Renee Mihulka – Children's Book Reviews & Writer

Making sure the writing doesn’t turn me into a slob

When you are a writer you do a lot of sitting on your, ahem – arse. A lot. Unless of course you are lucky enough to own a standing desk or one of those awesome treadmill/desk combos.

treadmill des

IMG_2908Alas, I have only my squishy, white arm chair or a coffee shop to bare witness to my creative pursuits. Since I live in a two bedroom house a study is out of the question and although we do have two desks, they have been commandeered by the kids. Fair enough too, they need a place to do their homework. So I have made my chair and a tiny, square, kids table as my workplace. No excuses not to write here though, no siree!

But the more time I spend in my squishy, leather chair, the more I feel I need to compensate this sedentary time by exercising.

Quite a few of my friends run…

wonderwoman running


Which is great for them, but unfortunately this is a more accurate representation of me and how I feel about running.

dog running gif


Yes, well. So running is out. I do love to play tennis, though it can be tricky to find a regular hitting partner and the kids aren’t good enough to give me a workout yet. Going to the gym is also an ordeal. I would have to go before school or at night and quite frankly this is how I feel about either of those scenarios.

hermoine unimpressed


So what to do so I don’t end up turning into a giant slob? Well just like I need to form good writing habits to push forward my creative pursuits, I also need to form good movement habits.

When it comes to habits I am an ‘upholder’, to use a term coined by Gretchen Rubin in her book “Better than Before” about building habits. Basically, I am a stickler for the rules, I like admin and I find forming habits generally easy. (If you want to know what your habit forming tendency is you can find out here.)

And so this is what has worked for me:

Using an Activity Tracker

When you get so enthralled in writing that you forget all time and space a watch/tracker can be useful to get you up and walking around. I’ve had three.

Jawbone – good because I only had to charge it every 10 days or so. Not so good because I had to look up how many steps I did on the phone. (I had the plain black bracelet one the UP, the models have improved since then.)

Fitbit Charge – This is the FitBit that also measures your heart rate and you can see with the push of a button how many steps you have done, stairs you have climbed, distance you have walked and calories you have burnt. You can also set it to buzz at you when you have been sitting too long. Super useful. What I don’t like that you have to charge it every second day. But in all fairness it does charge quickly.

Apple Watch – Just got this for my birthday. The watch works a bit differently from the other two in that it doesn’t use steps taken as its major goal hurdle. With the other two, I tried to get 10,000 steps a day and that was pretty much it. Even if it meant walking on the spot in my lounge, I would get my 10K. The Apple Watch focuses on three goals displayed as three rings, the red ring is movement, the green is exercise and the blue is stand.


Movement measures your active calories. Basically it’s the calories you burn when your heart rate increases above your resting heart rate.

Excercise measures the number of minutes a day you have spent exercising at a brisk walk or more. The aim is 30mins a day.

The stand features encourages (taps) you to get up for at least one minute every hour. I love this because it forces me to get up and move around. I used this to grab a cup of tea or just walk around my chair and have a think. It forces me to take a mini break.

At first, I didn’t like the watch. I wore it in conjunction with the Fitbit and at the end of the day my step totals would be wildly different – Fitbit 17,000, Watch 14,500. But then I realised it doesn’t matter because it is relative. I shouldn’t compare the Fitbit against the Watch, rather my Watch’s result on Monday compared to Tuesday etc.

Now I try to get those three circle’s every day. Sometimes that means just parking my car further, going for a walk after dinner or begging a hit of tennis, but when my husband is away for work, that gets trickier. So I have found the perfect solution – a playground next to an oval. While the kids play, I walk around the oval. I can see them at all times and they love it so much they often beg me to do ‘just one more lap!’.

Being accountable to someone else and finding an idea that works

I decided this year that since my youngest was now three, there really wasn’t any excuse to be carrying around extra weight anymore. I also thought about meeting new people at conferences and potential publishers and agents and I wanted to feel good about the way I looked. My goal was to lose 21kg. My cousin also wanted to lose weight and so we decided to support each other.

At first, my cousin, who is an Obliger according to Gretchen’s tendencies, was finding it hard. While I was losing weight steadily she was gaining excuses steadily (need to rearrange house, changing jobs, Easter) and although I have no doubt she was trying, she wasn’t getting anywhere which was frustrating for her and for me. So I tried a few different ideas to get her to stick to 10,000 steps but the one that resonated the most with her – stars. The idea that every day she stuck to her allocated food limit and steps she got to colour in another star. This really works for a lot of people. Why? Well, apparently people hate to break patterns. Which is exactly what my cousin said. She said that the thought of breaking her pattern of perfect gold stars inspired her more than thinking about going to the movies, the new clothes she might buy or eventually feeling great. Whatever works for you I say! And it has definitely worked for her. Right now she has a perfect line of 18 golden stars twinkling at her.

Me? Well, so far I have stayed on track editing my manuscript AND lost 14kg. So I guess I’ve earned a giant gold star too.


How do you stay active when working mean long periods of butt time? I would love to hear from you.

2 Responses to Making sure the writing doesn’t turn me into a slob

  1. Karen Comer says:

    Exercise and writing – sometimes I think they go hand in hand, other times they seem to oppose each other. Walking is good for writers – to nut out that character motivation or daydream about that next scene. Great job with your editing and weight loss, Renee – they seem to work in tangent for you! Julia Cameron wrote a book about writing and walking .. will look up the title for you!

    • rmihulka says:

      Thanks Karen. It is so hard to stay motivated in winter. And I confess, I’m a little behind with my editing now… Oh well. Back on the horse, or in the chair…

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Book Reviews and Writer