It’s not just for the occasional audition where you have to reveal a bit of skin that fitness is important for actors. Being fit and healthy will help all aspects of your acting. When you’re physically fit, you are mentally fit as well (countless random scientific studies). Let’s start here:
Why get fit?
Acting is exhausting. It requires energy and vitality, and they are products of a healthy lifestyle. If you’re active and using your body often, you will simply feel more energised. I once watched an actor ripped to shreds by a director for yawning in rehearsal. You may not be silly enough to yawn in a rehearsal room, but directors know when you’re tired and unenergised, and they don’t like it.
There are actors I know who manage to remain vital and energised whilst still going out constantly, sleeping in, and not exercising, and if that’s you, great. However, for most actors, exercise and a healthy lifestyle is the only avenue to be more engaged and active.
The other aspect is that fitness leads to you feeling more confident and comfortable in your skin. It’s a superficial industry and that can often lead actors to obsess about how they look. Try to ignore that side of it and do it for yourself.
I have always found that when I am physically in a good place it helps me stand tall and feel confident in myself. You should always strive to be comfortable the way you are, but if you’re like me, and regular exercise and good eating make you feel better in yourself, than follow that and make sure you stay committed.
Acting is also very physical and almost every play I have been in required some form of physical work, so remaining strong, fit and flexible will help your acting work as well.
What to do?
This article is about getting fit, so as to feel vital and confident. It’s not about becoming someone you’re not, or finding that perfect body. The best thing to do to achieve that is to just do something. Anything. Find something that suits you. Even if it’s just walking, it’s better to do a little bit of exercise such as a good walk everyday, than to go for one massive run once a month. Find what you love and follow that.
You should look honestly at your goals, and work out an actionable plan to achieve those goals. If you’re looking for strength, it’s found through resistance training, not running. If you’re looking for more fitness and endurance it isn’t found on the benchpress. Be clear what your goals are and plan from there.
Getting Fit Through Your Work
I was watching a production called Raoul at a festival some years ago. It was a one man show created by James Thiérrée, Charlie Chaplin’s grandson, and one of the finest physical actors I have ever seen. His ability to contort his body and move freely across the stage and into the rafters was profound. I waited after the performance at the stage door, so in awe of his work. I had to ask him how he had done it?! He was a charming, gracious man and his insight was this: always make your physical work about PLAY. He doesn’t get caught up in a routine of stretching or yoga, instead, he says “I want to create this or that image with my body” and then works out how to do it with a childlike spirit. He never starts by saying here’s what I can do let’s work with that.
We are actors. If we can ignite our imagination when we are working physically we will learn more and enjoy it more. If you love to dance, dance. If you love football, get out there and kick a ball. Find the fun in your physical work and it will be highly motivating.