lazy.
Nevertheless, I’m made steady gains. Some important context: how much weight you can lift depends on your biological sex and body weight. I’m too light to donate blood, hence the modest raw numbers. I’ve been using this site to gauge how I’m faring. Apparently, I’m at the intermediate level for deadlifts and squats. Yay!
But wait, how that does this translate to writing? Well, let me tell you my observations…
Elevated Heart Rate Leads To More Words
By the time I was lifting 1.3 times my body weight, it took at least two hours for my elevated heart rate to calm down. And by elevated, I mean I could feel my chest veins thrumming and my heart beating faster.
More importantly, during this extended cooldown period, words seemed to pour out of my fingertips. I wrote most of the Persistence of Frost and Memory after a morning stonglifts session (workout A) and churned out most of chapter nine of A Study In Magic: The Application after a run.
These preliminary results confirm something I’ve always noticed: I do my best thinking on my feet. If I wanted to plot, solve a problem, or untangle a situation, a long, brisk walk did me good. Also, whenever my emotions are at height, which is incidentally when my heart beats faster, I have a lot to say. Hence more words.
The next stage of the experiment is measuring how elevated my heart rate needs to be to reach that state of heightened productivity. Good thing I already have a heart rate monitor. Also, I want to compare the cooldown effects of cardio versus strength training. I’m hoping I can achieve comparable results with cardio since my body doesn’t like to do strength training for more than twice a week, whereas I can run every other day and walk every day.
So there you have it: physical exercise leads to more quality mental exercise, which probably leads to improved writing.
The experiment is by no means over. In fact, I haven’t properly started. More to follow!