Photography Fitness 101: First, You Have To Tie Your Shoes

I almost didn’t write this post. I mean, I’m no fitness guru… nor am I one to shake my finger at you if you’re starting to waddle and shun trekking more than the length of your house on your own two feet. Heck in the past couple of years I sprouted some new curves I hadn’t seen in YEARS… if ever!

Then I thought “Screw it. This story is knocking on my head to get out”… so here you go, small tale… be free!

Once I Was Strong and Invincible. And Then…

For the first half of my life, I was strong. Riding and training horses, figure skating, dance, running, teaching aerobics, working out… it was just part of my life. I didn’t have to think twice about being fit… LIFE made me fit.

Karen-Warlock

Then my back went, which ended my riding career.
Spent a year in physical therapy at one of the country’s top spine centers for athletes. I refused to think surgery and thank goodness my doctor was on the same page. Physical therapy worked wonders and got me back on my feet, even better than before. Heck, I even became a badass downhill skier!

The Deal was: While my condition would actually get better with age; I’d have to stay super strong my whole life or there’d be hell to pay.

I moved more into my life as an actor, performer, voice artist. Life moved more slowly – at least physically. I stuck with my PT exercises for years, but at some point, feeling good became ‘normal’, not ‘urgent’.  I had to actually pay attention to working out. On purpose. For no other reason than to be fit. And why was that again? I’d always been specific goal-driven… what was this general “rest of your life” crap?

Luckily, my good exercise habits held me up (literally) in good stead and I got away with alot. Or less… less exercise, infrequent focus on fitness. You know.

But time goes on as it does… and the early years became a wispy memory instead of a healthy bank deposit. That’s when it got interesting. That is, if by “interesting” you mean more painful, harder and creakier… then yeah. It got that.

Because the OTHER side of riding, skating, dancing, running and all that… are the injuries one sustains. Not to mention all the back issues. They come back to haunt you in the night, the day and the moments in between.

Get Moving, Sister!

When that happened to me… I discovered that if I wanted to be mobile and enjoy the rest of my life… had to get moving. LITERALLY! Working out became less boring (sorta) and more like a gateway toward living an awesome life.

TheLeapOfWonder

I found P90x. Got in the best shape of my post-athletic life. Leaped tall buildings with a solid running start and a couple of bounds (lets be honest here). It was awesome! My heavy DSLR backpack was no biggie to carry, I leapt from rock to rock, never thinking twice about my own abilities.

Kept it up for 2-3 years. Could call out commands along with Tony Horton.
I even got Trey Ratcliff doing it.

ComparingRigs

Then I decided to take my career to the next level.

I became a Master in The Arcanum…
took some SUPER challenging and comprehensive business courses…
hired the dream team to help me build this website and in the process, utterly re-define myself.
All at the same time.

Fitness? I don’t need no stinking fitness!! (apparently I thought that, since I pretty much quit exercising.) I sat on my butt staring at a computer screen for about a year and a half year straight, eating breathing, dreaming the vision of how I wanted to reshape my life… but what about the body I intended to bring with me?

Use It Or Lose It

Y’know the term “Use it or lose it?”. I can now honestly vouch for that. Yep. It does happen just that way. Not only did I lose any trace of supreme fitness I had going on before… I gained some girth and welcomed pains, old and new…

“Well, hello feet… neck… back… knees… I remember you!”
“ELBOW! I haven’t heard from you before. And SHOULDER! My goodness what a crankypants you’ve become.”

I thought with the longevity I have in my family and thought “Dayum. It’s gonna be a loooooooooooooooooooong frickin’ life if I don’t get my butt in gear and get strong again!”

Started P90x again.
This time, I hurt myself. Couldn’t work it through. That was odd.
Tried P90x3.
Hurt myself again. And felt even stiffer and tighter. Strange.
Clearly my body was telling me something. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to hear it. (Tough beans, scooter!)

I took time off from working out to let NEW injuries settle down. Nothing I tried worked. My muscles just weren’t cooperating. I was baffled. So I did the obvious thing…
Took on too many projects. Needed a team that I didn’t have.
Burned myself out. Brilliant.
Old. Burned out. Hobbling. Fat. JUST what I had in mind. Bleh.

Age Backwards? Yes Please!

Then one day, from the comforting depths of my big blue recliner where I sat in a funk nursing my inner and outer wounds, a PBS special called “Aging Backwards” came on. Miranda Esmonde-White, whom I assumed was maybe a radiantly fit 40… turned out to be 65 years old!

I ask you does THIS look like 65??
Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 9.02.52 PM

You see my point.

[SIDE BAR: At 75, Ernestine Shepard is another one of my fitness heroes!]

I sat up straight. Watched the whole special. My heart raced.

THESE were the ‘best of the best’ concepts, movements and thought processes from my athletic, dancer years. But they were made better… combined with tai chi, physiotherapy and new science. I recognized it – and remembered that when I did THESE things to create flexibility AND strength together at the same time… I felt the best I ever felt in my life, before or since. I was the strongest, most invincible me. Suddenly, I got that fresh “new lease on life” feeling!

I jumped on the website: Essentrics, read everything I could… I read their mission:

Essentrics is on a mission to re-establish the true meaning of fitness and to help people experience what it feels like to be healthy and happy in their bodies. We believe that fitness should not be measured with an index, in miles, in muscle mass or in speed, rather, it should be measured in one’s ability to move freely, live actively and without pain.” 

I learned that NHL players, professional athletes and Olympic medalists sing their praises… then found a $15/month subscription plan that allows for streaming workouts from anywhere in the world you have internet. SOLD!

At the time I started, I was in a ton of pain. I moved reeeeeally carefully. After each workout it got better. Then the pain went away entirely. I didn’t even do it every day at first… just a couple times a week. Hip pain so severe I could hardly walk began to fade… then disappear. When things started to hurt in Paris, a session or two and voila! Buh-bye pain.

My body started to crave it. It was fun! It felt good. I felt good. I started to be both strong AND flexible in ways I hadn’t in years. Strong in my core (Hello core! I’ve missed you!). Flexi all over.

Now I’m at the point where I’m not doing it to avoid pain… I’m doing it to feel amazing again. I do it most every day. I still have a good way to go before I’m where I want to be… but that’s OK, because I’m finally getting the results I was looking for enjoying the ride. I could actually do this for a long, long time.

I notice it when I’m out photographing, big time. We need that unique blend of strength, flexibility and balance to do OUR sport.

So it occurs to me…

Let’s Be Fit-Ographers!

As photographers, we yak about our cameras, our lenses, our memory cards and all the rest. We pontificate endlessly about which brand, which tripod, which this-and-that is best. We get “gear envy”. We take up “I’m better”… “No, I’M better!” camps and wave the flag of our favorite camera manufacturer.

But I’ve been to the dark side and I’m here to tell you that none of that will help you if you can’t tie your own damn shoes!

Or…
hike a few miles…
carry your own gear without a sherpa (lighter gear helps, but still)…
sit in a weird position waiting for a bird, a sunset, the perfect wave – then jump to our feet and skip down the path…

I’m not saying you should do Essentrics, P90x, or any particular program. Maybe you love running, Yoga or Pilates or some cool combination of a few different things. ALL I’m saying is that in order for creativity to flow without distraction, in order for your brain to grab awesome new ideas and run with them, to even FEEL like doing the things you love most… you gotta bring your body along.

If you don’t… who’s gonna carry your gear? 😉

What’s your favorite fitness tip or trick? What motivates you to get moving? Share it in the comments below… I’m so curious! 

5 thoughts on “Photography Fitness 101: First, You Have To Tie Your Shoes

  1. Thanks for posting this, you posted it and I found it at the perfect time. Chronic pain is I struggle with a lot, especially as the weather gets colder. Last night, I couldn’t even take the dog for a walk or bike ride/run, heck I couldn’t walk to the end of the driveway! It’s makes hiking to get to spots I want to photograph so challenging, and then knowing the day or two after is going to be shot too is even more discouraging. I’ve promised myself that I will start carving time out for yoga the day the kids go back to school (in 2 days, so I’m not really putting it off) and I just made room for and set up the Total Gym, so no more excuses! It’s time to take back my body and life : )

  2. Hey Peter!

    See, I KNEW there were other photographers who faced the same thing. And nobody seems to be having this conversation! I’ve never heard of SomaMove… but you can be I’m gonna look it up. THANK YOU for sharing, you human mountain goat you!

  3. I used to exercise regularly, but a few years ago my trainer quit the job and about the same time my father passed away… both events worked together to make me drop the training routine. One day two idle years later I kneel down to take a photo… my body must have thought I was doing a long exposure for I had a hard and painful time to get back up. So I decided to do something about it and found a new method SomaMove. It’s fun, very efficient and it has transformed me into a mountain goat, a Fit-ographer… or rather a human mono-, bi- or tri-pod. It’s much more fun shooting without a grumpy and whiny body. Now I just need to fix my eyesight 🙂

  4. So I joke about donuts and then read this….
    After taking time off of ultra-running (to care for my sick son), I also took time off caring about me and my body and health. And those great shots I want? They are in frigid waters, abd up high on summits and my ego won’t let me have someone else carry my gear. But it seems neither will my lungs. With any passion, I feel, you have to bring your whole being to it. When I was an athlete having the body to do what I needed was a given but I needed the mental grit and heart to carry me when my body could no longer. Now in photography, I’m visiting those same peaks and valleys and I have the mind and heart and my… my… Well, my body wants to do things it can’t anymore. It’s so hard to keep everything in balance. But to be good at all you do, you have to be all of you. (That sounds a bit like Dr. Suess, but I’m leaving it).

    1. I hear THAT… about it being hard to keep everything in balance, Ashly! Balance is such a moving target… . I’m not sure I ever really accomplish it myself, but I do enjoy the ride. And I’ll NEVER stop moving!

      And can I just say… I LOVE: “To be good at all you do, you have to be all of you.”
      Seussian and awesome! And so, so true.

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