In the last post on the Toward Creativity Podcast, I mentioned that this blog post would go a little deeper into the kind of fitness journey that would benefit you as a creative. Our podcast and community looks into helping creatives build sustainable and prosperous creative careers. In order to have a long lasting creative career, we need to think about making our bodies more capable through functional fitness.
In starting any kind of new habit, remember, start slow. Consistency will win over sporadic commitment. Consistency with a little will always beat the random big efforts.
Also, remember that I'm not a doctor and none of this is medical advice. It's just to give you a picture of what is possible for you.
Here is a tip that has helped me: go into your fitness journey with no pre-planned expectations. Just start doing something that you are curious about or something that you already enjoy. Once you develop daily habits around things that you enjoy as it relates to your exercise, then you can dream and set goals.
Don't do what I am often prone to do. My problem is that I dream first, get the goals and then do the exercise. What results is often major dissappointments that I feel behind and not training as hard as I should and then the feelings of guilt and inadequacy come and the journey, soon after it has begun, fizzles.
So - start slow with something that you just can't wait to do and don't push too hard when you start the journey or the individual exercises that you choose. Starting to exercise as an habitual activity is one of the hardest things to do. And so, when you start, that's a massive accomplishment.
Ok - here is what I am finding so, so helpful.
Yoga and Pilates
No need to freak. Many people have different kinds of reactions when they hear the term "Yoga". I came across yoga during severe and debilitating back pain caused by a psychosomatic reaction to trauma. That's a lot of words. Feel free to read that sentence again - but faster!
I reached out to my brother, Dr. Jadon Harding - who is actually a medical doctor - and he suggested doing yoga as he was benefiting from doing it in his then current fitness routine.
I searched up yoga and well - there are a lot of lady instructors and I'm a dude - so - I didn't immediately resonate. Not good. I didn't connect with them and they lost me when they started talking about chakra, etc.
So - I randomly googled "Yoga for Men" and up popped Sean Vigue. I then googled "Beginner Yoga for Men" and then Sean Vigue popped up yet again with his lovable golden retriever, Addie. I was hooked! (He adds a growl for Addie every once and a while. It's really fun) The first video I followed along with was "Beginner Yoga for Men" set in Lake Placid, NY. It was so inspiring, fun, and I immediately saw the benefits.
Sean Vigue is a singer, friends! He sings opera and musical theatre. He understands the creative mind! Here is his website: Sean Vigue Fitness. He also has old movie trivia peppered throughout the videos to keep us nerds engaged.
Sean is also an expert in Pilates and he often includes Pilates in his Yoga workouts. For musicians, and all of us really, we need to work on our core. I can say that working through his videos has changed my life for the following reasons:
He connected my breathing with movement. Since he is a total pro, he is constantly teaching and helping the student to have a mind/body connection and that flows from deep breathing. If you follow along with his videos, which I really hope you do - it will change your life - he vividly describes the action of breathing. Your mind will grab a hold of these analogies and your body will want to breathe in the best way possible. He often will say, "Modify as needed." He is aware of the many levels that come to his YouTube channel.
With breath as the foundation, my flexibility and range of movement is more now than it ever has been. As you begin to breath and relax into the active stretches of his workouts, your muscles will lengthen correctly and naturally. You will become stronger. As a result, you will build more confidence. I encourage you to measure out your flexibility at the beginning of working in yoga and pilates. For me, I could not touch my toes. Now, I can almost get my elbows on the floor with the downward fold movement! My back pain? Gone. My back is stronger now. But, remember I mentioned the psycomatic reactions to past trauma. Sean has taught me to breathe and so when paralyzing spasms come in the form of panic and pain, I breathe through them and remember what Sean has taught me. It brings calm to my body and I do a stretching routine. The spasms flee and I feel great.
He teaches us to be courageous and to share authentically. My father died in 2014. While still grieving, I found Sean shortly after that; I think in 2016. Sean shares his journey with you on his channel. He shared about his move from Florida to Colorado and now back to Florida. He shared about his own father's passing. He shares about his love for his native Wisconsin and the joys of being a new father. He shares from his heart and that resonates with me. There is no pretense with this guy. And, no wonder he is one of the most watched Yoga instructors on YouTube in the world.
He teaches in a step by step framework and leaves no guesses. Sean is very thorough in the explanation of what and why he is completing an exercise within a routine. His step by step framework is perfect for me as a beginner and he slowly builds on foundational concepts in other videos.
I have never met Sean Vigue. I hope to some day and say a massive, "Thank you." Because he showed up to fulfill his creative journey, my life was changed. And, I am sure that I am not the only one.
I love and do a lot of running but running isn't for everyone. Have you ever checked out Peloton bike? Their sales skyrocketed over the peak of the pandemic. Their technology is integrative and fun. You can ride with folks all over the world and enter into cycle classes all over the country either live or recorded. In other words, there is a cardio activity for you. Do cardio work that you enjoy.
I have to say that running, along with piano, is my foil right now. It challenges, frustrates, inspires and motivates me. I am beginning to get back into cycling. Anything that you can do for heart health is a massive plus. As performers, we need to lower our heart rate and the stress release in a cardio workout can be really significant day to day.
Did you ever do the "Jump Rope for Heart" program? This was a program that I did in school growing up. It was for the Canadian Heart Society. You raised money while skipping rope. All of the boys were skeptical of course and the girls seemed to always win both in the skill of skipping and in the fundraising. Our teachers would even bust out some moves. The boys would be consoled to know that boxers would skip rope to warm up and to improve their fitness. Apparently, jumping rope gives much of the same benefits that running does but within a shorter amount of time. Maybe jumping rope is for you!
My personal running journey is connected to the Nike App. Here's why I love the Nike Run App:
Guided Runs: They have organized this free app to have you coached by some of the world's greatest runners and coaches. It's unreal. The quality of the coaching is world-class. The guided runs are organized by type of run (ie speed, long, recovery, tempo). You are able to select guided runs based on distance or time. The app tracks your speed, your pace, your distance and even offers rockin' playlists that go along with the vibe of the run you select.
Training Plans: Right now they have a fitness plan and a half-marathon plan that is completely and thoroughly serviced by their guided runs. Folks this is so incredible! Right now, I am pursuing the 14 week to half-marathon plan. I absolutely love it!
The Training Philosophy: It's hard to explain in a blog post how much the training philosophy of the app is wholistic. You will often hear a coach say, "Now this is about running but it's more than just running. It's about how you live." They use running and the act of running as an analog to life! I have learned so much from the guided runs and not just about the training. I have learned about how I react to tough things. I have learned to better recover not just in my body but also in my life - to reclaim something that was lost or stolen from me. The mindful running series that they have as a part of the guided runs has been transformative for me. To lose myself again in practicing the piano as a result of training in mindfulness in the morning in my prayer and meditation time and in my running has been life changing.
For the creative, you will experience a 'runner's high' in unique ways. I get some really cool, creative ideas when I run. I think about my work at the university and at my church. Endorphins are released when doing cardio. It's the best kind of feeling because you are experiencing it by doing something healthy.
I don't know Coach Bennett of the Nike Run App but I hope to meet him someday and tell him, "Thank you. You changed my life." He reminds us that we can connect our fitness journey to our creative journey in direct and indirect ways.
Drink more water. Having even one glass of water in the morning will change your day. And, the more you change each day, the more you will change your entire life. Water is essential to healing and recovering your body after exercise. Along with hydration, there are electrolytes that need to flow through your body. When you exercise, electrolytes are used up. Electrolytes help muscle function. Potassium, naturally found in bananas, is an electrolyte. Sodium is an electrolyte. Ever notice that your sweat is a little 'salty'. Yep - that's sodium being used up.
Proper hydration is also shown to help brain health. In the immediate, you will think clearer when you are properly hydrated. Muscles will get the proper nutrition they need to function. You will feel better. Part of a hydration plan will need to include the gradual elimination of soda, sugar, and caffeine. Even diet drinks will have to begin to disappear from your diet. Friends, they are just not healthy and they don't improve any part of your fitness journey. Natural caffeine in coffee is fine but you have to be careful how much caffeine goes into your system on a daily basis.
Here is where you will have to look elsewhere to find tips and tools that work for you... haha!
In the Harding household, we eat pretty cleanly. My wife is committed to eating healthy for the sake of our kids and their health. Soda is never allowed! Fast food is rarely ever consumed. Our food is well, food. It's chicken, lots of veggies, fish, meat that is real meat, and fruit. We don't eat processed food.
Maybe that's a good place to start. Start eating stuff that is real food. Food that you know where it came from and it looks like real food. We rarely eat out because we don't know how it was prepared. You will instantly start feeling better when you eat food that is real.
There are times when you need to burn the candle at both ends. Your family and business is depending upon you to get things done and you need to accomplish certain tasks. But, it should not be that lack of sleep is a pattern for you.
Right now, I am a wicked snorer. Like, it's brutal. I am scheduling an appointment with an ENT today. You may have an issue with snoring or some other kind of sleep problem. I would encourage you to seek out your doctor to talk about solutions.
Sleep is critical for cell rejuvenation. I need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. That's how I'm wired. I tried to get less and by the afternoon I am a disaster and a walking zombie.
How much sleep do you need?
Not only is enough sleep critical but when you sleep is also important. This video by Ali Abdaal was so helpful to me in determining my best sleep schedule. It's a thorough examination as to which schedule might work for you as a creative and as one who wants to be productive Yes, I schedule out my sleep patterns and try to test which is best. I journal throughout the day as to how I am feeling and where I am most productive.
Let's Support One Another in Community
Through the Toward Creativity Podcast, we have a group on Facebook. There you will find an opportunity for you to interact with folks on their own fitness journey. They are creatives trying to build a sustainable creative career.
On this blog and on the podcast, we will be speaking into this area with more intention going forward. You can also DM me @bhardingmusic on Instagram. We need community to support one another in this critical aspect of our lives. I have done best when my fitness journey is connected to a community of likeminded folks. Let's get after it together!