There are very few multi-hyphenates as legitimate as Chicago-born artist Common. Depending on where a person is coming from you may know him best from Grammy-winning albums, Oscar-winning songs, best-selling books, or performances in hit feature films like Wanted and John Wick: Chapter 2. Not surprisingly, running several successful careers all at the same time takes a toll on the body and Common’s become a boss at maintaining his health amidst the madness.
“The changes I’ve made over the years give me the power to follow my creativity and have energy still left for my loved ones or passions,” says Common from his temporary residence in Brooklyn.
The actor just wrapped his latest movie Breathe with Jennifer Hudson in Philadelphia and is preparing to recharge his batteries before heading into his next project.
“I’m grateful to have learned these practices and feel like it’s my responsibility to share them with others,” he adds. “Not everyone is the same, but perhaps people will find out what works for them after trying out the routines I’ve developed.”
That concept is being furthered with some special episodes of his wellness series Com + Well. To dive deeper, Uproxx asked the mega-star — who started his solo career three decades ago with Can I Borrow a Dollar? — about how to stay in the health game for your own good.
How did your eating habits look at the beginning of your career?
In the early days of my career, I would eat anything that was available to me. That was a lot of junk food and beer. I’m not saying that wasn’t fun, but it didn’t lend itself to me operating at my best or having the best energy. The first step in my journey was becoming vegetarian, and even when I started doing that it wasn’t in the healthiest way. I was just eating lots of bread, french fries, and pizza.
It was even worse late at night because the vegetarian options were always crazy limited. I didn’t even know what vegetarianism was when I was growing up. But now it’s a way of life for me — I have learned how to do it the right way.
What did you do to better those habits as you grew more focused on being healthier?
Instead of buying a flashy car when I started to make some money, one of the first big things that I spent money on was a chef. I felt like that was the better investment to have good food around when I needed it. My career started to take off and the schedule got insane, so it came so clutch.
I know that not everyone can hire a chef to cook for them, but having that experience brought me to focus on having more fresh-made meals. That is something that anyone and everyone can do as well.
How do you make sure that you are eating cleaner on the road when you are touring or away filming a movie?
Let’s be real, at the beginning of the journey that airplane food is never good for you. And the late-night menus at the hotels don’t have the healthiest options on there either. I really prescribe to bringing and buying my own food as much as possible when I travel. I like to go to the grocery store or the health food store when I arrive in a new city. I always bring my supplements though, so I will take my vitamin C, vitamin B12, chlorella, and spirulina. I also get a turmeric or ginger shot wherever I go. For the most part, you can travel with these little turmeric or ginger shots, so they are great pick-ups to keep around.
One of the best ways I make sure I am cleaner throughout the day is by carrying juices and protein shakes. I also like to have plenty of them around when I’m filming a movie or television show because the food situation on set is always a little challenging.
I believe one of your best action performances was John Wick: Chapter 2, what was it like training for that?
I’ve been having so many people reach out about John Wick saying they want my character Cassian back. The training that we did for that was unlike anything that I had ever done before. We trained hard for like six months. They took me through the basics of the movements that I was going to have to do. I was working with the ladder, doing different movements and motions.
I was training in boxing and jiu-jitsu. I started to really feel like a warrior. Those fighting scenes take a lot of work, which is why I have so much respect for Keanu Reeves.
Do you have any other activities that help keep you fit?
I love playing basketball. I love hooping so that’s my favorite way to burn some calories. I grew up playing basketball and never stopped. I don’t want to spend my entire day staring at a screen. When I feel like I’ve been too still for too long I’ll grab a basketball and go dribble out around the house. Being outside shooting some hoops just makes me feel normal.
I played a basketball player in Just Wright and really invested myself into training for that because I had to look like a pro player. I may have been in the best shape of my life there.
Besides becoming vegetarian, is there anything else you have dramatically changed in your diet that has helped you?
I cut back on my drinking a whole lot. I enjoy still my red wine from time to time, but nothing close to what I used to do. I am on record covers with 40 ounces in my hand. That is a whole different universe to be in and I have been more conscious about taking care of my temple.
How have your sleep habits evolved over your career?
I’ve just started to get better about getting good rest. During the pandemic, I was getting more rest than I ever had because I was finally forced to slow down. During that time I was able to see the benefits that came with that. I don’t need any rituals when it comes to falling asleep man, that’s easy, because I be tired at the end of the day.
I have discovered that turning off all the lights earlier in the day, to get ready for sleep is more conducive to better rest. It’s also important to go to sleep with good thoughts — like it is to wake up with good thoughts.
How do you train when you are on the road?
I don’t compromise on my workouts, especially when it comes to when I’m traveling. For me, a workout is a great way to kick off a day on the road. It allows you to start your day focused, because for that period you aren’t able to be focused on emails or texts, and at the same time taking care of yourself. That is great and pure energy to begin the day with. I think too many people ignore the mental aspect to wellness, and for me time in the gym is also time that I will use to make sure my mind is in the right place.
What do your workouts look like these days?
I have worked a lot of great trainers over the years like Yancy Berry and others. I took bits from the training that they gave me and kept what worked for me. Even if I don’t have all of my equipment around me, there is plenty that I have learned to do with my own body weight. My focus is on strengthening my core. I like to pack resistance bands in my bags and use them when I am traveling in a hotel room. I’ve gotten a great workout this way. I would do burpees or a high-intensity movement like that to finish my cardio.
I always have more energy after a workout than a did before it. I feel the difference.
What do you have back at home to elevate your training sessions?
Back at home, I’ll do workouts with the Bosu Ball. I spent a lot of hours on the Peloton bike when I was quarantined and still do today. That bike took my cardio to another level because those sessions could be absolutely brutal. I would spend some extra time on that Peloton whenever I knew I had to take pictures or had to be shirtless for a movie.
Do you have any bits of advice that you have picked up over the years that have stuck with you?
Dr. Tracey Rico is someone that I leaned on for guidance when it comes to wellness, and she really imparted to me the importance of drinking the right amount of water. She also said how important it was to get a good amount of greens in the diet. Before you start deciding on all fo the things that you are going to take out of your life, first make sure you are putting in the right things. Because it’s important to start building those routines as quickly as possible. We are all creatures of habit, you see it over and over again. If you start drinking more water by having a bottle always with you and eating more greens with every meal it becomes a way of life.
Do you have any rituals that contribute to a positive mindset at the beginning of the day?
One of the things I got to do every day is communicate with God the creator to give thanks for everything that I have. It’s hard to feel like you’re failing when you are properly practicing gratitude. Starting out the day by saying thank you for that morning is a great way to keep the right perspective. I don’t think that a lot of people understand the power of their own thoughts and their own words. Wherever I go and I keep my spiritual text with me, which in my case in the Bible. Everyone has their own path, but for me personally, my path to God is the Bible and the scriptures inside there.
What do you do to keep your mental state healthy as well?
I have developed my own form of meditation that I do regularly. I have had some sessions with Jesse Israel from The Big Quiet, I have taken the lessons I have learned and developed my own process. I like it because it silences my mind and gives me time to set my intentions for the day.
I don’t have a specific amount of time that I try to meditate for. I just try to make sure that I take some sort of time. Some of my meditations can be really quick.
Do you have any things you keep around that help you build a positive space no matter where you go?
I always have Palo Santo sticks on me. I love the smell of them. I found them a few years back and now don’t go anywhere without them. I don’t have any problem getting through TSA with them in my pockets. I will say that I am always careful to tell people when I have my Palo Santo sticks smoking and I am doing a Zoom meeting because of the smoke I think people something a little more recreational, but that is not the case. But they do bring me a lot of peace. It’s important to find things that resonate with you personally, that’s what this journey is all about, and that is what these sticks do for me.