written by Josias Jensen
Acting is a strange profession. It is a profession in which you need to take great care of your body, and yet the conditions under which you work make that task very difficult.
As an actor your body is your instrument.
How you look and what you are capable of doing with this instrument may determine whether you get gigs or not. I believe prioritizing your physical well-being is part of the job.
The profession of acting involves long hours, ever-changing schedules, potentially poor food on set (especially when you start out), financial struggles, emotional stress and many other challenges. It is a profession that is emotionally and physically demanding.
This is by no means an exhaustive guide to stewarding your health, but merely a few good tips to get you on the way.
- Learn about the basics of exercise
The ever-changing schedules and potential traveling involved with the profession of acting can make it difficult to plan workouts and exercise. You may not always be able to go to the same gym, and you may not have the same time slot available for your training etc.
If all you know about exercise is how to use a certain exercise machine, then what do you do when you can’t access it?
By learning about basic exercises and what muscles they target, you can adapt your exercise to whatever is available to you. You can do remarkably much just using your own body weight and a few weights.
Over the years, I’ve lived in many different places and under many different circumstances. I have found that there is such freedom in not being dependent on your circumstances to be able to exercise.
It may seem like a daunting task to learn about the anatomy of different exercises. However, there are great books that have very simple illustrations that give a good understanding of different movements and what muscles they target. I highly recommend the book; Strength Training Anatomy by Frederic Delavier as an example. It has clear illustrations and covers strength training exercises from the most basic to the more complex.
2. Diversify your exercise
As an actor, you get asked to perform many different kinds of physical tasks. You need to be able to do these tasks regardless of their difficulty or how strenuous they are. It is beneficial to have good, all round fitness.
One way to do this is to try different forms of exercise, as well as different durations of time and intensity. It is ideal to do both cardio, endurance and some form of strength training.
This can also be an opportunity for you to expand your skill set. Try boxing, fencing, dancing, rock climbing, rowing, martial arts etc.
This is yet another way to adapt to your circumstances and use it to your advantage.
Try your hand at a sport or form of exercise that is prominent in the area you live.
Maybe you live in area that has beautiful scenery? Go for a run! Maybe you live close to the water? Look into rowing, kayaking or surfing! Maybe there is a rock climbing gym nearby… Mix it up for different seasons.
3. Make your snacks healthier
When you live on the run you may find it hard to eat consistently. When this happens we often end up turning to snacks to cure our hunger.
Light and easy snacks do not have to be unhealthy at all. Here are a few ideas for healthy and filling snacks that can be prepared ahead of time and available to you throughout the week or that you can make in a matter of minutes;
- Carrots and Hummus (or you can substitute carrots with your favorite vegetable).
- Trail mix made from peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and raisins.
- Wholegrain bread with peanut butter or other nut spread (avoiding heavily processed nut spread)
- Enjoy your favorite piece of fruit
- A bowl of wholegrain cereal and sunflower seeds with milk or a milk substitute like almond, oat or rice milk. You can add a little honey and cinnamon for sweetness.
4. Eat simple
Being on a healthy diet can be a challenge when you are on a budget. One of the best ways to do this is to buy simple, basic ingredients and learning to cook simple dishes.
There are actually plenty of healthy foods that are fairly cheap and that can serve as the foundation of your diet.
You are better served buying simple ingredients instead of heavily processed foods. If you replace most of the meat in your diet with plant based sources of protein like lentils, split peas, nuts, seeds and beans you can actually save money if you just choose the right products.
Some fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are expensive, but if you shop around there are plenty that are decently priced.
Here are a few ideas for simple healthy meals;
Mexican rice with red lentils and black beans, Curry Pumpkin soup with yellow split peas, Ratatouille with green split peas and whole grain pasta, Risotto with spinach and green split peas, Whole grain couscous with vegetables, beans and lentils.
5. Have short naps!
This may be different for you, but I know that when I get busy one of the first things that I end up sacrificing is my sleep. Getting enough sleep is key if you want to stay healthy, yet this can be very difficult to achieve with long days of shooting and short turnovers between your work on set.
However you may find that it is not too hard to find a 30 min break some time during the day. Having 10-25 min naps can boost your alertness well being and performance for several hours after the nap. Having naps longer than 30 min. may cause feeling more sleepy and drowsy.
Naps are not a substitute for a good night’s sleep, but are a great way to stay on top and energized.
I hope these tips are helpful and will inspire you to pursue good health. When you are working in the film industry, maintaining a healthy fitness level is not an easy pursuit, but it is an important one!