Sometimes, you see a before-and-after picture so impressive you have to wonder just how they did it. When those pictures emerge during the dumpster fire of 2020? Our curiosity is raised tenfold. One such image was You Me At Six’s Dan Flint, who has had quite the fitness journey while many of us were reacquainting ourselves with buttercream and Seinfeld.
As a musician, Flint is forever touring and forever surrounded by “a culture of drinking and staying up late”: not a way of life that really gels with an appreciation for fitness. At the start of lockdown, Flint found himself recording a lot of music, drinking a lot of booze and generally indulging (as one is inclined to do during an unprecedented phase of human history). ”It got to a point where I looked at myself in the mirror and I thought I don’t want to get out the other end of lockdown and think, ‘Wow, you were creative, but my God did your body suffer for it.’”
So when a friend, Jack Wayne, with a personal gym got in touch as the world went into lockdown, Flint was presented with an opportunity: to see if a lifestyle that, in many ways, seems antithetical to rock’n’roll – fitness! Sobriety! Journalling! – could benefit his creative process. What he found was remarkable: “I was having a lot of fun drinking a bottle of wine sat in my studio. But, actually, it wasn’t as constructive as it could be,” said Flint. “The workout plans have filled me with all this energy that I can transfer into the creative side of my life, which is hard to do when you’re hungover.”
Better work means better focus and more of a sense of purpose and it’s having a beneficial impact on every part of his life. “It’s been a hard time for many people, and I’m not taking away from that,” added Flint, “but I’ve turned a negative into a huge positive in my life. Something that I’m going to take forward, hopefully, for the rest of my life.” This is how Flint has changed his life during 2020.
“This year has no structure. There was no time for me to get up. There was no time for me to go to bed. There was nothing in my diary seven days a week. But just having the mental structure of thinking, ‘OK, I go to see Jack three times a week, at 10am, Monday, Wednesday, Friday’? All of a sudden my week has a structure. That also means that I’m getting my rest in the nights before. It meant that my life felt like it had some purpose; I was getting out the house, I was doing this thing that was making me happy.
“I was coming home and feeling fantastic about myself and was then able to focus on my work a hell of a lot better. The results that I’ve seen from that have just been so much better than what I was doing previously, just staying up till 5am in the studio, having a laugh. The thought of doing that again haunts me. Why the hell would I do that? I’ll ruin the next two days of my life. I can wake up with this energy, feeling good, rather than just having one blowout night and then ruining it for two, three days.”
“I was guilty of doing what I think a lot of people are guilty of doing, which is talking yourself out of going to the gym. I’d say I’ll go to the gym today and then I’ll get in the studio, make some lunch, and all of a sudden it’s 2pm and I’m finding reasons not to go. There’s been times where, because I don’t have a structure with what I’m doing in the gym, I’ve gone, ‘Oh, well, it’s so hard to start. I don’t know what I’m doing’, so I would put it off or not do it. This time around, with Jack helping to put together a workout plan, it’s enabled me to see the goal at the end. I’m one of these people where, if I didn’t set myself this goal of three months, I would have probably dipped in and out.
“We were doing a lot of calisthenic training as well, which I find really fun because my parents were both gymnasts. I think seeing yourself progress through those challenges helps too: he made it so that each week he’s saying, ‘You’ve gone up here, you’ve improved here, there’s a personal best there’ and there was structure to what I was doing. It meant that every week I was leaving him feeling I could achieve anything in my life.
“The calisthenic training means it’s something that I can actually apply, when I go out eventually, hopefully, onto the road again. It’s not something that I necessarily need a huge gym to be able to do. He’s taught me skills that I can then use wherever I am in the world.”
“I was one of these people that, at the start, was not eating too well. As soon as McDonald’s opened again, I was having three McDonald’s breakfasts a week, because I was up late and I couldn’t be bothered to cook. I was just ordering food in non-stop, spending too much money on that and actually not getting any nutrition whatsoever. Food was just something that I had to do.
“The toughest part of my plan was probably the food, because I’m very much a pasta and cheese and bread kind of man. Cutting out those complex carbs was difficult. But once I started seeing a change in my energy levels, and my body, it made the whole thing worth it.”
“My guilty pleasures would be takeaway food, chocolate, a lot of sugar, a hell of a lot of coffee and a lot of booze. I lived in a culture that was surrounded by booze. It’s rock’n’roll. We’re out playing shows every night, I’m drinking five/six beers on stage. I’ve had that for 15 years of my life. So booze has been the main one that has gone. And I’ve thought, ‘Why did I need to do that before?’
“At first I was thinking, ‘Maybe I could just have a drink on the weekend.’ And Jack said, ‘No. Let’s do this properly.’ I thought to myself, ‘You’re so right. If I’m going to do this, I want to see how I feel after completely cutting out all of those vices that were damaging me before.’
“It’s got to the point now where I’m not sure I’m ever going to drink again. I’ll probably go out and see some friends and see how things go. But that doesn’t fill me with excitement at the moment. It fills me with anxiety, thinking about going back to that life, because I feel like I’ve elevated. Jack is always talking about that: how are we getting to the next level? You’ve got to better yourself, elevate yourself. And I don’t want to go back into that life again. I can still go out. I can still see friends. I just don’t drink beer. I’d drink a soda water.
“You get the comments from people at the start. But they’re your friends. And, actually, in the end, they’re all really supportive and they’re proud of you. And the feeling that I get waking up in the morning far outweighs getting pissed the night before.”
“I don’t need as much sleep. I don’t wake up groggy. I’m now waking up and thinking, ‘That’s enough for me. Here we go. Let’s tackle the day.’ I was never a bath man ever in my life, but now I’ve got a little routine: I have my dinner, I get into the bath, I might listen to some soft music and then I’m ready for bed.”
“I’ve started to journal. It asks you questions each day: write down how you’re feeling, how you felt this morning, a lot of options to tick. And then it says: what are your three intentions for the day? What are the three things that you’re grateful for? When is your happy hour? And to actually physically think about that, and to write them down, is so powerful. The three things that I write down are sometimes so mundane, but at the end of the day you think, ‘I achieved those, that’s brilliant.’ So rather than looking at the whole picture and getting overwhelmed, I’m breaking down the huge picture of my life into smaller segments.
“There’s a section where it gets you just to write about your day, or your previous day, and how you’ve tackled things. If I’ve gone back and had a look at what I wrote a week before, all of a sudden I’ve got a different mindset. So I’ll take a different colour pen and I’ll write how I feel about that moment in my life with a little bit of perspective. I think that is something that everyone should try to do: just write down what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling. Because all of a sudden, it doesn’t feel like it’s so huge. I would laugh it off if someone told me to do that a couple of years ago. Now I’ve done it myself, I couldn’t recommend it any higher.”
You Me At Six’s new album, Suckapunch, is out 15 January via Underdog Records/AWAL.