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Exercise Like Your Favorite Author


 springing exercise.
Some fun cardio from our Digital Collections. 

It's a new year, and just like every January, millions of people across the world are pledging to get in shape. For some bookworms, it can be a hard resolution to keep -- I'm more interested in cozying up with a good novel than I am in sweating my brains out on the elliptical. But it helps to note that a lot of great authors throughout history have been exercise buffs. So if you're looking to stay fit, clear the mind, or just have some fun, here's some inspiration from the workouts of your favorite writers:

David Foster Wallace: Tennis

David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace. Photo credit: Corbis/Gary Hannabarger

One of the foremost writers of the 1990s's and 2000's, the author of Infinite Jest was a nationally-ranked junior tennis player as a teenager, an experience he describes in his essay "Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley" from A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. Wallace's mathematical and geometric intuition made him a natural in the sport, with his ability to think ahead giving him an edge on more athletic competition.  Wallace even published one of the most acclaimed books of essays on tennis, String Theory, which includes his masterful profile of Roger Federer.

Haruki Murakami: Running

Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami running. Photo credit: Patrick Fraser/Corbis Outline.

You probably know Haruki Murakami from his novels Kafka on the Shore  and 1Q84, but he's also the author of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a memoir on Murakami's experiences with long distance running, marathons, and triathlons. The book is great for runners and instructive for writers; Murakami credits his six-mile-a-day workout with teaching him the discipline he needed to become a successful author.

Colette: Swimming

Colette. Photo credit: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.

The French novelist and Nobel Prize nominee Colette was known for her longevity, her stage career, and her pioneering voice in women's literature in turn-of-the-century Europe. But she also was a big fan of swimming, and as she wrote to a friend at sixty years old, her ideal life would be spent "swimming at all hours of the day" (Yours Ever, Thomas Mallon).  Her fitness routine must have worked, because 11 years later she published the novella Gigiher most famous work to date and the basis of the 1958 film.

Ernest Hemingway: Boxing

Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway. Image via Fightland/Vice.

The archetype of authorial machismo, the author of The Old Man and the Sea and A Farewell to Arms was an avid amateur boxer for much of his life, even going so far as to write "my writing is nothing, my boxing is everything." While he may have oversold his credentials, his interest was very real: he famously fought novelist Morley Callaghan in Paris with F. Scott Fitzgerald keeping time, and he set up a boxing ring at his Key West estate in his later years, where he would entertain guests and even referee matches. Indeed, his passion was so intense that Jack Dempsey refused to spar with him, on the grounds that Hemingway might hurt himself by mistake: " I had this sense that Hemingway, who really thought he could box, would come out of the corner like a madman. To stop him, I would have to hurt him badly, I didn’t want to do that to Hemingway. That’s why I never sparred with him."

Emily Dickinson: Cardio

Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson.

Most people don't think of the famously introverted poet Emily Dickinson as much of an exerciser. But it turns out that while at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, she put in 15 minutes of "calisthenics" every day at 12 noon (A Historical Guide to Emily Dickinson, Vivian R. Pollak). It just goes to show that if you make reasonable, attainable goals, you can set up a daily regimen that works for you! Just keep it simple, and remember that even a little activity is a lot better than none at all.

Charles Dickens: 12 Mile Walks

Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens. Image via Getty.

Everyone knows Charles Dickens as the author of countless famous stories, such as A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist. But did you know he was a prodigious walker, who was estimated to have walked about 12 miles a day at a rate of nearly 5 mph (Dickens, Peter Ackroyd). Dickens didn't just view his grueling constitutionals as exercise, though: he also used walking as a way to explore and observe the neighborhoods of London, where many of his novels were set.

Do you have any other author-inspired fitness routines? Let us know in the comments!


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Dickinson's was a regimen,

Dickinson's was a regimen, not a regiment!

Nice catch!

Nice catch! We've edited the post.

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