Flexing My Creative Muscles: Running from Zombies, My Apple Watch Overlord, & My Health

By Melissa Llanes Brownlee

I run. Not fast, not far. I can run 5 to 10 kilometers without dying. If I told my teenage self that I would run by choice in my 40s, she would be laughing her ass off.

In 2018, after my yearly health exam in which I got Cs and Ds (Japan is weird), I decided that I needed a change.

I had been going to a gym in Japan off and on since my mid-30s, but I knew I needed to do something different. I had just read an excerpt from Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and I thought, yeah, maybe that’s what I need.

So, I started running every day.

But, here’s the thing. I hate running.

I didn’t always hate it though. As a kid, I’d let my long legs carry me across the playground, along sandy shores, up and down my neighborhood streets, usually barefoot, kicking my slippers off before sprinting to my goal. Then, I got breasts, making any run into a torture session. Of course, by this time sports were for jocks and I was definitely not one.

So how do I get myself to run every day? Zombies. Yep, I downloaded the Zombies, Run! app on my phone and never looked back, because if I did, the zombies would steal all of my hard earned food and gear. What I love about this app is that it not only encourages me to run, but I can be engrossed in the narrative as well. It’s a lot like listening to a podcast or an audiobook. I am as invested in these characters as I would be with any other media I consume. Currently, I am on my third time through the 9 seasons. I am a strong believer in gamifying fitness.  If there’s any way to make it into a game, I will be more likely to do it. Remember my challenges? It’s pretty much the same thing. To keep track of my progress, I also got a Fitbit when I started, mainly because it was cheaper than an Apple Watch, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get into the whole “I need tech to be healthy” thing. But guess what? I did. I still do.

Eventually, I got an Apple Watch. I’m on my second one now. My watch constantly reminds me to move, to take moments out of my day to meditate, to stand when I am sitting too long – it’s annoying. Some days, I want to throw it at the wall. Other days, I am grateful for the reminders.

I also bought barefoot running shoes. I would run barefoot if I could, but my treadmill hurts the bottom of my feet (not as smooth as lava, the treadmill, not my feet), and I don’t want to step on rocks or glass or trash when I run outside.

I know that there are other writers out there, besides Murakami, who run. I’ve seen Matt Bell post pictures of his runs in the desert on twitter which are inspirational and a little awe inspiring.

Does running make me a better writer? I don’t know. Maybe? I am not Murakami. I will probably never run a marathon. I do know that caring about my physical self helps my mental self. In the moments between the narrative clips of Zombies, Run! I can think about how the writers are structuring the arcs if I am feeling critical or I can just enjoy how well the voice actors and sound technicians can scare me even when I have literally heard the same story three times. In other moments, I can let my mind wander over a story I am working on or just let my mind drift in general. I love daydreaming. It all really depends on my day.

What surprised me about making the decision to run every day was realizing I could commit to doing something every day. Which inevitably led me to realizing that I could actually write every day or play the ukulele every day or doodle every day. That these things could be an integral part of my life, not just something I tack on when the mood strikes me.

In the last 3 or so years, I have been more prolific in my writing and publishing. I have made connections and put myself out there. Was it the running? Was it the pandemic? To be honest, I don’t really care what it was. I just know that I will continue to run every day until I can’t.

Bonus Prompt: Write about a physical activity you loved as a child. Describe the way it made you feel. Do you remember the moment when you no longer loved it? Try to write it in 300 words or less.

Bonus Bonus Prompt: For those who are able, find a daily exercise routine – 5 minutes or 15 or 30 or whatever (My goal is a minimum of 30 minutes or 3 miles every day). See how you feel mentally after a couple of weeks. If running isn’t your thing, may I suggest yoga? There are so many free yoga instructors on YouTube with timed sessions that you can search for.

Mahalo Nui Loa for joining me again! Wishing you health, creativity and love!

Read Melissa’s other work here at Reckon:

Flexing My Creative Muscles: Playing the Ukulele, UAS, & 30-Day Challenges
Flexing My Creative Muscles: Art Nights, Line Art, & Daily Doodles
Fiction: Coming Home

Melissa Llanes Brownlee

Melissa Llanes Brownlee (she/her), a native Hawaiian writer, living in Japan, has work published or forthcoming in Smokelong Quarterly, Cheap Pop, The Razor, Ruby Literature, Milk Candy Review, Cotton Xenomorph, Lost Balloon, Best Small Fictions 2021, and Best Microfiction 2022. Read Hard Skin, her short story collection, from Juventud Press. She doodles on Instagram and tweets @lumchanmfa. She posts the occasional ukulele video on Instagram @lumchanukulele and talks story at www.melissallanesbrownlee.com.

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