What I Write About When I Write About (Fitness) Writing

I need a good introductory paragraph here. Something creative, witty, funny – something that will capture your attention and give you a reason to continue on with the rest of this piece. Okay, so, uhhhhh… in the fifth grade, Mr. S taught us that an essay needs to consist of a section where you tell the reader what you’re going to tell him, then a section where you tell him, and then a closing section where you tell the reader what you just told him. He also told us to stay away from alcohol because it wasn’t good for us – and then I caught him that same evening through the window of a bar throwing back beers with his buddies like it was nothing. I wasn’t in the bar, don’t worry; I was just walking by on the sidewalk with my girlfriend and happened to peek in. That was weird. I didn’t know the word for it then, but now it’s clear to me what all of that was: hypocrisy.

Yeah, he never lived that one down. Haha! Fun times. But you know what, I’m going off track here.

Back to writing.

Maybe I need to start over again. Alright then. But no, this is hard. The introduction is always the hardest part. I’ve spent five minutes just staring at the blinking cursor on the screen. It’s taunting me, I tell you. What, you still can’t think of anything to type on here?it sneers.

So I think I’ll just skip the introduction for now. I’m much better when I return to this part last, anyway.

The Introduction above should be re-named the Not-Introduction until I think of something more clever.

Let’s just skip ahead and get into the meat of things.

The Meat of Things

I hate writing. I loathe it, but at the same time, I’d be miserable without it. But writing makes me so unhappy. Or so I once thought. What I realize now it’s not the writing that makes me miserable so much as the thinking about the writing. Because it’s daunting, you know. It’s really, really hard. Yet if you were to take it away from me – if you were to pack my schedule so tight with other responsibilities that I simply did not have a spare minute to sit at my laptop with nothing but my thoughts for a few hours at a time – I would go stir crazy. I’d experience withdrawal, my writing vocals parched dry.

It sounds like I lose either way, then.

But actually. Actually, I think I’m starting to understand what this hullabaloo is all about. This seeming conflict of interest. My need to write about fitness – about the psychology behind it, about my thoughts on dieting, on my preferred training methods – has brought me here.

I never really thought of myself as much of a writer. I mean, I thought I was half decent, but that’s because my dad always told me so. That’s the equivalent of a mother telling her daughter that she’s the most beautiful girl in the world. Any well-meaning mother would tell that to her child. And maybe the daughter would sincerely believe it as well, but who’s to say that her mother’s not perhaps also the most biased person who could tell her that? Because obviously it doesn’t make sense for every single daughter in existence to be the most beautiful girl in the world, because then they’re all the most beautiful and it’s all of a sudden the norm to be the most beautiful, and that defeats the purpose of being deemed the most beautiful, doesn’t it?

Anyway. Until recently, the only times I wrote were for mandatory school papers and in long, semi-coherent emails to friends and family members. For a long time, I thought I’d end up as a doctor or some other lofty, universally-respected profession that required very little in the way of creative writing.

Never thought I’d list this – fitness writing, specifically – as part of my vocation.

But writing has got to be the hardest job in the world. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty difficult about being a surgeon or a lawyer or hell, even a stay-at-home mother of three. None of that stuff is easy, and I hope you don’t think I’m insinuating as much.

Most of the time when I have an article assignment, I sit at my desk with a dumbfounded look on my face as I stare at the blinking cursor on my screen. Ramblings.doc, the Word document reads across the top. Compability Mode.Whatever that means. I’ve never been much of a techie – not enough to care to learn about computers anyway. All I know is that I hit Command + S every few minutes (it’s become automatic now) so I can salvage my precious work should my laptop freeze or shut down on me unexpectedly.

My derp face as I try to write. 
My derp face as I try to write.

Damn it, I’ve gone off on a tangent again. I have trouble focusing, you see. My thoughts wander all the time – all the time. It makes the writing process feel like I’m sitting in a torture chamber. Chinese water torture, maybe, because the buildup of the pain that I feel is very, very gradual.

I do everything I can to put off writing. Even right now as I’m typing away, I feel this incredibly strong urge to peel myself away from the computer screen and go wash the dishes. Oh, I have to pay off my bills. Take my dog out for a walk. I’ll just, you know, I’ll come back to this once I’m done with all of those things.

But I’m not fooled anymore. It’s Resistance that’s whispering in my ear, you see – and I know that on a conscious level now. Perhaps more commonly known as Self-Sabotage.

Damn you, Resistance.

Resistance, More Commonly Known as Self-Sabotage

As I write this, there are five other articles sitting in my desktop still only half-written. Yet I apparently made the ingenious decision to start a brand new piece, as if five wasn’t enough.

That’s what Resistance loves. Unfinished works of art. Unrealized endeavors.

I could go on and on about Resistance – about how it pervades any artistic pursuit, whether it be writing a novel or painting a portrait or hell, even dieting – but you know what’s funny? One of my five articles is actually all about Resistance. I’m about 1500 words in, yet I can’t bring myself to finish it. Resistance is holding me back. Resistance is keeping me from writing about Resistance.

The irony kills me.

This will have to suffice for now.

Part of me wants to keep writing about Resistance here, but I’m realizing that that would be incredibly redundant because I’d just be repeating myself. You know, because I’ve got another article devoted to it. And this piece right here isn’t supposed to be about that. Or should it? Would it be relevant? I don’t know. I don’t want to think about that right now. No. No.

Let’s just get back to the meat of things.

Getting Back to the Meat of Things

So I was saying, I chose fitness writing as a part-time profession by accident. It kind of fell into my lap.

I started my first blog back in January of 2012 when I was a senior in college. I didn’t really have a particular goal in mind. All I knew was that I’d recently quit the premed path – turns out sports medicine is actually not quite the perfect mélange of medicine and fitness as I’d once believed – and was still at a loss as to what I wanted to do. I was on the path to graduate five months from then with not a single clue as to where in the world I’d end up or how I’d be supporting myself financially. I spent my hours fulfilling the remaining courses I had to take to obtain my bachelor’s degree, training in the gym, and goofing around on the Internet. And by goofing around I mostly mean reading other people’s fitness blogs, combing through fitness forums, following NPC shows… you know, all that fitness buff obsessive stuff. And as I would read other people’s articles and blogs, a thought came to me: I can do what they’re doing.

Fast forward to now and I can actually call myself a real writer. I mean, I’m getting paid to write. Thank God for that. I’ve certainly struck gold, being able to make somewhat of a living doing what I love (or love to hate?). That’s not something that everyone can say about themselves.

What do I write about, then? So far, every single article I’ve written has been about a topic I’ve truly been interested in. That’s how I am: I can’t produce quality work on something I don’t feel passionately about. That’s why I hated studying medicine; that’s why I could never do something solely for the money. I do feel fortunate in that aspect, to have my editors giving me essentially free reign over the subject of each of my ramblings.

Do I think that my writing has the potential to reach many, many more people? Absolutely, but marketing has never been a strength of mine, despite growing up in a family with a strong business background. I’m more of a put-your-head-down, follow-your-heart kind of girl. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am, and I’m able to support myself fully. I’m helping people, and that’s good enough for me.

My Writing, Unfiltered

Most of the time when I write, I heavily filter my thoughts. Because this is a public medium, and potentially anyone in the entire world can reach my words. I should be careful about what I say, no?

This has been a manifestation of my thoughts completely unfiltered. My thoughts in writing. My writing about writing, without any edits or overthinking. I haven’t held anything back – not much, anyway. I’ve done my best to keep my wandering mind to a minimum, though a good bit no doubt trickled in. It’s no wonder it takes me upwards of six hours to produce a single quality article; I have trouble staying focused on one single task for any appreciable length of time.

Writing can be so. exhausting. 
Writing can be so. exhausting.

Hopefully that’s something that will improve over time. It’s this whole advent of technology thing. iPhones, incessant text messages and push notifications. It’s like a tick, really, this constant clicking around from tab to tab on Google Chrome, checking my phone every other minute as if there’s a life-or-death situation depending on my immediate attention. That’s my bad habit, I know. There’s nothing to gain from it except to scratch my own itch, an itch that I only continue to feed with my ongoing behavior.

Trying to Wrap This Up

Doh-rae-mi-fah-so-lah-tee –

Annoying, isn’t it? You want to come here and type out dohfor me, or at least say it to yourself in your head. The above sequence feels unfinished – and that’s because it is. That’s how a subpar ending to an article would feel.

Writing the conclusion has always been my most dreaded part. How do I accurately conclude an article in a way that will leave you not only satisfied but impressed, walking away nodding in agreement with what I’ve said – or at least pondering a new seed of thought that I’ve planted in your head? This is arguably more difficult than writing the introduction (or the not-introduction), as a bad conclusion can easily obliterate an otherwise top-notch piece of work. A painful introduction, at least by its very nature of being placed strategically at the beginning of a work, has the opportunity to be redeemed by the main body.

Allow me to humor Mr. S’s advice and tell you what I told you: writing is perhaps the most difficult thing in the world for me to do, yet at the same time I think I would die without it; I have the utmost respect for full-time writers, more than any other professional in existence; fitness writing is perfect for me and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.

As I wrap this up, I’ll openly admit that I’m simultaneously elated that I’ve made it this far in this particular piece and relieved that I don’t have to write much more. I’m also incredibly proud for following through on what began as a mere spark of an idea. Writing is, I’m convinced, somewhat of a form of artistic torture, you see. Yet I’m all the more glad to do it.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

And that, my friend, effectively concludes this piece. There’s no real organization to this piece save for adhering to the loose structure of a basic article. But when it comes to ramblings, I guess that’s sometimes the point, no?

Sohee Lee, NSCA-CSCS is a personal trainer, online coach and writer. After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in human biology from Stanford University, she interned at Cressey Performance before her current position at Peak Performance as a performance coach. She specializes in women’s fat loss and the fitness mindset.