Things an artist can do to stay healthy and get in shape

First, a little story about how I killed my soda habit…

Last June, I developed a searing pain in my right big toe. It was so bad, I could barely endure standing up, much less walking. As it turns out, it was a really bad gout attack. For those of you that don’t know, gout tends to really be an issue for men 45 and older. Women can get gout too but it seems to be more common in men who have really bad habits when it comes to things they eat or drink. Or, more specifically, gout seems to affect anyone named Chris Flick who is 45 years or older and has really bad habits when it comes to things HE eats or drinks.

That gout attack was VERY sever and lasted for almost a week and a half. It was so bad, it made me change at least one major thing in my life that has always been my biggest vice. Sodas!

Soda has always been a huge weakness of mine. Sodas had always been my source of caffeine or energy boosts and was practically all I ever drank. Once that gout attack happened though, I started looking into various things that tend to cause gout and sodas were right at the top of the list. So, I made the very, very difficult decision to quit ALL sodas cold turkey. It was a very hard thing to do and an even harder thing to accomplish. I had tried to quit drinking sodas from time to time and usually I was successful for short periods here or there but eventually I would have a root beer or grape soda and sudden;t finding I was back on the soda train all over again. But this bout with gout was so incredibly sever, somehow I managed to go two weeks without a soda. Then four. Then a month and a half. From then on, it became a goal of mine to see exactly how long I could go without drinking any kind of soda whatsoever. I eventually went six months before I had any kind of soda – and the soda I did have was an extremely watered down Sprite at a sports bar that didn’t have anything except alcohol and soda available. But the Sprite was so watered down, it might as well have just been water with a little bit of lime and lemon flavor.

Since then, I have had a soda here or there but it’s been an extremely rare event when I have had one – and usually when I do have one, I limit it to exactly that – one and one only. So let me tell you… it actually possible to kick the soda habit if you really, really want to. Or, as was my case, if you really, really have to.

Unfortunately, I’ve also traded one sugar drink for a different one…

Instead of sodas, my got to beverage is now half & half tea (half lemonade, half tea), or what might more commonly be known as an “Arnold Palmer”. That has primarily been how I have managed to kill my soda habit. That’s been a good thing and a bad thing though. It’s been good because I am not filling my body up with all the chemicals that are in a soda (diet or regular). It’s good because I’m not suffering from muscles strains, dehydration or bloat like I was when sodas were my primarily (and sometimes only) source of liquids I was drinking.

It’s bad though because I am basically replacing one surgery drink with another. Sure, “Arnold Palmers” don’t have any of the chemicals a soda does but they can still have plenty of sugar so that’s not good either but at least the sodas are staying out of my system. Plus, I’m feeling better, less hydrated and haven’t had any muscles strains or pulls like I did when I was drinking sodas all the time.

The goal now is to get more water into my system and make the switch from teas to water like I did from sodas to tea.

But this article is about something else entirely…

My main goal in this article is to highlight some of the bad habits we artists tend to fall into on a daily basis and offer some suggestions in combating those bad habits. Sodas were obviously a bad, bad habit for me and, with a lot of hard, hard determination, I was able to break that bad soda habit. But there are a heck of lot more bad habits I think many artists fall into – and I am just a guilty.

What bad habits am I talking about? How many of you have done any of the following:

  • Stayed glued to your drawing table or computer for multiple hours at a time without getting up?
  • Stayed up late trying to finish a deadline or completing a project and sacrificing sleep in the process?
  • Worked a convention where you were too busy to keep hydrated or to eat anything?
  • Made sure sodas or coffee were your only source of liquids you drank?
  • Skipped breakfast or meals
  • Chose fast food meals for the speed and convenience?

Those are just some of the things right off the top of my head – and they are mostly things I have either done or continue to do when I’m working on a project or not consciously thinking about them. 

So, what can we – as artists – do to combat these bad habits?

Before I begin, let me state quite clearly that I am not a doctor. I don;t pretend to be one and I don’t even act like on on TV. If you’re going to commit to any kind of physical activity, you should always check with your doctor first to see what they recommend. Everything I am about to say is just general suggestions that work for me – or things I know I need to do for myself. they may or may not work for you. We are all very different and will have completely different needs, desires and even results.

That being said, one of the first – and most important – things we can do is get up and move. And make it a habit of getting up and moving around. Ideally, we should be getting up from our drawing table every 50 minutes and moving around. Where does that recommendation come from? It comes from my handy little Fitbit. I got addicted to my Fitbit from a previous company I worked for that, as part of their company-wide wellness program, forked out half the cost for lower end Fitbit for any employee who was interested in getting one. From there, the company set up Fitbit walking competitions to keep us all motivated. It worked like this:

  • Each employee that wanted to participate put in $10 to a general pool
  • Then once enough employees had signed up, teams were created via company e-mail and via Fitbit’s website as well
  • Each team was assigned a captain who was responsible for team updates and motivation
  • The competition was based on three month intervals, from March to May, for example
  • Each player was responsible for logging in their daily steps by their Fitbit app or computer device
  • Each player’s steps contributed to a team’s total.
  • At the end of three months, the team that had the most overall steps, each team member won prizes in the form of Apple or Amazon gift cards.

This was a fun, fantastic and competitive way to keep employees motivated to keep moving on a daily basis. It was not uncommon for employees to check up on other employees to see where their step count was and what you had to do to keep pace with everyone else. And people got creative about it as well. Two of my friends that were on other teams showed me that they modified their Fitbits to wear around their ankles so they could get more “steps” when they rode bikes or swam as the Fitbit would record more activity that way then if it was just on your wrist.

When I was with that company and involved in these Fitbit competitions, not only did I find myself consciously going out of my way to avoid short cuts through parking lots, supermarkets or where ever just so I could record 20 more steps for that day, I also made darn sure my Fitbit was always fully charged as it would be disastrous if you had a big walking day only to later find out your Fitbit ran out of battery mid walk or mid activity (which sometimes happened when you had your Fitbit on your ankle and weren’t paying attention.

Of course, I was also working in downtown Washington DC at the time so it was also quite easy to maintain a regular walking cycle as working in Washington practically requires you to walk any where you want to go.

If any Webcomic Alliance fans that have Fitbits and are interested in wanting to try and create something similar, please either e-mail me or comment on this thread and maybe we can create a Webcomic Alliance Fitbit competition of some sort.

But let’s get back to things we can do to make ourselves more healthy or fit…

The answer to being healthy and fit is going to be different for each of us since we are all individuals and have different needs, limitations, interests and what not. For me, getting more healthy and fit almost always means getting into a daily exercise routine. Every time I have committed myself to either an exercise routine or a sport, I always lose weight. My problem has always been being able to sustain that routine over a long period of time. I can commit to long stretches at a time but invariably, something will happen that will disrupt that routine and I will fall off that exercise wagon. And it usually takes me a long, long time to get back on it again. That’s another bad habit that I know I need to break. The worse part is, it usually happens right around late October or early November and continues until early or late January. 

One of the causes for this is that I love being active outdoors. I so much more enjoy that than spending long hours inside of a gym. Some of the outdoor things I really enjoy include: walking, bike riding, mowing the lawn, walking my dog, tennis (when I can find a willing partner) and playing in a men’s 45 and older baseball league. Yes, you read that right: a 45 and older men’s baseball league called the Mens Senior Baseball League. It is a national organization with leagues all across the United States. And they have different age groups starting at 19 and going all the way up to 65 years and over.

I started playing in this league when I was 22 years old but quit for two years (2012-2014) due to a couple of nagging injuries from catching and my summer convention schedule getting super hectic during that time. But two years ago, I decided I missed it and started playing again. And because I knew what it was like playing in 95+ degree summer humidity in Northern Virginia, I got much more dedicated about getting into and maintaining a regular exercise routine. That’s what works for me. But like I said, we are all different – including all of us here at Webcomic Alliance.

So what do some of the things each of us do to stay active? Christina and Liz both share a common idea:

From Christina:
Pokemon Go has helped my fitness routine immensely.  I’ve got a local gym membership, and there’s a Pokemon gym within range of my gym, so I battle with my Pokemon while doing the elliptical.  On days when I don’t do that, I still walk to hatch eggs and get my daily streaks for catches and Pokestops.

From Liz:
I also play a ton of Pokémon Go, mainly while I’m at my barn jobs but I also play while walking to the post office to mail Etsy orders. 

Liz is also an avid horse rider and that activity requires its own set up physical demands.

Again from Liz:
Riding requires a LOT of fitness. Strength, flexibility, stamina… plus patience to work with a 1000+ pound animal that can get frightened by a butterfly and decide it doesn’t want to do what you want it to!

So Liz and Christina like to use Pokemon Go to get them motivated to walk. But what works for them may not work for others. Plus there are other things to consider. For example, I walk a lot too but I don’t play Pokemon Go. Still, I have no problems or concerns putting my iPod ear buds in and heading out the door to start walking.  Robin, on the other hand, says she feels uncomfortable walking alone. Like Christina and Liz, my daughter also enjoys Pokemon Go as well but like Robin, she also feels very uncomfortable walking alone and only plays Pokemon Go when her best friend can join her. That’s actually very smart because whatever you decide to do, there is always safety in numbers.

Byron, Dawn and Drezz all have a shared activity as well:

From Byron:
At my age, I walk my dog as often as I can. Plus, I mow my lawn every week, which for me, is like a gym membership. In the winter, I am a couch potato.

From Dawn:
I power walk the dog in the morning, and watch a game or TV show while on a stationary bike sometimes in the evening.

And from Drezz:
I own a Fitbit. It’s a great shaming device. LOL

Working a desk job, it can wreak havoc on your body – you gain weight quicker since your metabolism slows and you’re sedentary, which is terrible for circulation and other stuff. I try to make it a point to go for a 3km walk every morning (having a puppy forces you to walk them so that helps) and then after work and my daughter is asleep, I try to finish the day via running on the treadmill, biking in the woods or doing yard work outside until sunset.

So it seems all of us share at least some kind of walking except Robin. But, Robin found a different activity she has really started to enjoy…

Again from Robin:
I remembered how much I used to love swimming as a kid. So I looked into pools. 

Down the street is a community pool. They charge $5 for a single visit, or $25 for a 10 visit pass. That is just cheap enough that I can justify it to my brain, but just expensive enough that I feel I “really SHOULD go, since I paid for it and all.” I try to go three times a week during the lowest traffic times. I swim for 20-30 min or until I am tired. I try to remember to play and try new things. To keep the activity fresh and fun. I have been going since January, which is the longest I have maintained a routine on my own. I have also been able to pick it back up after colds and cons, both of which have been, in the past, killers of routines. 
 
Most importantly, I have noticed a major reduction in my shoulder, back, and neck pain. All of which were becoming so bad that I could not sleep without pain killers, sleeping pills, and icy-hot. On weeks where I don’t go swimming, I feel it within days. Which, admittedly, is also a great motivator. 

And even though I enjoy and have found success walking and bike riding, I accidentally stumbled on another activity that I was surprised I enjoyed as much as I did.

Last year, my gym was offering a class in cardio boxing. Don;t worry – there was no actual physical boxing going on between gym members. Instead, it was a class that put you though a boxing workout. It involved lots of shadow boxing, punching palm pads while the instructor moved them around and a lot of hitting the punching bags my gym has. The class was an incredible aerobic workout but didn’t last long. When it ended, I went online and Googled “punching bag workout routines” and found a video of an MMA fighter’s punching bag workout that I liked and modified it to fit me. I should also mention for that boxing class, I bought a pair of MMA-style gloves at Wal-mart for less than $20 and that’s what I use for my boxing workout.

Basically, here’s the routine:
I “fight” a punching bag for as many 2 minute rounds as I can go with a one minute rest between “rounds”.
After a thorough stretch and warm up, I have a playlist on my iPod that I like and I have my iPod’s timer set up for 2 minutes. The great thing about this is that the music ends at exactly 2 minutes so I have an easy way to keep track of when a round starts and when it ends.
Also, the idea in this workout is to constantly keep hitting the bag as often as you can, as fast as you can.

  1. The first round is all bob and weave… just basically getting my legs and feet moving. No punching the bag.
  2. Second round: Two left jabs and then a right. This is repeated as I move around the bag until two minutes are up.
  3. Third round: Two left jabs, two right jabs. Again, repeat until two minutes are up.
  4. Fourth round: Two left jabs, two right jabs, a left hook, a right hook. Repeat cycle for two minutes.
  5. Fifth round: Two left jabs, two right jabs, two left hooks, two right hooks. Repeat cycle for two minutes.
  6. Sixth round: I try to hit the bag as fast as I can in any kind of combination for two minutes.
  7. Seventh round: Two left jabs, two right jabs, two left hooks, two right hooks, one left upper cut, one right upper cut

I very rarely make it past seven rounds but when I have, I add two more upper cuts in round eight and then repeat the sixth round all over again.

To change up my routine every now and then, I will change the time and interval from two minute rounds with a minute break to one minute rounds with 30 second breaks.
When I have done the 1 minute / 30 second routine, I haven’t been able to do more than five rounds before I am exhausted.

So before we end this article, let’s review a few final but very important things…

Before you decide to start any kind of exercise routine, always check with your doctor first to make sure everything is okay and you’re able to do the exercises or activity you want to do.

Always, always, always do a thorough stretch before you start exercising. A proper and thorough stretch will keep you healthy and active and is absolutely worth the time.

Stay hydrated. That means drinking water or Gatorade or any other kind of sports drink. Sodas will dehydrate you and can cause pulled muscles or strains.

Find something that is fun for you to do. Maybe that is a team sport, swimming, boxing, walking, hiking… it is completely up to you.

If you don’t like working out solo, find a willing partner. A partner can keep you motivated and provide extra safety, if need be.

Don’t be impatient or want results too fast – that’s how injuries occur. One thing I try to tell myself all the time is “I didn’t put the weight on over night and I’m not going to lose it over night”.
Most of the time, I even listen to myself.

Also, try to be sensible as well. From a health and safety standpoint, most experts seem to agree that losing 1-2 pounds a week is the norm. It’s super easy to get caught up in shows like The Biggest Loser or read articles how an actor suddenly lost 60 pounds in five months and got super muscular for the latest super hero movie coming out. Remember, those people lead different lives than we do. They don’t have regular 9-5 jobs like the average person does – plus, they have the money and time to spend on professional nutritionists to make every meal for them and trainers that work exclusively with them to get them in “movie shape”. WE don’t. So don’t get discouraged or kick yourself too hard if you’re not getting the same impossible results these movie stars are. Sometimes, there’s a whole lot of stuff that has gone into their weight loss lives that we never, ever hear about. We just tend to make the very normal mistake of thinking “if HE/SHE can do it, so can I” without having the same time, money and resources these Hollywood people have.

Don’t be obsessed with the scale. If you feel the need to weight yourself, weight yourself once a week and try to weight yourself the same day and hour for the most consistent results.

I didn’t go into nutrition or eating a lot in this article but don’t starve yourself. That also leads to injury and frustration. One simple thing you can do when it comes to food is simply cut down on portions. I am very bad at overeating so this is one of the first things I do when I want to start losing weight. I am not always successful but I don’t beat myself up when a have a “bad night” either.

That’s about it. If you would like to share what things have worked for you or what activities you like to do, please feel free to add them in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading!

– Chris

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me_at_va_comiconChris Flick just figured out how to put his photo and bio information at the end of these Webcomic Alliance articles. When he’s not wracking his brain on how to do that, he’s busy being a full time web and graphic designer working in the Washington DC area. When he’s not doing that, he’s working on his Capes & Babes webcomic which he created back in 2007. When he’s not doing ANY of those things, he’s usually at a convention on the east coast of the United States.

Chris just recently published his 1,000th Capes & Babes strips. You can read them all by going to his website, Capes & Babes. You can also visit his woefully outdated portfolio web site at  CSF Graphics. And if you’re interested in seeing some of the wild Minion Mash-ups Chris has become known for, you should visit his Pinterest Minion Mash-Up Board. You can also find Chris on Facebook and Twitter by doing a search for “Capesnbabes”.

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Posted in Business, Conversations, Drawing, Featured News, Helpful Hints, Site News, Tutorials, Uncategorized.

5 Comments

  1. Great article on an often overlooked subject. As a bonus, some of the best comic ideas tend to come when the body is occupied but the mind is free, so getting exercise is really a win-win.

    I used to kill 2-liters like nobody’s business. I switched to diet sodas when I was 19 because my roommate at the time was drinking up all of my regular sodas and I thought I could sour the milk. (It didn’t work – he’d complain about them being terrible, but suck them down anyway!) Still, after two weeks I couldn’t detect the aftertaste anymore and full-sugar sodas became too cloying to drink.

    I stuck with diet for another 10 years or so, slowly weaning myself down to one can a day, and when I realized aspartame gives me ice pick headaches (which are just as fun as they sound) I dropped them completely.

    I still missed that bubbly sensation though, and I can only justify drinking so much beer. Thankfully I discovered LaCroix – it’s just sparkling water with natural flavors. The Lime flavor is everything I miss about Sprite and nothing I need to feel bad about.

    When it comes to tea and coffee, I’ve weaned myself off of sugar. I used to take cream and two heaping teaspoons of sugar in my coffee when I was a kid, but over the decades I’ve cut down to one, then to one half, then to just cream, and now I drink it black (and decaffeinated, but that’s another story.)

    Living in the south I’m surrounded by sweet tea – if I’m at home I make it without sugar, and in restaurants I order it as unsweetened with “just a splash of sweet”. If you’re still on the full-octane stuff, it might be a good idea to start cutting your Arnold Palmers or sweet teas with unsweetened, and decrease the sugar over time. Incremental changes have definitely worked for me.

  2. Nick,
    Thanks for the reply. Since you live in the south, have you tried sun tea? There’s nothing really “special” about it except that the tea is brewed by the heat of the sun. You get a glass container with a lid, fill it with water and tea bags and secure the tea bags with the lid then set it out in the sun all day until the tea bags are brewed. For some reason, sun tea just seems to taste so much better then regularly brewed tea. It takes longer of course, but I swear there is a difference!

    Now that I am back to working in Washington DC, I have actually started to drink more water. Back in late March, my wife got me a Rocky Mountain Tumbler after I had seen one of their infomercials and thought it would be great to take to conventions (it is!). So I have been filling the tumbler with ice cubes in the morning and filling it with water once I get into the office. The selling point with the Rocky Mountain Tumbler is that liquid is supposed to stay either steaming hot or ice cold for 12 hours. Here’s their web site:

    https://www.buyrockymountain.com

    I don’t know if the 12 hours is accurate (it’s actually more like 8 or 9 hours) but having that tumbler certainly has enabled me to drink more water as I love really ice cold water.

    Also, since I am now back to working in Washington DC, hopefully that will get me back to doing a lot more walking. When I was working in Washington DC two years ago, it was pretty easy to consistently log 10,000 steps (5 miles) on my Fitbit so here’s hoping I will start to have similar results. 🙂

    Another thing I do is whenever I got to a place that has self-serve sweet and unsweet options, I will fill my cup up with half of each so I don’t get the full cup of sweet tea.

    As you said, it’s all about incremental changes – but that hold true not only for what we drink but also how we exercise as well. Incremental changes end up having much more lasting effects on us then trying to drastically change our habits overnight. I think that’s because incremental changes can be so subtle that we are almost unaware of all the changes we’re doing until we suddenly look at ourselves three months later and THEN notice all of the results!

    Thanks for reading the article and I’m glad you got something of value out of it.

    -Chris

  3. Okay, you might have actually convinced me to try sun tea there. I’ve always been a little skeptical about it, but it does make sense that there would be a taste difference, so now I have to find out for myself. 🙂

    That does look like an awesome tumbler! I’ve never had much trouble drinking enough water, but I recently got something similar (a 20oz insulated stainless steel bottle from Aladdin). My theory is that using a smaller bottle makes me have to walk away from my desk more often to fill it, but it’s definitely nice to reach for it when I wake up in the morning and find that it’s still cold.

    Good luck on the 10K! There are definite step advantages to city life. My office recently moved from Midtown Atlanta to the suburbs, so there’s definitely less opportunity for walking. (On the plus side, I’m bringing my lunch instead of walking to nearby restaurants to spend money I shouldn’t be spending.) I try to get in a walk around the building after lunch and take a walk around the neighborhood with my wife in the evenings. If life doesn’t get in the way I can still get my 10K, but it’s definitely not an automatic process like it used to be.

  4. FYI – you can make your own healthy Italian sodas by buying liters of unflavored soda and adding any kind of pure fruit juice to it in the glass. It’s just as good as LaCroix or Clearly Canadian but costs a lot less, and you can make any flavor combination you want, like pomegranate-blueberry or vanilla-lemon.

  5. Also I think the reason that Sun Tea tastes different is that steeping with a lower heat over a longer period of time makes it less bitter than boiling it, just like cold-brewed coffee. So it’s got a lot of flavor but it’s mellower, I guess? And you don’t steam up your house in summer, which is also good.

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