Personal Trainers Hate this Sketcher – How to lose weight by drawing!

[By Marc Taro Holmes in Montreal, CA]

Like many professional artists, I’m about 20 pounds heavier than I ought to be.

I think that’s normal for anyone with a desk job. And being an artist and blogger is definitely a desk job. I probably do seven hours at the computer for every one drawing.

Oh, I have more excuses too: we were doing a lot of travel last year – that’s always detrimental to proper diet. And I did all the artwork for my recent digital-art book this summer. That was a lot of butt-in-chair-time. To make matters worse, it’s the holiday season with all the celebratory eating that entails.

To that end, I’ve recently completed a 1 week (7 day) experiment in tracking sketchwalks.

My goal was daily walks of 10 thousands steps, interspersed with motivational drawings of whatever I encounter along the way.

Spend any time reading about fitness-for-the-un-sporty, and you’ve probably heard this 10 thousand steps rule. A magic number that began with the Japanese Manpo-Kei “10,000 step meter” and later adopted by the Fitbits and Nike Fuelband wearables. Both of which I have tried, and either broken, lost, or lost interest in maintaining.

This is definitely one of my odd-ball ideas. Only valuable to a very niche audience. You have to be someone like me who resents any time spent doing exercise – because of the time it takes away from drawing!

I have to admit, I got this idea from playing Pokemon Go. A game which is designed for this very thing – to get gamers to invest in exercise, by giving them a game that rewards walking. I actually prefer Niantic Studios‘ grown-up version; a game called Ingress.

The main thing you need for this idea – is time. About an hour a day for the sketch walk. Maybe a bit less if you’re a brisk walker.

Gear wise, it’s just a matter of a pocket-sized sketchbook and a couple of basic pens – my usual minimum: a fine nib and a brush pen.

Painting your sketches should be optional. A bad idea even, as it’s a distraction from the main point of MORE WALKING.

Mostly the drawings should be as simple as possible. I would ask Siri for a 7 minute timer while I dug out my pens, and I’d accept whatever I could draw in that time window. I could see right away, if I didn’t use the timer – and limit myself to line drawing – I’d end up over my one hour-ish time-allotment.

Maybe in summer I’ll try this with 7 minute watercolors. About 1/3 of the time I spent on my miniature marathon sketches. That would be a challenge 🙂

To keep score: I’ve been using a pedometer app to count steps. [Pacer, free on iOS].

The app works on older iPhones (like mine) lacking the improved motion tracking in the iPhone 5s or better. It has all the expected features – a graph of your daily step count, little motivational messages to cheer you on, and/or yell at you when it doesn’t detect enough activity.

In order to get visual feedback, I’ve been using a custom google map to record a GPS position for each sketch. I just drop a map pin at my location, and upload a cellphone shot of the drawing to the map pin’s custom description. It would be nice if there was an easier way – after all, your phone can geo-locate a photo automatically – but I couldn’t find a simple way to covert my Places album into a shareable map. Any geeks out there know a solution?

What I do like about google maps is the potential to collaborate with other sketchers. If anyone really loves this idea – why not message me and I’ll give you editing permissions on the map. If we are both adding pins we might stick with it longer!

Yes, I had to stop by the grocery store and sketch the lobsters. I never get tired of drawing lobsters.

So yes, after seven days, here’s my results:

  • I’ve taken 50K steps I would not have otherwise taken,
  • Not quite reaching the daily 10k goal, but giving a respectable effort.
  • I went outside seven days in a row (ish – not counting Christmas day).
  • I filled 42 pages, finishing the 3.5×5.5″ Beta Softcover Sketchbook I cracked open for my recent night-crawl with the Expeditionary Art palette.
  • And, for the month of December, I’ve netted no change in weight. Not as good as losing, but still beating the historical odds!
  • I call that a successful test.

And, I’m serious – fun as this was, I probably won’t stick with it – unless someone else wants to do it with me 🙂 Drop me a line, and we can see about holding each other accountable.


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