What does sports photography take out of you? Do you feel winded setting up for a shoot? Do you get tired carrying your equipment from the car to the ball field? Tired from spending all day routing little kids where you want them to go? Wired by the time you get home and toast in the morning?
Funny enough, during a trade show this winter, I overheard a group of volume photographers catching up after another year. Instead of discussing lighting techniques, or the latest camera gear, or even sales tips, most of the discussion was comparing everyone’s new body parts – “Hey, I got a new hip!” or “Finally had to have my knees replaced.” My personal favorite was, “I’m a quarter of the way there to becoming the Million Dollar Man!” As comical as this was, I don’t think the best thing for this industry is for us to literally wear our bodies out in order to make an honest living. If that’s the case, maybe Sony should start a line of bionic terminators equipped with dual Sony AR II’s and built in Eye AF. If that happens, I would feel bad for the first “John Conner” to walk through the line.
Aside from being part of the H&H team for the last 16 years, my second love is fitness. My love for physical fitness is only rivaled by my love for good food. I have participated in numerous triathlons, several half-marathons, and a few mud races, while also running a personal coaching service on the side. Before you have to start saving for your next upgrades, I thought you would like to learn about a few simple exercises to help you not just extend the shutter count you plan on putting your knees through, but also help you crush your next picture day. You know, instead of waking up sore the next morning.
I promise, I’m not going to say you have to give up the congratulatory beer after a hard day’s work. But I will promise that working on improving your health and fitness, even slowly, is going to slow down the problems that show up. And you can rest assured I won’t ask you to start getting up two hours earlier than you want to, adding a 45 minute workout and a 30 minute morning routine to your day. Unless you really want to.
FITNESS ISN’T AS HARD AS IT SOUNDS
I’m not saying we need to all be Crossfit Games champions here. Stop me if you’ve heard this one, “What’s the first rule of crossfit? You must talk about crossfit.” Shoutout to my fightclub friends. What I am saying is that improving your fitness is going to help you get through the day a little easier.
In my life, I have noticed three things that seem to not only make daily activity easier, but also seem to make stress a little easier to fight. These three things involve improving fitness, mobility, and mindfulness.
The fitness improvements I am talking about are not meant to take a lot out of you. That would defeat the purpose. If you are exhausted from your morning workout, it makes the day even harder, and that isn’t going to do you any good. What I’m talking about mostly revolves around simply moving more. That’s right! Get your butt out of that office chair! Yeah, I said it.
We aren’t looking to run a marathon, unless you consider the marathon of getting all of your gear from your car to the school gym, setup, photograph a few hundred kids, tear it all down, then back to your car again. Improving your cardiovascular conditioning will make all of this start to feel easier. No more huffing and puffing before you even get to start photographing.
When most of us think of improving our cardiovascular fitness, we immediately think of long running sessions on the treadmill or the local school track. However, walking turns out to be one of the best ways to start making improvements—especially for those getting started. If you have the time, a relaxing 15 – 20 minute walk after each of your daily meals is a great start.
A lot of us just don’t have the time to get into the gym. Many of you aren’t crazy like me, with my home built gym in my basement. That doesn’t mean you can’t work on gaining some core strength. Not only does starting to gain some strength help you feel better about yourself, it is also going to make daily activities easier. Especially if your daily activities involve lifting, moving heavy gear bags, and setting up equipment.
Bodyweight exercises are a great start. This is especially true if you don’t want to spend the time getting to the gym, changing, working out, then getting back home. A simple routine to get started with consists of squats, pushups, lunges, and planks. I’ll describe each below:
Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Sit back butt-first. Bending at the knees, lower yourself until your hips are just below your knees. Stand back up. That counts as one.
Lay on the floor on your front. Place the palms of your hands and your toes on the floor, keep your legs and back straight, extend your arms to “push up.” Lower back down to the floor, and repeat. If that is too intense, pushups can be made easier by placing your knees on the floor.
Stand with feet shoulder width apart, keeping upper body straight and shoulders back. Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until your knee is at a 90 degree angle. Make sure your knee doesn’t extend beyond your ankle. Reverse the movement to stand back up, then repeat with the other leg.
Assume the same position as the top of a pushup. Keeping your body in a straight line. Hold for 30 seconds up to 1 minute. Planks can be made easier by putting your elbows on the floor.
Go through the series of exercises 3 – 4 rounds, for 10 – 12 repetitions each. Rest when you need to, but try to keep it to a minimum.
“Help! I can’t get going without a gallon of coffee!” versus “Help! I can’t relax after a hard day!” While these sound like problems that don’t go together, I find that they often do. After staying up too late working on finishing tasks for the day (or mindlessly scrolling Instagram), most of us get to bed way later than we should. After dragging ourselves out of bed and pumping ourselves full of a bit too much coffee, we finally get enough motivation to get going. Then we have another stressful day of working. By this point, our nervous system is fried, and we are buzzing with energy all of a sudden. The whole day ends up backwards – tired and ragged in the morning, and full of too much energy to relax in the evening.
While it may sound sort of “woo woo”, this is where some easy meditation and breathing exercises really can help get yourself sorted. I have found that KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) is better than trying to make this super complicated and add too many things at once. Two things I would add are a daily breathing exercise and what I’m going to call “quiet time.”
A simple to learn breathing exercise is called “box breathing.” This has been used by everyone from athletes to elite Navy SEAL soldiers. The cycle goes breathe in slowly for 5 seconds, hold breath for 5 seconds, breathe out for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds. Hence the “box.” Practicing this breathing pattern has been shown to reduce stress in as little as six breath cycles. I like to do it every night before bed, but anytime you are starting to feel stress come in it helps calm me.
Quiet time is really what it sounds like. Try to find a time and place where you can be quiet, and sit comfortably. I prefer to sit in a dark place. This is not code for napping. Sit for 5 – 10 minutes, and simply try to clear your mind. It’s simpler to do than it sounds, but once you master clearing your mind, you will feel more relaxed than you probably ever have before.
There it is. A few simple (not easy) tips to help you start improving your fitness, and make every day a little bit easier.
Lastly, please consult with your doctor before starting any exercise plan. I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. So, take everything here as friendly suggestions or entertainment, not medical advice.