The Health of an Artist
Thomas Constantine Moore shares words of wisdom on figuring out what kind of self-improvements are right for you.
Thomas's #2 tip: Exercise
I have something very serious to discuss this week. Something so simple! So obvious. And yet simultaneously so complex. Like confronting your homie about whether or not they have feelings for your girlfriend. Luckily, I have neither a girlfriend nor anyone that I call "homie," so this week I'll be talking about the health of an artist.
In any art, and really, in any profession, a person's first and most important "instrument" or "tool" is their body. That's particularly true in theater though, and especially so for actors. But it bears repeating: no matter what you do, your body and mind (which aren't as separate as you might think) are the things you do it with. So here's the short list of what you can do to stay in peak condition:
1. Eat well Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Get enough protein but avoid high cholesterol. Get enough carbs but not enough to make you fat. Speaking of fat, avoid fatty stuff. Avoid over-eating. Avoid under-eating. Avoid eating too much at once.
2. Exercise Cardio every day. Weight lifting every other day. But don't take steroids. Though nitric oxide might be okay. Worth researching anyway.
3. Sleep Oh my gods sleep. Sleep at least eight hours a night and preferably ten so that you look your best.
4. Moisturize 'nuff said.
5. Don't enjoy life If at all possible, avoid actual life experiences including but not limited to video games, staying out late dancing (see item #3), watching TV, potentially dangerous sports, petting strange dogs, and leaving your house. A social life will take precious time away from the maintenance and upkeep of your body.
You may have noted a modicum of sarcasm. While none of the above statements are explicitly false, some of them are a little… well… unrealistic. And overwhelming. I've often been frustrated by the sheer volume of things that I "need" to do. Because the truth of the matter is that part of an artist's health is also his psychological well-being -- and yet another part is his educational or academic well-being. So the list grows at a nearly exponential rate. Sleep, but attend class. Read a new play every week, but homework comes first. Come prepared to rehearsal, but you need to set aside time to get in shape for your next role. Have a social life, but spend fifteen minutes every day in solitary meditation. Eat well, but that often means setting aside time to get groceries and cook. Oh, and are you multilingual yet?
Still with me? This may surprise you, but I actually did not intend for this topic to stress you out.
The moral here is that there are literally infinite self-improvements to adopt--and the admittedly rather cynical corollary is that therefore nobody expects you to adopt them all. That's not to say that any of these things are not important. You simply get the lovely honor and responsibility of picking and choosing exactly how you'll allocate your time. A healthy artist is an artist that achieves a balance, one that allows for working in his or her chosen field consistently, creatively, and to the best of his or her ability. Maybe cultivating muscles that would make Joe Manganiello jealous is a career move for you; if that's the case then all that working out is going to be really important. But maybe you're perfectly happy with your body type the way it is and you know you're still cast-able (Patton Oswalt won't be winning any bodybuilding competitions this year but he's still phenomenal in Dollhouse,United States of Tara, and Young Adult).
So basically what I'm saying is that whatever kind of artist you are, your health is your business. It should be a priority no matter how you go about it, but it's that how that's up to you. Don't worry about what other people are doing to stay healthy--figure out what you need to do to stay healthy and do that. Even small changes to your routine can be enormously helpful and remain unobtrusive. I'd recommend starting there (though considering despite my best efforts I just can't seem to stick to a regular gym schedule, I may not be a great example).
One last thing: Above and beyond everything else, sleep really is important. I know it's something you've heard before, but since college students are notorious insomniacs (often by their own design), I think it bears repeating. Heck, I should probably stop writing this and go to bed right this sec-…