The trials and tribulations of an illustrator’s journey and relationship with fitness.
Let me start by saying, I’ve always hated running. When I was a kid in school I thought it was so hard and felt awful. Stamina wasn’t really my thing. I wasn’t into exercising in general aside from a brief stint as part of the local ladies Gaelic Football team in my prepubescent years (my mom was the coach) and various short-lived whims throughout the years since. It wasn’t until after college that I began to think about exercise in any real way.
It all started when I injured my wrist during a Pilates class I had been taking at my college gym. When I saw the physio, she told me it was an underlying problem connected to my drawing hunched over a desk. This had me into thinking about my longevity in terms of illustration and life in general. I thought, “If I don’t take care of myself now, 10 years down the line I might have to give up drawing”, and I didn’t want that!
I started to think about the way that I worked. Key points for me were doing the stretches that the physio recommended and researching ergonomics and how to set up my workspace. I started to use a drawing board, a backrest, an ergonomic mouse, and a wristband when using my computer along with apps like ‘Time Out’ to set up scheduled breaks. I also bought a foam roller to use during these breaks to work out knots and keep my back loose. All this worked great. I wasn’t ‘exercising’ but if I used all those things I could work smarter, for longer while knowing that I was taking care of myself at the same time. But like I said, it wasn’t till after college that my exercise ‘revelation’ came.
After finishing my degree I moved back home. I began working on my illustration career, setting up my business, making personal projects and promo. Some weeks I wouldn’t even leave the house if there was enough food in the fridge.
As many months passed of doing this, I started to get pains in my legs and lower back, even when I woke up in the morning. I realised that my constant sitting at work was affecting my body and my worries about longevity arose again. I decided I had to start exercising for real!
Now, it may seem obvious that sitting all day is bad for you. And I already know this myself; nevertheless I was shocked for this to happen such a short time after leaving college. After all, you sit down a lot there too. However, it got me thinking. Sure, when you’re a kid and you’re in school you’re sitting a lot, but there’s always something going on. You’re leaving the house, walking to and from school, playing outside for lunch, moving from class to class. In secondary school it’s the same, and even college too. There’s this system that you’re a part of that keeps you moving. And all of a sudden, you leave that system, maybe become self-employed and don’t leave the house for three days.
The struggle was real. Ergonomics couldn’t save me from sitting all day, I had to get out and do something active. So, strapped for cash (did I mention I was self-employed) I started going for walks. I’d go out walking for half an hour in the mornings and get to work after. It had the dual-purpose of exercise and getting me out of the house and I really started to enjoy it. As I got more comfortable walking faster, I started jogging which led to running which led to completing my first 5k. Slowly, I was getting less aches and pains while working. It wasn’t perfect but it was a good start.
A little while later, my brother joined a local gym and I followed. It had a pool, which was great because I love the water, and then it just clicked in my mind that I could add swimming to my routine. Living in Ireland, almost everywhere is by the sea so I went to the beach a lot. But I had always associated swimming with summer fun rather than exercise. Despite loving water, I was a late learner to swimming (13) and have always been slightly uncomfortable with pools. I just had to get over my long held fear of the deep-end and having my head under water and I’d be golden. However, I was determined. The Backstroke was my favourite because I didn’t have to put my head under water. As I became more comfortable I came to love the Breaststroke and the Front Crawl, though I’m still learning the breathing on that last one. Until this day I cannot do the Butterfly, just can’t, it’s beyond me.
Despite loving water, I was a late learner to swimming (13) and have always been slightly uncomfortable with pools. I just had to get over my long held fear of the deep-end and having my head under water and I’d be golden. However, I was determined. The Backstroke was my favourite because I didn’t have to put my head under water. As I became more comfortable I came to love the Breaststroke and the Front Crawl, though I’m still learning the breathing on that last one. Until this day I cannot do the Butterfly, just can’t, it’s beyond me.
With ergonomics, running and swimming, I’m able to keep working. My bones don’t ache and I feel more energetic. I only need to go to the physio when I want to make sure everything’s in check. I can’t say I stick to the routine 100% but I am getting better. The more I do the better I feel so that’s a good reason to keep at it. For me, I think that variety is important so I don’t get bored of any one exercise. I’d like to try Free Weights and get back into Pilates again in the future if my wrist can take it.
My ultimate goal is to just be all-around healthy and keep my body strong so I can keep drawing forever and ever and ever!
Written by Chrissy Curtin
Check out Chrissy’s illustration work here.