Guest Contributor: Audrey A. Wick, Blinn College (Texas).

When my freshman students need to take a break from writing, I suggest that they exercise.

When my fitness students need a break from exercising, I tell them to try writing.

I may be one of the only cross-over writing/fitness instructors in the nation: at my college, I teach both College Composition (for our Humanities department) and Pilates (for our Kinesiology department). And what my experience in both has uncovered is that there are some light cross-over tips from fitness that can absolutely benefit reluctant, unmotivated writers.

So take a deep breath with me—and consider using some of these simple techniques that marry the best of fitness instruction with challenges in the writing classroom. And I promise: you don’t need to be a coach (or have a whistle!) to incorporate these.

1. Stretch breaks during timed writing. When students have to complete a writing assignment under timed circumstances, help them not only keep track of minutes to go but relieve some stress in the process. Having students stand and stretch for 15-30 seconds every half-hour of a timed writing assignment can offer them a brief reprise and recharge for the task ahead.

2. Deep breathing to relax. If you are changing topics or just need students to refocus, lead them in a few collective deep breaths. Tell them to close their eyes (believe me—they won’t resist!), place both feet flat on the floor, and rest their hands at their sides. Have them slowly breathe in through their noses and out through their noses at least three times. It’s amazing how energizing and refreshing a short break like this can be!

3. Visualization for prewriting. Having students concentrate on quiet for 2-3 minutes to “see” a topic before they write about it can work with several different writing modes. A more focused approach might be to have them be still with eyes closed while you ask a series of focused questions for them to respond mentally in 3-4 minutes time. Either way, visualization can be a powerful way to relax and prepare for effective writing.

When students’ minds are clear and their bodies are relaxed, they can be more receptive to learning. So don’t hesitate to try a few exercise techniques with your writing students the next time you think they need a break.

Audrey A. Wick is a full-time English professor and kinesiology instructor at Blinn College, a two-year college with four campuses in central Texas. She serves as a TeamUP Faculty Advisor and Technology Power User for Cengage Learning.

Have you used exercise to engage students? Do you have any other questions for Audrey Wick? Share them in the comments.