The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Tech Week Physique

This post could not fall under a better time than now as I am currently in tech week for Elmer Gantry at Tulsa Opera. It's a fascinating part of a performers career that all can find common ground in. The launching of a production is an immense undertaking. It's also a time where I can see people grow bigger through the course of the week.

This literally makes me giggle aloud. Everytime a person is in the final stages of a show and they are required to be in costume, makeup, and perform every night for a week, people derail their lives. I've literally heard the phrase "fuck it, it's tech week" come out of so many peoples mouths.

It's the literally the biggest YOLO excuse in the performers handbook available.

This type of Fuck it-itis doesn't hinder itself to just fitness and diet, because God knows I've also skipped every class, trashed my home, and even neglected paying bills during these heinous weeks. However, since this is primarily a fitness blog, let us examine that aspect of it.

Why do we change so much during tech week?

The most basic answer is stress. Depending on how you cope with it will definitely reflect your tech week physique.

Weight Gain

Ol' Yeargain is and always has been a chronic over eater. I have to consciously control my eating to prevent weight gain (big surprise.) Tech week presents many problems for people like me.


Call times for shows during tech week can be rather early, sometimes as early as 5:30 if your wig and makeup is fairly Ellaborate. Not many people below the age of 65 eat their dinner before then, and if they do they don't eat as much as they normally would or not at all because they're not hungry yet. And if you're in school, or perhaps have a day job while you're trying to build up your performance credits or finish school, you might have an hour to eat. Cue fast food. The convenience food that has so many caloric variables and processed nutrition that you have no clue it's effect on your body. Good thing it's fuckin delicious! Oh shoot! You forget to go to the gym this morning! Well, it will be there tomorrow.

The reward system.

So, when you get finished with a performance, you've burned some calories, sweated under the lights and have adrenaline pumping through your veins. Your body is begging for sustenance! You feel good about your work that night and you're hungry, so, you swing by the Taco Bell drive through on the way home. Oh, you're broke, you've been too busy with rehearsal to work. That's okay, You'll just slam this whole box of cinnamon toast crunch when you get home.

Family Time! 

If you're in school, your parents are not only proud of your academic prowess, but on top of that you've excelled and been elected and cast as a lead in your schools production. This calls for celebration! Your folks make the drive or fly in from out of town! They've decided to make a weekend of it! Every night they're there it's time to go out to eat, or meet for lunch or breakfast. They're paying, so you're eating appetizers, entrees and desserts! Life is great, you're so happy! The same can and DOES apply to young artists and even adults when their significant other is in town to see you perform.

Cast parties

Once the show is over, you have to celebrate. You have to! You've made so many new friends, you've learned so much about yourself and your craft! It's time to pop the champagne, toast to a successful run, share in feast and folly! Look at all of the finger food! What?? Someone brought pizza AND cupcakes! How generous!

Stress eating.

This is, like, the hardest role you've ever sung/acted/performed. You don't know if it's all going to come together! What if Stacey forgets that parchment letter in act 2 and you'll have to make up recit to cover up her mistake and Peter Gelb, president Obama and Jesus are in the audience??? You better eat that bag of M&M's to even out your head.

I'm being facetious, but you see what I'm getting at. Tech week is another scape goat so that we can jump on the YOLO train, second only to holidays. I speak from experience, y'all! I often practice in YOLO (I'm a black belt in yolo) so I know the kinds of excuses we give ourselves. I don't judge! But I'm trying to allow you to be honest with yourself by shinning the light on my own flaws. When I was singing The Four Villains in Tales of Hoffmann at school (my first venture into French and definitely the longest most demanding role I've sung to date) I literally went to Taco Bueno every night and had myself a quesadilla or a muchaco, sometimes both. I'd skip class the next day, sleep in, wake up, eat a plate of bacon and skip my workout. Good times. 

The truth is that you're going to have less time, less energy and WAY more temptations and stress than you're ever normally going to have during tech weeks. 

However, you have to think of more than just the moment.

Ideally you'll be doing this for a career, right? If you're going to be successful and going from gig to gig, doing something like 10-12 3 week stays in different locations. For every production you're going to have the exact same temptations, the exact same kind of stresses. If you think it's difficult to put on 10lbs over the course of a week, you're either a naturally skinny person or naive. If you're building up patterns to control your stress and hard times with food and irresponsible eating, you're going to gain a lot of weight through the course of your career.

What do you do to prevent weight gain during these hard times?

You're going to have to do one of three things: Demonstrate self control, preemptive strike, or damage control.

Self control.

This is fairly self explanatory. It basically means monitor your eating, know your calorie and macro nutrient needs and manage as such. However, I'm going to put better stress management under this too. I know for a fact that certain things calm me down when I'm stressed and don't involve eating. I workout hard, get my endorphins going, set some form of PR, and feel satisfied. I write blog posts and keep my hands out of the cookie jar. These things help facilitate my ingrained self control that I've been practicing for months.

Preemptive strike.

I don't really reccomend this, but it's a technique you can implement if you choose. Basically, set yourself up on a diet that allows you to lose anywhere between 5-10lbs leading up to tech week. Your costume might fit a little loose at the beginning of tech week, but you'll be back at your regular weight come show time if you indulge in YOLO. My suggestion is that you weight train hard before you feast so that you're additional calories are being used to build up some muscle and not just fat, but that's just a suggestion.

Damage Control.

This basically means you through the dice and come what may you just go with the flow and if you gain weight, you gain weight. You let your stress be your guide. So, after the dust is settled and you step on the scale, you then take action to undo what you have done. You got your week of fun, now back to normal life.

I've tried all three of these, and they each have their flaws, but I much prefer self control over the other two. However, my self control involves flexible eating and regular training so even if I do over eat, I make that food work for me. 

My long term life suggestion is to build up enough muscle and boost your metabolism enough where you'll need excessive calories to maintain your muscle mass. Literally getting too skinny without eating that second chipotle burrito kind of metabolism. I.E. My end game. 

In Conclusion.

There is no shame. Don't be too hard on yourself if you indulge in these behaviors, you're not perfect, nor should you ever try to be. Life is hard enough without having to be on top of your fitness and diet 24 hours a day. It's okay to relax a bit and deviate from the plan. I write this post more so that people aren't surprised by the results, but acknowledge their presence and maybe find ways to curve the results or prevent them if it's that important to them.

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