Maryland transplant Brian Shea is digital editor at Game Informer magazine in Minneapolis. A 2009 graduate from Salisbury University, the journalist spent seven years writing for his own sites and doing freelance work before landing a full-time gig. Now he plays video games for both a living and a hobby.
After realizing that he didn’t like the way he looked in a picture, Shea introduced a new hobby into his life – working out. He recently took a few moments to talk about changing his body image while balancing his job and recreational gaming.
What are your duties at Game Informer?
Well, all editors at Game Informer have to be jack-of-all-trades kind of editors. We all write features, news, reviews and previews. We all edit the magazine before we send it off to the printers for distribution.
On top of those duties, however, I oversee the creation of our digital magazine from an editorial perspective. This means after we finish proofing the physical version of our issue each month, I plan out what digital extras we want to include and work with our production team to see what we can do to make our digital edition really pop. After that, the production team goes and builds the magazine and I then work with them over the course of the next 10 days or so to proof that version and make sure everything is doing what it should. It’s very much like testing a software application.
Outside of work, how much time do you spend playing video games in an average week?
You know, before I started working as a video game journalist/critic full time, I wondered if I would stop gaming as much after work as I did before. It turns out I game just as much (if not more) after work now. I’d say I play close to 25 hours a week.
Would you consider your job sedentary? How do you combat a long day of sitting in front of a computer screen?
Yeah, I’d definitely consider my job sedentary. Sure, I walk around a ton during expos and events, but when I’m in the office, the vast majority of my day is spent in front of a computer or television screen. I get around that by going to the gym most days during my lunch break or by running in the morning before work. If nothing else, I try to at least go for a walk at some point during the day just to get the blood flowing.
Why is it important for you to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
I was never really into fitness growing up, but I liked playing sports like baseball, basketball, and tennis enough to keep my weight reasonable (I was still overweight my entire adolescent life). My current devotion to fitness started about 8 months after I got my first office job back in 2010. I went and saw a stand-up comedian and met him after the show. I took a picture with him, and while I was thrilled to do that, I was not thrilled about how I looked. I got on the scale that night, and I was able to see just how out of control things had gotten.
I knew something had to be done, so I started waking up an hour early and just running a mile before work. It may not sound like a lot, but it was all I could manage at the time. I also began cutting out office mainstays like bagels, donuts and eventually soda. Once I started doing that, the pounds started melting off. By 2013, I was running a 5K every day in the hot Austin sun during my lunch hour at work. I wanted to put on a bit of muscle, though, so I started training mixed martial arts as my main form of exercise. I absolutely adored that, but since moving to Minnesota, I’ve struggled to find an affordable MMA gym that’s convenient to me, so I’ve been getting a more balanced mix of boxing, kickboxing, strength training, running and cross training.
What is your exercise routine like? How do you have to adjust it for Minnesota winters?
Oh man… the Minnesota winters can be brutal. They don’t alter my exercise routine too much though. I still try and make it to the gym several times a week, and I’ll typically bundle up and still run outside. For super cold days, I’ll stay inside (I finally bit the bullet and bought an elliptical last year), but I definitely prefer outside. I get bored on stationary cardio equipment, so I’ll actually bring my Switch or 3DS with me to make the lack of scenery change more bearable.
My typical routine since joining the GI staff in 2015 has consisted of strength training, running, cycling, kickboxing and sled work. However, lately I’ve been training for a Tough Mudder race, so I’ve been doing a ton of lower body, core and grip strength exercises these past few months, as well as turning up the intensity on my running routine. I logged my longest run ever the other day (just a touch over 7 miles), so it’s definitely working in terms of building my cardio up. I still miss training MMA a lot, though. Hitting a heavy bag a couple times a week hardly replaces focus mitt work and learning new techniques.
In addition to working out, how do you manage your diet?
I often joke that I hate running so much, but I love pizza more, so I make myself run just so I can eat pizza and not feel as guilty about it. My diet isn’t the best (particularly during dinner), but I have swapped out the sugary cereal in the morning for healthier alternatives like Special K and Honey Bunches of Oats, while most of my lunches at work consist of a salad with walnuts and cranberries. Dinner is definitely what I struggle with most, but I do my best to manage portions and swap out for healthy alternatives where I’m able to.
What are your top gaming snacks?
Despite struggling with my diet at times, I actually don’t typically snack while I game. At most, I’ll have a drink while I’m gaming, but since my hands are so occupied while playing, it’s not something I usually struggle with. Instead, I’ll snack when I watch shows or movies. For that, I usually go with a smoothie or a bowl of cereal.
What do you use as inspiration for a healthy lifestyle?
I think my biggest thing is feeling good about myself and the way I look. Like I said, my motivating factor for getting serious about fitness was an unflattering picture. Sometimes, when I don’t feel like working out, I look in the mirror or take a picture. If I don’t like the way I look, that’s the motivation that got me to the gym in the first place, so that’s an easy sell. If I do like the way I look, I use that to say “Well if I want to keep it that way, I better work out.” I get some crap from my friends for taking a lot of selfies, but it really does help me stay motivated.
If you’re looking for a more tactile source of inspiration, it’s probably something like watching UFC fights that gets me motivated and makes me want to hit the gym and do the exercises they do. I also love the thrill of trying a new routine. I search for new ab workouts and heavy bag routines on YouTube all the time. Catching my body off-guard and preventing monotony really helps me give it my all in the gym.
What advice would you have for a gamer looking to take the first steps towards a healthier lifestyle?
Just start doing something. Anything. Whether that’s waking up a little early to run a mile or joining a kickboxing class that’s on the way home from work, just get into a routine. The hardest thing about working out is getting motivated to start working out. Once you’re into the routine, you’ll be amazed at how fast you start seeing results.
It also helps to plan out what you want to do ahead of time or, best case scenario, work with a personal trainer who will push you. It’s so easy to slack off once you’re in the gym if you don’t tell yourself that you, for example, want to run a mile and do a set ten-minute ab workout before you leave the gym that day.
If you want to get serious about it, definitely take a hard look at your diet and even if you don’t want to turn it upside-down, focus on little things like eliminating bagels or limiting your soda intake. Outside of that, look for other opportunities that just naturally fit into your lifestyle. For example, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, riding your bike to work, or even just parking further away at the grocery store. Many little things add up. I’ve been amazed at some of the transformations I’ve seen over the years. If I can do it, you probably can too.