5 things this stuntman does “wrong” that are worth considering

I’m a pretty careful stuntman, but often the injuries we withstand happen in the more mundane parts of life. I’ve taken various steps to change my lifestyle so that I don’t get injured, both on and off set, and so here are 5 of those things that I do, which, according to expert opinion, are “wrong.”

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1. Not sitting while working

I write, edit, and do all my work (except reading) at a standing desk. I’ve done this since 2011. Before using a standing desk I had a constant, nagging pain between my shoulder blades and was dealing with various lower back pain issues. This slowly went away when I started using a standing desk, an ergonomic mouse, and a standing mat. Definitely worth a small investment. It helps me avoid unnecessary pains when I need to hit the ground as a stuntman.

What they say: consensus is coming around, but many still will argue that “your knees can’t take it”, “you should alternate between standing and sitting”, etc. I don’t see any evidence that your knees will suffer from this, unless you’re obese, which is a separate issue that won’t be resolved by using a standing desk. And if you need to sit, it’s probably more correct to squat.

Links: Ergonomic mouse – $17 (Note: I’ve found that a 30-45 degree angle is best for an ergo mouse, as opposed to a near 90 degree angle, but find something that’s comfortable for you.)
Anti-fatigue mat – $40
Standing desk – too many to list on Amazon, find one that is to your liking, though finding one with shelves is increasingly difficult

2. Eating one meal a day

I just eat a big dinner. Some days I’ll have a small snack mid-afternoon. On Shabbat (Saturday) and Sunday I’ll eat breakfast with my family, making that two meals, but in general I eat one meal a day and have done so since 2019. It doesn’t seem we’re built to eat more than two meals a day. And even if I’m doing a “4K Day” (something I coined after burning 4700 calories one day doing a mix of motion-matching navigation and combat for Demon’s Souls) I’ll still only eat one meal. I don’t get sleepy in the afternoon, something that you want to avoid if you’re writing, editing, stunting, or anything! (Note: I eat healthy. This probably won’t work out for you if you eat garbage, which is a separate issue.)

What they say: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” “Calories in, calories out.” “Food gives you energy.” Doctors are very quiet about fasting in general. They use BMI (body mass index) to claim that you’re overweight. One doctor told me I was overweight and could still drink 2 drinks a day. And a lot of these punks are fat. I don’t take history lessons from people who can’t read, so I definitely won’t take health advice from a fat guy in a lab coat.

3. Not washing my face

I haven’t washed my face since 2015, unless it’s literally “dirty” (which happens maybe every few months). Your skin’s good at fixing itself. The less stuff you put on it, the better. This doesn’t translate to better stunt performance but I can put my face on camera pretty easily, which is often a requirement in stunts.

What they say: “Washing helps you maintain a healthy complexion.” We all followed this advice in high school and medicated our faces with all the chemicals they wanted us to buy. In the end, we all had acne. Let your face do the work.

4. Resting for 24 hours on Shabbat (Saturday)

It’s difficult to take a full day off if your work requires you to work on that day. Stunt performers are often bound up in this restriction. But there is wisdom here. We develop work-inertia during the week, and then we can’t stop, and we burn out. And even if we leave the office or come home from a shoot, we keep working at home on something – the garden, the roof, the bathroom, an editing project. Sometimes it takes a divine decree to break us out of the cycle.

What they say: consensus agrees that taking a rest day is good, but they’ll also say out the other side of their mouths that we can hold off on rest to take a job and just catch up another day. All in the service of “career.” People who put their careers above everything else wonder why they end up being slaves to their work. So I’ve boldly told clients (big clients, like freaking Netflix) that I can’t do work on Shabbat. Period. And they’ve always accommodated me. The crew of Army of the Dead rushed to get me off set on Friday evening. Stand your ground! People respect that.

5. I don’t believe in myself

We’re often told, “Believe in yourself.” I bought into this credo my entire life. Some live it as a holy mantra. But whenever depression or addiction – alcohol, gender issues (different story!), buying compulsions – reared its ugly head in my life, my “self” was the first thing that failed. I studied to keep my “self” from mentally failing, exercised to avoid physically failing. I became physically stronger and more self-aware, but my “self” continued to fail, almost at a more rapid clip. So I gave up control and stopped propping my “self” up as a personal god. This made it easy to see the light at the end of the tunnel during hard times. I was then more ready to take on huge risks. Pushing beyond one’s physical and mental limitations is not a problem when faith is externalized. Otherwise, one’s faith is contingent upon maintaining a god-like appearance and unwavering emotional Stoicism, which are interdependent. When one fails, the whole system goes.

Also, our mirror neuron systems throw shade on the idea that we can rationally decide our actions through critical thinking. Critical thinking is a process, not a filter. Believing the romantic lie will lead us down some awful paths.

Note: This is not the same as “trust your gut.” Often our initial knee-jerk reactions hold grains of truth, and while one should process this appropriately to avoid issuing reactive responses, our guts might still be telling us something. When a stunt seems dangerous, I trust my gut and avoid it. Often we’ll resort to “believing in ourselves” to overcome these gut reactions. Very different!

What they say: When they say, “Believe in yourself,” often they mean, “Worship yourself.” Ultimately, that’s exactly what it does mean. This is a recipe for disaster, one these same people will readily exploit when you fail.

What “wrong” things do you do that keep you from peril?