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Fitness in Post: Using Community to Make Post Healthy

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CreativeCOW presents Fitness in Post: Using Community to Make Post Healthy -- Fitness in Post Editorial All rights reserved.

"Fitness in post": it sounds like an oxymoron at first. Spending twelve hours a day hunched over a desk in a dark room, the only "fitness" some of us get is the long trek to the coffee machine. Actually, Fitness in Post is a movement to help people in post-production get healthier and happier by offering guidance tailored specifically for the challenges faced within our industry -- a movement that has already changed the lives of editors, producers and visual effects artists who have taken part.

Originally presented in "" articles and podcasts, we are pleased to take this opportunity to introduce the "Fitness in Post forum here at Creative COW", and the Fitness in Post series in the Creative COW Library here.

Do note that we're still adding articles to the series, so check back regularly for more, as well as keeping an eye on the COW's social media feeds for updates. For now, a perfect place to start is the article "Transform Your Edit Suite Into A Gym" by Fitness in Post founder Zack Arnold.


All posts by Zack Arnold
Fitness in Post founder and editor Zack Arnold
Zack would be the first to tell you he isn't a certified nutritionist or fitness expert, but rather another editor who spends twelve hours a day in a dark room. Working as an editor for over fifteen years, Zack has cut shows like Empire, Burn Notice, and Glee, while simultaneously finishing GO FAR, a documentary he directed and produced, running multiple Tough Mudder and Spartan Races, and being a husband and father to two young children.

But he wasn't always healthy. Ten years ago, Zack hit a serious suicidal depression and realized the long work hours and the lack of self-care weren't sustainable. If he wanted to survive, he knew he needed to do something different. Over time, the adjustments he has made to his diet, exercise regimen and overall emotional well-being have allowed him to "crack the code" to feel physically and mentally healthy again, while balancing family life and continuing the grueling hours required of a busy editor.

Sharing what he's learned and cultivating a community with a life of its own has allowed him to combine his passions for editing and athletics, and help people in a way he never imagined. Some facts up front for the insta-skeptics: you'll find no fad diets within Fitness in Post. The program isn't about weight loss. It's about being physically and mentally healthy for the long-term, and that takes a lot of effort. The best way to focus that effort: set specific goals, and share your progress with other participants. A combination of community and accountability.

To provide some guidance for this, Zack regularly puts together group challenges. Some of them are simple programs built around specific activities. A recent example was to do 30 pushups a day for 30 days. The pushups could be done in any interval -- all at once, or in groups throughout the day -- with folks reporting their results and encouraging each other via the daily checkin function in the free iOS and Android app ( also includes settings for daily checkins in the categories of mental wellness and nutrition.)

These are just the broad strokes of some of FiP's approaches to Challenges. Participation at this level is strictly optional, of course. If a weeks-long program is more than you can undertake right now, take advantage of the inspiration you find among the progress your peers are making, and make even small improvements to the balance between your work and your health. It might be as simple as more time outside, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or less time staring at your phone before bedtime.

Any steps in the right direction are good ones, but there's a LOT to be said about the accountability factor. That's especially true when all the people in a group have the same kinds of jobs you do, which is exactly the point of FiP.

What's Up with Standing Up?
Zack started working at a standing desk about seven years ago, at a time when "it seemed like it was just me and Walter Murch, the only two people on the planet that had ever decided to stand at their desk." Of course there were many others, but now Zack notes that three quarters of the staff at his current show are standing.

What's the deal with that? Well, turns out that sitting is actually kind of killing you according to many studies. A recent study of 123,000 Americans over a 13 year period by a epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society showed that men "who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher."

Now that people are realizing that "sitting is the new smoking," the demand for a stand-up configuration has made the desks more widely available -- although plenty of editors are creatively using boxes and tables to get the console they need. Moreover, Zack states that "just standing" all day is not the ultimate answer either and encourages ways to get multiple activity breaks throughout the day. Zack now has a treadmill in front of his desk to maximize activity and minimize being sedentary. [Don't miss Zack's tips to "Transform Your Edit Suite Into A Gym."]

Creative COW: How does Fitness in Post actually work? Zack Arnold: It starts with five easy steps. They're not simple, but they are easy.

Step One is deciding on your goal, because you can't move forward until you have your destination. You have to decide "What is it in my life that needs to be better?" and set a goal. Step Two is tracking everything. What I mean by that is quantifying your movement and exercise. Once you measure something, you can improve upon it.

The challenge group members say that as soon as they get a FitBit wearable or mobile phone step-tracker, they become aware of their activity and that changes their mindset of wanting to move more. You can also track food intake with a mobile app like the free iOS and Android app MyFitnessPal.

The FiP community is driven by hard data captured in real time by wearable fitness trackers from companies such as FitBit, whose stats view is shown here, as well as fitness tracking technology built into mobile phones.

Once you have that information and create a baseline, you can start finding ways to create a new baseline. I don't think people need to quantify everything in their life forever, but I advocate doing it for 30-90 days until you start to learn ways to get more movement and get more habitually active and find ways to improve your diet.

Step Three is making small changes in your life. That's doing things that anybody can do without an exercise program, and without going to a gym.

For example, rather than taking the elevator, you take the stairs. Rather than parking close to the front door, park as far away as you can and get some activity. Making a concerted effort to have a nutritious smoothie a day so you know despite the fact that you're not eating the best foods, you know one meal a day has a lot of densely packed nutrition. It's just about making small changes to your daily routine that are all free, that are all going to increase your activity and decrease your consumption of bad things.

Step Four is getting outside. That's a really hard one for people in our industry because we're afraid of that big glowing ball in the sky called the sun.

The idea is that you need to make an effort to get outside for at least once a week for thirty minutes. I highly advocate more, but I feel like asking someone to do thirty minutes a day for a week is not happening so much. It's just about getting outside, pushing yourself and getting your juices flowing even if you have a really long work week.

Once you feel like you've built a new baseline and feel ready to move forward, you've ready for

Step Five: take on a full exercise program, and start to refine and reshape your diet. Becoming part of the next Fitness in Post Challenge Group will give you some guidance for the first 90 days of your commitment to change, providing support through accountability with your colleagues.

At the end of that, if you've put in the effort, you will have made major life changes that you can continue for the months and years ahead.

Hiking Group
Fitness in Post leads a weekly hike for post-production professionals in the LA area, with groups being formed in other cities

What kind of response have you had from participants so far? The response has been overwhelmingly positive. There are always skeptics and people who disagree with the information you share, but overall the program is working for the vast majority of participants with no major complaints. Everyone has participated, and I've seen several full on life transformations happen where peoples' daily habits and dietary routines have changed. They've lost significant amounts of weight and inches and body fat, and they're walking away at the end of it saying "I'm a completely different person than I was."

Can you tell me about any specific success stories? The one that is the most exciting to me shows that nobody has an excuse: [sound editor] Chriss Horgan. She came in, using her words not mine, "about 50 pounds overweight", sluggish, sedentary, getting up maybe once a day for the bathroom. Otherwise, she was logging less than a 1000 steps a day. Her diet wasn't too bad. She's over 60 years old.

Hiking Group. Caption: Fitness in Post leads a weekly hike for post-production professionals in the LA area, with groups being formed in other cities.

The first weekend of our challenge group, she went on a hike and it literally almost sent her to the hospital. She thought she'd be fine and realized that she really had no business being out there, even though it wasn't a difficult hike. I thought maybe she'd drop out of the group, but she decided that was a wakeup call for her and that she was going to make changes in her life. She didn't do any massive exercise programs like P90X. She just decided that she was going to really take Step Three -- make small changes -- seriously.

So she started making all these daily changes in her activity just to move more. She wasn't setting aside time to do exercise, she just made her entire day about getting activity. She was pacing all day long, and she was often the Fitbit "step leader" in our entire group. She was hitting 120,000-130,000 steps per week, and that's from somebody that was getting maybe 10,000 steps a week before the challenge group. That change is absolutely phenomenal. After two months, she lost several inches and significant weight. I look at what she did and I refuse to take any excuse from anyone else.

Fitness in Post came from your own need to be mentally well. How does that play into this program? I really, really want to emphasize up front is that fitness does not equal exercise. Fitness equals exercise, proper nutrition and wellness, and a major part of wellness is mental health. That's something I stress really heavily, especially in our industry. Between poor diet and lack of sunlight and being sedentary in a dark room, we're extra prone to mental health issues like depression.

I think it's important that people understand I'm not trying to make everyone in our industry thin and magazine cover ready. It's about having better cognitive functions and being mentally healthier, happier and more relaxed. There are so many people that are anxiety prone or dealing with depression, with all kinds of statistics that show the higher the level of creativity, the higher the level of mental illness. It's going to be more prevalent in our industry even without all the health issues we have against us.

The bad news is that change requires hard work and dedication. I want to revolutionize the way people do things on a daily basis in our industry. No longer can we accept that our health isn't a priority and say, "I'll get healthy again when hiatus comes."

Running Fitness in Post has given me a massive amount of my own accountability to fix the things I've been working at for years too! Now I basically have an entire industry wondering what the hell I'm doing on a daily basis, so it makes it a lot harder to spend an entire day eating cookies in front of my dailies -- although I'll admit I still do that on occasion (I'm human!). Everybody around me now knows I'm the crazy fitness guy swinging a kettlebell while screening dailies.

It's really addictive and fun and inspiring to know that there are things I'm saying or sending to people that are changing their lives. It makes me feel better that I made someone else feel better -- which I never saw coming when I decided to put this program together.  

Don't forget that you can take advantage of some of Zack's most important tips -- such as sit less, move around more -- right now. If you're interested in adding some equipment to the mix as your fitness program ramps up, Zack has gathered the gear he's acquired along the way in one handy place.


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