Critical Role's Travis Willingham on D&D and Physical Health

The following is a video transcript

Todd:                    I spoke with Critical Role's Travis Willingham about being healthy, and how that's influenced his professional and his personal life.

Todd:                    Did you ever have a point where you didn't work out a whole bunch?

Travis:                   Yeah, absolutely. Oh, you know, it's-

Todd:                    How was elementary?

Travis:                   Elementary school? Yeah, man, they didn't have those clang and bang weights back at Lakewood Elementary.

Todd:                    Well, they had the big tires though. You could have just been like-

Travis:                   Oh yeah, just gravel pulling with the tires.

Todd:                    What is that-

Travis:                   Oh my god, tire flips-

Todd:                    "What is Little Travis doing?"

Travis:                   Yeah. "He's got a thing."

Todd:                    "He's got a whole bunch of jump ropes tied together, into this-"

Travis:                   Yeah, it was ... You know, I was more of an endurance athlete until later in high school, when my growth ... I grew like six inches in a summer, which changed my athletic perspective a lot. I was like a swimmer most of my life. Got really tall, and then the basketball and football coaches were like, "Come here. You go hit people. You're bigger than them," so that became really fun.

Travis:                   But after college, and playing a little bit, you know, I did triathlons and things, where size was a hindrance, right? And I really wanted to push it and see if I could go from being like 240 back down to like 210, 208, I think was the lowest I ever got. And that was great, and I did a half Ironman, and it was grueling, and all those things, and then I was like, "Okay, I'm good. I'm going to put on some more weight."

Travis:                   So I did my little Renée Zellweger thing and gained a lot of muscle, and then dropped a lot of muscle, and then gained a lot of muscle ... And I just feel better kind of in this place, where I feel like I can move heavy things, and plus it takes less time to work out.

Todd:                    Right?

Travis:                   You know, you go and do an hour in a gym, great, versus three hours on a bike, where you're like, "Oh my god, where is the time for that?" But I think people get the misconception, especially with Joe and myself, I cannot speak for Joe, but I would assume it's the same for everybody, that we're like always working out. It's not true. You know, we tell people that are trying to make changes in their life from a fitness perspective, I'm like, "It's just about making the change and then sticking with it and carrying that momentum forward," and if it breaks, and it breaks for like a few months, and you have a time off, that's totally fine. You just got to find the time to go like, "Okay, I'm starting again," and then recommit to it.

Travis:                   You know, Laura and I are like expecting in July, and I can say that the last two, two-and-a-half months, I didn't see the inside of a gym at all, right? Then the tanks game came, and Joe's like, "Yo, bro. I am fucking training for this game," and I was like, "Damn it. All right, fine!" So like the last three weeks I've just been in there, trying to ... you know, lift really hard, make up for it. You're like the guy that hasn't brushed his teeth for a year and then he's going to the dentist, and that morning he's like ...

Todd:                    Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Travis:                   Flossing, you know?

Todd:                    [inaudible 00:02:44]

Travis:                   Yeah, totally. And it's been a little off-and-on, but yeah.

Todd:                    What do you like about staying fit? I know this is like definitely going into the Beyond of D&D Beyond, but-

Travis:                   No, it's great.

Todd:                    Yeah.

Travis:                   Yeah, I mean, I said this once at a WonderCon panel, like I just feel like I'm the best version of myself when I'm working out. I think there's such a ... People talk about the runner's high, like when I would train and do high endurance stuff. When you come back in from running, you get this endorphin release, and you feel really good, and that's a physical thing, but it's also a mental thing, because you know, for me, I knew that I had done something that day to put myself in a healthier place, right? So no matter what happened in that day, whether I was successful in work stuff or if it didn't go well, at least I had that small win, right? I had done something to better myself that day.

Travis:                   And I realized what an edge that gave me. When there are consecutive days, or consecutive weeks, or even months where I haven't been in a gym, I'll kind of get this bummer vibe, where I'm like, "Man, I don't feel like I've been doing as much as I can to make myself better," like the better version of myself. And the longer that that goes on, the more I'm like, I feel the need to go back into the gym, you know? And you'll do the work, and you're sore, and you're like, "Ugh," but even when you're sore, and things hurt, it's that reminder of like, "Yeah, but I did that work that day," right?

Travis:                   I've tried to make myself better in that moment, and I feel good about that part, and I feel like that's something that people don't quite understand. Sometimes they look at the gym, and they're like, "Oh, there's all these people, and I'm intimidated, and I don't feel like I belong, and people are judging me," and like yeah, that's true. And even if you are nervous about going in and working out and doing those things, if you go, and you do a workout, whether it's short or long, you can go home with the satisfaction and the pride of knowing that you did it, right? And if you repeat that feeling every day, I feel like that does something, right? And your neurons start to connect these new pathways, that it's like yeah, this is your new normal and you're doing things to help yourself."

Travis:                   I think it's undervalued, the act of working out and taking care of yourself, what that actually does to you. So for me it's just important, because otherwise I feel like I'm not taking care of myself and working as hard as I should, to make myself as good as possible.

Todd:                    Has that added to your acting?

Travis:                   Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it really has, because you know, a lot of people ask, "How do I get into voice acting?" Right? Or, "How do I get into acting in Los Angeles, and I live in Minnesota? What do I do?" And a lot of it is like, well, we can tell you things like take classes and move to LA, but it's a lot of hard answers that people don't want to hear sometimes, which is like if you wanted to be a doctor, you got to go to medical school, and if you can't afford it, you got to find a way to afford it, right? You got to work.

Travis:                   And a lot of people don't want to do the work, right? They're looking for the quick fix, or maybe the connection, or something that saves them a little bit of time, and I learned in ... It applies to acting, that if you're not working on accents as a voice actor, or if you're not doing ... practicing your cold reading, or if you're not analyzing performances from other actors that you enjoy, right? Like, what about their read is something that maybe I'm not doing? Are they being more subtle? Are they projecting as hard as I am? Are their reads faster, tempo-wise?

Travis:                   If you're not doing that stuff and really digging in and doing the work that can sometimes be boring, and frankly lonely, because you're doing it by yourself, then you're probably not going to get to where you want to go. But if every day, you're doing something to get yourself closer to that goal, then you'll have a pretty good head-space about knowing that, "Yeah, I did the work."

Travis:                   So when that moment comes, when it's ... You know, whether you're in a [inaudible 00:06:24] in a game, and your muscles need to be big, because you're on the stage with some of the gnarliest-looking dudes you've ever seen, or you're in an audition for like a network cartoon show or a video game, and they ask you to do some accent that you're not prepared for, you're ready, right? And if you haven't prepared up to that point, then good luck. I hope where you are is enough, but if you've been doing that small stuff every day, you'll be in a better position to succeed.

Todd:                    Thank you, Travis, for again being on D&D Beyond. I'm Todd Kenreck, your host. Thank you so much for watching.

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