I was nervous and excited. I had just left my 9 to 5 cubicle career and jumped head-first into full-time photography. Over the next 2 months, I would be traveling all over the world with a friend in order to build my portfolio. At this point, though, my sedentary lifestyle had caught up to me and I was about 25lbs overweight.
During my trip I carried an 85lb+ backpack up mountains, stairs, on trains, through water and beyond. By the time I returned to the States, I had lost a good 10lbs. The traveling and physical demands that came along with it did my body some good.
I settled in New York City, and as any New Yorker will attest, you walk everywhere. I had days where I would put 15 miles down just exploring the city. And so another few pounds fell off.
At the same time I was losing weight, I noticed that I felt better. I reasoned that if walking made me feel this good, what could actual intense daily exercise do?
I decided at 24, I was at the time of my life that I was supposed to be in my physical prime, and I would forever regret never seeing what my true potential looked like. I wanted to know at my best, what I was capable of.
So I decided to go all in. I committed to Kris Gethin’s workouts and diet plan.
Every week that went by, my theory held. I continued feeling better and better. Then I noticed it.
The quality of images I was creating were superior to many others I had created in the past. When I was shooting, I was less stressed. I was cool, calm and collected. I saw things more creatively. My composition was better as was my use of color. I had more energy and confidence and my communication and ability to help my subjects laugh, relax and be comfortable were all paying dividends.
Was it possible that lifting weights and doing cardio were benefiting my art?
It turns out, that was exactly the case.
In 2013, Lorenza S. Colzato published a study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience which determined that exercise enhanced both divergent and convergent thinking. Convergent thinking is a process whereby one correct solution for a particular problem is generated, and divergent thinking is thinking of as many solutions for a particular problem as possible.
The study found that especially for convergent thinking, people who are exercising on a regular basis outperform people who don’t. Colzato concluded that physical exercise trains your brain to become more flexible in finding creative solutions and that active bodies think more deeply-but only if they are used to exercise.
This means that you will have to get past the first couple weeks of workouts to receive the benefits of physical fitness.
My entire life I was led to believe that working out was the burden. Like many others, I would make excuses both to myself and to friends offering to go exercise. I would justify not working out in any way I could. But exercise was in fact, the solution.
The benefits I saw after just a few weeks of training far outweighed the time costs as well as any dietary restrictions. That was almost a year ago.
To this day I continue to exercise and take better care of myself. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my lattes and cheat meals and lazy days. But deciding to commit to a better lifestyle has changed so much of who I am and how I operate on a daily basis for the better, and my photography has reaped the benefits too.
If you’re experiencing a creative block, or struggling to find success, or are just a curious person, give it a shot. It might just launch you forward in ways you never expected.
About the author: Gavin Doran is a Brooklyn-based photographer best known for his cinematic portraiture and dynamic lifestyle imagery. You can find more of his work on his website or by following him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.