8 Tips to Get in Fighting Shape

“But I’m not Rocky!” I hear you cry. “Why is it important to ‘get in fighting shape’?”

It’s important, because most of us are fighting against conflicting demands that sap our mental, physical, and emotional energy; fighting against a limited amount of time to meet our deadlines; fighting against various physical discomforts, illness, or injury; and fighting against an urge to just chuck it all and grab the TV remote and zone out. Suck it up, Buttercup – this is boot camp. We need to get in shape, physically, to give us a fighting chance to “be all that we can be.”

With National Novel Writing Month just around the corner, and so many people professing a desire to write a book, I’m going to share the “healthy writing” tips I’ve followed each year, come November, to help me meet my goals. Though geared towards NaNoWriMo and aspiring authors everywhere, these same guidelines apply regardless of your goals. Regardless of your current health and fitness level, it’s important to do what you can to ensure that you have the physical well-being, energy, and stamina to focus on and achieve your goals.

  1. Eat Healthy, Eat Clean. Prevent mood swings, energy spikes, and sudden fatigue by eating a healthy, balanced diet. Make sure that you’re getting the right mix of proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats. Avoid excess sugar, ingredients that sound like a college Chem Lab experiment and ingredients you can’t easily pronounce, or too much food – period. If you need tips for devising a better diet, try They also have some great tools for tracking other goals – it’s not just about weight and fitness.
  2. Enjoy an eye-opening breakfast. Skipping breakfast is a great way to train your body to store fat and practically guarantees your sugar levels are a mess in the morning. Most of us do this all backwards – skipping breakfast and eating our largest meal at night, just before shutting down our bodies for sleep. We really ought to start the day with a nice big meal, have a healthy lunch, a light dinner, and a low-calorie snack.
  3. Take a good vitamin/mineral supplement. Sure, we should be getting all we need from the food we eat, at least in theory. But that’s assuming we’re all getting plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, and not loading up on fast food and pre-packaged convenience meals we can throw in the microwave after a long day at work. A multivitamin helps make up the difference; add high-potency B-complex to the mix, and you may just muster the energy to do it all. Take two high-potency B-complex vitamins, and you’ll be running around like the Energizer Bunny, your burps will taste funny, and your pee may turn an alarming shade of green. This is all fairly harmless, as B vitamins are water-soluble, but there’s really no advantage to overdoing it, either.
  4. Hydrate your brain – with water. Here’s a good starting place: Water: Do Writers Need It? by Milli Thornton. Clearly, I drink too much coffee and too little water. Buy a big sports bottle of water – the kind that holds at least a liter – and keep it at hand. Make sure it’s always filled up, chilled, and within easy reach – throughout November. NaDruWriNi was a fun parody of NaNoWriMo, and I can get into the spirit of it, but alcohol just makes me sleepy. I don’t write wild and crazy stuff after having a drink or three; I crash. Same goes for too much sugar, too much sodium nitrate, or too much food – period. I’ve never bought into the idea that drugs enhance creativity. I’ve known people who smoked pot or got drunk, and they were mostly legends in their own minds, until the high wore off. Few had the good grace to be embarrassed, later; apparently, there’s a reason why people forget what they did the night before. So while I’m not going to pass judgment on those who choose that path, I know it doesn’t work for me, and I don’t recommend it. And if I’m going to get through 50,000 words in thirty days – while working full time, participating in the “Surviving the Blog” contest, and staying involved in family life – I’m going to do it healthy.
  5. Exercise. It’s great for revving up the metabolism, getting trim, and staying in shape, but it’s also terrific for releasing all those lovely endorphins that make us feel relaxed, de-stressed, and happy. Don’t overdo it, or you’ll be so relaxed, de-stressed, and happy you’ll wake up with QWERTY permanently imprinted on your cheek.
  6. Sleep. Sleep-deprivation is a nasty, evil thing. (Oh, I know, some writers swear by it. They claim it gives them visions. They swear their characters only talk to them when they’ve had two hours’ sleep in the last forty-eight. I’ll  bet.) Sleep deprivation slows our reaction time and makes most of us miserable and cranky. I don’t write well when I’m miserable and cranky. I write miserable and cranky prose; I might even churn out a morbid sonnet. But it’s not  good and I’m not happy or fun to be with when I’m doing that. Eight hours is an unreasonable goal during NaNoWriMo, but I’m going to aim for at least five to seven, every night.
  7. Prevent Illness. Get your flu shot now; you don’t want an aching arm on November 1. (Why, oh why, does NaNoWriMo coincide with the end of hurricane season and the beginning of flu season?) I’m terrified of needles; I have to get my fifteen-year-old son to come hold my hand, and we get our flu shots together. Don’t skip out on those routine medical tests, either – if you’re a man or woman of a certain age or have any perturbing symptoms, schedule that mammogram, prostate exam, colonoscopy, thyroid function test – just do it. (Why, oh why, does NaNoWriMo coincide with the end of hurricane season and the beginning of flu season?)
  8. Quit smoking. I did, in 2006. 10 years of NaNoWriMo; 5 years smoke-free. It doesn’t have to be hard, but the convergence of November and NaNoWriMo is not the ideal time to attempt it unless you’re feeling ready and fully committed to quitting. When you’re good and ready, you can read my post on How I Quit Smoking, over on my personal blog.

Can you think of anything else that helps you to get in fighting shape?

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About Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri lives in Texas and claims to channel the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry and Erma Bombeck. She has known since fifth grade that she wanted to be a professional writer. Holly is a technical communicator whose imagination is allowed free rein in her short stories, children's books, and poetry. You can visit her personal blog, "It's All a Matter of Perspective," at

About Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri lives in Texas and claims to channel the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry and Erma Bombeck. She has known since fifth grade that she wanted to be a professional writer. Holly is a technical communicator whose imagination is allowed free rein in her short stories, children's books, and poetry. You can visit her personal blog, "It's All a Matter of Perspective," at


  1. being on fighting shape keeps you on your toes

  2. I let my wife take self-defense classes for her safety…we never know this might come handy

  3. Everybody needs to be fit (not just writers) in body and in mind – and in spirit. The alternative is to be sick. People have always understood physical illness, but we can make ourselves weak in mind and in spirit, too, and how we eat and stay physically fit does have a bearing on mental and spiritual fitness, too. They are all connected.
    David recently posted..Solar Panel Installation [with photos]My Profile

  4. Thanks for sharing . Great info. I’ll kind of start training i guess.

  5. One thing to add–fish really is brain food.


  6. We decided to adopt a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle a few years ago – not because we love animals, but because we hate medication! – and the result has been great. We have more variety in our diet, as we encounter fruits, grains, and vegetables we never knew about. We also have more energy as well.

  7. 9 tips – RELAX

    Cheers John

    CEO #EAv Venture Capital Index



  8. I always chuckle when I see aspiring Wrimos carrying on about how they will only be able to eat ramen, won’t have time to sleep, and are planning to triple their coffee consumption. Ah, no. There’s still time to eat and sleep. Carve the writing time out of something else.
    Cheryl recently posted..Twine-ing aroundMy Profile

    • Work, eat, sleep, write a billion blog posts, beg for comments, compete in a blog contest, cook dinner, post in the UC thread (haven’t done that – did Mitchell beat me over there before I could introduce him??), work, camp and other Scout stuff, holidays…

      Gaah, if all you do is WRITE and eat Ramen, that’s just no challenge AT ALL. That’s like…cheating.
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..The Best MedicineMy Profile

  9. Consistency is the hard thing for me. My best days are waking up while it’s dark and swimming for 30 minutes. The coffee is done brewing when I finish and I make breakfast after waking the heathens for school. Sometimes I go to bed late and it’s so easy to sleep that extra half hour instead of sticking to the routine I’ve tried to establish.

    I find it much easier to plan and execute my day if I ramp up with a little exercise and a light breakfast with the kids. Whenever I start the morning late with a breakfast of coffee and email, I end up derailing about 3:00pm.

    • Is THAT what hit me around 3 PM today? The morning coffee and email? I should make “morning exercise” one of my goals. This year, it’s been really hard to drag my sorry self out of bed and pull it together, but as I start to feel a little more comfortable and less like I’ve been hit by a Mac truck, I want to get back into BETTER “fighting shape” than I am now. An early-morning trip to the gym might be just the ticket, if I can just – yeah. Just the ticket. Just do it. Yay, Nike… ::glares at athletic shoes and hopes they get a flat, or something::
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..The Best MedicineMy Profile

      • See how easy it is to DE-psych, if you let yourself?

        Okay – for THIS week and next, my goal is to at least drag myself over to the exercise bike in my bedroom for 15 minutes. Which is really a nice lead in to the post I’m about to write…

        Stay tuned! 🙂
        Holly Jahangiri recently posted..Can I Survive the Surviving the Blog Contest?My Profile

        • You don’t have to go to the gym. Walk around the block with pink weights in your hand. Rescue a dog and take it for walk. I have this rich brother-in-law that orders all these exercise machines from infomercials and gives them to us after a week so he doesn’t have to make a trip to the recycling center. You could order something like that and they’re all under $99 I think.

          I kept the poster of Christy Brinkley, a set of hand weights and the “AB-Lounger”.


          P.S. I’m posting this during O’Reilly, that’s like behavioral fueng sheui 🙂

          • I’m not sure I understand the Feng Shui reference (or that I’m sure we didn’t BOTH spell it wrong), but if you mean, “Nanny nanny boo boo, I can say O’Reilly and you have to smile and say ‘thank you,'” I think you’re really referring to karma. Or something.
            Holly Jahangiri recently posted..The Best MedicineMy Profile

          • 🙂 Thanks Mom! I miss-spelled it. I meant “Feng Shui” — I felt the balance tonight.

          • Balance is good, Dave.

            It was always fun to get to a stalemate on the teeter-totter, too. For about five seconds. 😉 Then someone’s gotta bounce. Or call the fat kid over to stand with one foot on either side of the fulcrum and sway back and forth. Till he gets tired of doing that, and decides to JUMP!! Funny how it was always more fun with a bigger kid on the other side…

            But yep, balance is good. As Ntathu would say, “Namaste.”
            Holly Jahangiri recently posted..Crossing Swords with Lady LuckMy Profile

  10. Yay for NaNo. I aspire every year to complete the NaNo challenge, but I lose steam about half way through…mostly because a new “shiny” comes along. Good luck on NaNo this year 🙂
    Dawn recently posted..The other me is on tour…My Profile

  11. hi 🙂 I ate breakfast this morning and it made a huuuge difference I was actually awake and contributing to my first class 😀 and sleep is noooo problem for me, I swear once I fell asleep standing up because there was no where for me to lie down 🙂 (we’d just arrived in Ghana and we were seeing the sights and I got jet-lag sleepy :P) thanks 😀

    • Thanks for stopping by, Jamee! I have BEEN that tired–I know what you’re talking about, there–it’s awful! Hope you managed to enjoy your trip, though. I remember my mom lifting me up by the scruff of my neck, just about, to see the sights when we were traveling. “Get up! You may never be here again – you don’t want to miss this.” Urk. She was right, of course, but urk. 🙂

      What did you have for breakfast? I find that protein and a little fat (bacon and eggs, or something similar) keep me more alert and focused than anything with lots of carbs (cereal, donuts).
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..The Best MedicineMy Profile

  12. Ooops, I forgot to check notify me of followup comments.
    Vivian Zabel recently posted..Three important happenings in OctoberMy Profile

    • Hate when I do that (which is about 50% of the time). Hate that only slightly less than some of the double-opt-in, triple-confirmation follow up minders. Sheesh – you ever go to comment, or to subscribe, and have to jump through so many hoops to do it that you just give up and mutter, “It wasn’t all THAT important, for gosh sakes…”

      I like to make it easy to comment, because it is THAT important – to me. 🙂 I don’t know if I could legally subscribe someone to the follow-up notices without their permission, though. Might be nice if I could opt to BE subscribed, that way, some days.
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..The Best MedicineMy Profile

  13. Great tips, but some don’t apply to me, and some are too late. *sigh*
    Vivian Zabel recently posted..Three important happenings in OctoberMy Profile

    • So what DO you do, Vivian? With so many people depending on you, you can’t afford not to do the things that ARE within your power and control to give yourself – your body – as much of a “fighting chance” as you possibly can.

      This post isn’t about being superman or superwoman, but about doing the BEST we can, under our own unique circumstances, to have the BEST chance of success.

      You might share Robert’s secrets – that man not only is a survivor, but I’ve met him – despite the numerous health and other physical challenges, he has not lost that youthful, almost mischievous SPARKLE in his eyes. (Sorry, I still have a little crush on your husband. He’s all yours – and I wouldn’t dream of trading mine in – but I’m sure you understand!!) So what’s his secret? Faith? Luck? Sheer willpower and commitment to his promises? How does he stay as strong and mobile as he is?
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..The Best MedicineMy Profile

      • Holly, both of us have a strong faith and are both very determined people. We both stay as active as possible and involved with our family as much as possible.

        I eat as regular and healthy as possible. Robert is a grazer, eats several times a day. My body says, “Nope, not that often.”

        We exercise as much as physically possible, but not at a gym or anything like that. I use a peddle exerciser that sits on the floor as I sit on a chair. No stress on the poor knees that way. Robert is always lifting and pulling and pushing on things as he works on his projects. Lots of exercise for a man in a power chair.

        We both know that others do depend on us, emotionally if nothing else. That keeps us going, too.
        Vivian Zabel recently posted..Three important happenings in OctoberMy Profile

        • I think those are all really good, important points worth noting – the importance of faith, staying as active as is possible under the circumstances, listening to your body’s signals when you eat (to avoid overeating or eating too little – listen, obey, and don’t force yourself to follow some societal norm, like “three square meals a day” if that’s not best for YOUR body), stuck on your butt doesn’t have to mean “sedentary” (I need one of those peddle exercisers – at work AND at home!) and having a hobby to help keep you mentally sharp and physically active at the same time.

          For those reading who don’t know – Robert’s in a power chair. I’ve watched this man carry boxes, load a van, and generally help out where required when younger, able-bodied people (from my age to Boy Scouts) were ready for another “break.” The same is true of Vivian. So you should listen to her. 🙂
          Holly Jahangiri recently posted..The Best MedicineMy Profile

          • Yes, I probably over use the phrase “as possible,” but we do have limitations that mean we can’t always do what we want or even all we need to do. Therefore “as possible” for us means we pushed to do as much as possible.
            Vivian Zabel recently posted..Three important happenings in OctoberMy Profile

          • None of us can do the IMPOSSIBLE. And sometimes, the notion of “I don’t have time to go to the gym,” or “I don’t have a good farmer’s market near me, so I just can’t do the whole ‘fresh veggie’ thing,” or whatever. As my dad would say, people have more excuses than Carter has little pills.

            I’d say that what you and Robert DO manage to accomplish is proof that people who make excuses at every turn are wasting about 99.9% of their potential.
            Holly Jahangiri recently posted..The Best MedicineMy Profile

  14. I can’t say I LOVE doing it. But it is easy to suck it up for 20 mins a couple times a week when the results are so visible. 🙂 Look for a trainier who doesn’t make you do endless sets & reps of low weight. My program uses circuit machines, but I only do one set of 10-12 reps, using enough weight that my muscles are exhausted. I hate counting, but I am willing to count to twelve 🙂

  15. With regard to exercise, I offer two words – strength training. After years of doing plenty of aerobics, I finally tried the weights. My body and energy level improved more in 3 months of strength training than in the last 4 years of a regular running regimine. Twenty minutes, two to three times a week. Amazing results. Try it!

    • I LOVE strength training. I need to get back to it. I worked with a personal trainer for a while – something women should know is that you gain STRENGTH even before you gain significant, visual results or muscle mass. And you don’t “bulk up” like the guys – that requires testosterone levels we just normally don’t have. So there’s really no downside here: gain strength, lose inches (even without losing pounds), and look fit and trim. FEEL healthier!

  16. All good rules to follow for a healthy life. Now, I need to find a way to fit all that into a busy life, or a life already having to adjust to injuries. I eat breakfast, I get a flu shot every year (got one last month), I drink a good deal of water during the day (so much cheaper than soda or tea when you eat out), I take my vitamins daily, I have never smoked and I get much better sleep now that I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, and use my CPAP. Gotta work on the rest of the list.

    • I carefully avoided saying any of these things would guarantee you’d be in great physical shape. 😉 You know how important it is – no matter WHY physical conditions you’re dealing with – to give yourself the BEST chance at the BEST outcomes. Before my surgery in January, I loaded up on iron-rich foods, got as much rest as I could, stayed active (knowing I’d be LESS active, for a while, afterwards). I’ve learned to get WELL hydrated before a blood draw or an IV. 🙂 Yep, that helps a lot! There are no guarantees you won’t get sick or hurt, but there are ways to help your body fight off infections and heal faster from injuries.

      Maybe we should add to this list: Reach out to friends – they’ll help you keep your chin up and maintain your sense of humor, and support you when you need a hand. Having good friends is a recognized predictor of better health and general life satisfaction, you know. 😉 (Yeah, as if we needed journal articles to confirm THAT.)


  1. […] 8 Tips to Get in Fighting Shape is a good short-list for preparing yourself physically (not really fighting) for a life challenge you see looming. […]