I figured I’d write something that explains the sudden volume of tweets and instagram pics from me having to do with health and CrossFit and diet. I’m sure it came out of nowhere and seems out of place, but it’s been a long time in coming and relates back to the way I make comics.
I made a very abrupt transition when I graduated college, where I was quite impoverished, living off one meal a day for the most part and working as a bike messenger, to entering the world of cubicles and computers and sitting in a chair for 12 hours a day suddenly making enough money to eat in restaurants for every meal. In the span of about 2 years I went from a whippet-thin 140lbs to more like 180lb, and so started the struggle to stay fit while making my living parked in a Herman Miller Aeron.
For the past two years I’m messed around with diets and doing light workouts. “Light” compared to what I do now, but for what they were it was tough stuff. I would “sprint” on an elliptical machine for 5k at a time, high speed, high resistance. Weight dropped off me. I caught up on all my TV shows. For what I wanted at the time, I thought it was perfect. But was I actually fit? Does running longer make you fitter? Not really. I didn’t actually feel healthier despite losing the weight. And I could never maintain the schedule, week after week after month. Because, really, gym machines are fucking BORING, and nothing about the movements feels natural.
When I turned 41 I decided I crossed some sort of Rubicon of being disgusted with the way I was living, and the first step was to start CrossFit. I know about CF, my brother-in-law does it, as do a few other friends. I watched a million videos on YouTube and checked out the websites of all the local gyms. I liked that it was interesting, varied, different movements not only every day, but also every five minutes sometimes. No way this could be boring. I signed up for the 4-class mandatory basics and realized pretty quickly I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
This is a super common thing for people to say, but: CrossFit OBLITERATES you, both your preconceptions and your sense of your own fitness level. On day one I almost blacked out (extreme tunnel vision bordering on total blackness), nearly puked from the exertion headaches, and my 20-min walk home took over an hour. Once I got home I passed out and slept for 3 hours in the middle of the day. It felt like abuse, like torture. BUT, it sure wasn’t boring, and now I knew what a real workout was. I sorta liked it. After 2 more weeks I fucking LOVED it.
I’m four months into CrossFit, going 3 times a week now, hitting different gyms when I travel, developing workouts I can do in hotel rooms, and completing things like Jackie and the Nutts Hero WOD (google that) and often posting times in the top third of the classes. Now, I’ve moved into the diet stage. I won’t do the paleo diet, since I distrust absolutes in diets and its impractical with how our family eats together. But I am cutting out 95% of dairy (can’t kick milk in my coffee), and for now, cutting out almost all my grains and ALL processed foods. The change in just two weeks is remarkable. Every aspect of this has been remarkable.
Like I said, I sit in a chair for a living. I have two little kids and a truly punishing work schedule. All that adds up to bad health and overeating (my normal way of coping with stress is to snack.) So, I’m at a high risk for being a sedentary lard ass. People who know me personally may think I’ve overstating it… in truth I’m probably only 10-15lbs overweight in terms of midsection fat (the infamous “dad gut”). But there’s more to it.
With this writing schedule, I had fallen into a sort of college-ish type of living where I would stay up late and work, often into the wee hours. It seemed good for productivity to work when the house is quiet, but the wrinkle in that is I still had to wake up at 7am with the kids no matter what. So working late was leaving me chronically underslept, the single most disastrous thing you can do to your health. I was cranky with my kids, never saw my wife, and I couldn’t help but wonder if all this was making me LESS productive?
So, partly out of necessity ( I like at least 8 hours sleep the night before a CrossFit workout) and partly for the sake of everyone in the house, I go to bed at 9pm, 10 at the latest. I wake up at 5am for some uninterrupted work. That, combined with better eating and working out, was as dramatic a change as flipping on a light in a dark room. EVERYTHING is better, I can write more efficiently as well as faster, and for the first time since my athletic teenage years, my body felt and worked the way a body should.
Comic book creators have all sorts of health problems, mostly dealing with the fact we sit in a single spot all day and have these rough schedules. Like I said, I’m in my forties, and realizing that when my two kids become active teenagers, I’ll be in my fifties. What sort of 50-yo dad do I want to be, the one that looks like a broken down 65yo? I also want to nip my work-related health issues in their infancy before they become things that’ll get in my way later and break my freelancer health insurance. Recently at CrossFit I lifted one and a half tons over my head and moved my own body weight off the ground at least a hundred and fifty times and I felt like I was breathing fire. In a year, what will I be doing?
I’ll be the first two admit all of this is taking over my life a bit. But the other reason why I post this stuff is as a sort of insurance against flaking out. Meaning, the more people are aware of what I’m doing the less likely I am to stop, and endure the shaming that should rightly follow. So, I appreciate you indulging me.
(Thanks to CrossFit718, to Israel and Tammyli - esp Tammy who was my basics coach, a sweet and supportive person, and the main reason I stuck with it. It’s hard to articulate without getting emotional, but they changed my life, literally, and made me a better person, and that will make life better for my family in turn.
Also my Chicago coach and friend Auryon, who gives me all sorts of encouragement, as well as a place to work out when I visit)