A Look Back at 2020: Photographer Christopher Bailey’s Personal Review

More than just COVID, lockdowns, Netflix and (lots of) red wine, here’s how the last 12 months have helped me grow as a person and appreciate the small stuff. 

My Personal Goals

One of the biggest goals I set myself this year was to take my son into a car showroom to buy our first brand new car together. 

I wrote it in my journal back in March. I set a date to achieve it (August), but it wasn’t going to happen thanks to COVID and lockdown. 

But by December 2020 I did walk my son into the showroom, and we bought our first new car. It’s something I’ll never forget. 

Dad with son on shoulders on the beach looking at their jeep

Best Moments of 2020

The story above was a highlight of the year but there have been plenty of other unforgettable moments for me in 2020. 

I was lucky enough to travel at the beginning of the year before all the restrictions came into play. I actually flew to Singapore to see a friend for New Year’s Eve, then hopped over to see another friend in Thailand before visiting another friend in LA in early January (I’m very grateful to have so many friends dotted around the world). 

Spending time in LA in January also provided a little bit of peace at the beginning of the year. My year is always so full of work that I try to get some downtime in December and January. 

I’d also taken up yoga (something which I’ll share more on with you in a moment) but aside from the few moments of respite I was getting from it, it was important to spend a few weeks of non-fitness to just pause, clear the mind and get energised again. Do you ever feel the same?

Man performing yoga lunge on beach in LA

What’s the Training Regime of a Fitness Photographer Like?

Like many of you, when a new year comes around, I set myself the goal of being more consistent with my training. So, I called on IFBB pro Anth Bailes – a friend who always gives me a good programme and a kick up the ass when I need a bit of motivation). 

Anth Bailes bodybuilder and Mr Olympia

He gave me a day on/day off programme that left me feeling sceptical because it wasn’t particularly high volume. 

(For those of you wondering – it consisted of two warm-up sets, and one working set). 

But, despite my initial scepticism, I saw really good results because I was resting and recovering for a day after every session. 

As I mentioned just before, I took up yoga in Los Angeles when I was over there in January. This was huge for me as it was the first time I’d ever done yoga and it was just what my body was screaming out for. I had mental clarity and my body had never felt so good!

I worked this into my original workout plan, incorporating yoga into my rest days so I was performing active rest. It might have been a bit much, but I really enjoyed it. 

Then COVID put a stop to that. 

Just like you, my training took a knock. I tried to keep the routine up at home, but my discipline comes from kicking myself up the ass, and physically going to the gym. You know – getting in the car, blasting the tunes, and getting in the right mindset during that journey to the gym. 

When lockdown happened, I took a load of kit to my apartment in Cardiff, but I couldn’t motivate myself to train as hard as I used to. Both yoga and my training took a knock, but it is what it is. 

Accountability is key

When it came to my training after that first lockdown, I called on friends to help me stay on track. I’m guilty of sacrificing training to get the work done. But scheduling a set day and time to train with my friends meant I stuck to it. 

My 2020 Best Reads

I’ve read a lot of books this year – especially during that first lockdown.

Super Human by Dave Asprey has literally changed my life. I wouldn’t usually tackle a book this big, but I read it in five days. 

It’s all about biohacking, how to reverse ageing, how to up your jperformance and enhance recovery, and how to heal. 

It just blew my mind that there are so many small tweaks in life that can have a massive impact on your overall health and wellbeing. Naturally, this got me wanting to explore more so this book sent me down a rabbit hole reading lots about biohacking. 

The next book I read was Blue Zones by Dan Buettner, which looks at the lives, diets and habits of centenarians.  

I also read Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, which really brings home the importance of sleep for our physical and mental wellbeing. No matter how busy I am with work, I always prioritise sleep now. 

Another book that’s been game-changing is Breath by James Nester, which dives into how our breathing impacts on our overall health. It also highlights why nose breathing is so important – so I actively work on that. If I catch myself breathing with my mouth, I’ll nip it in the bud. 

My Biohacking Routine and Products from 2020

2020 gave me more time to experiment with biohacking and trying to get the most out of my body. I started intermittent fasting – so I don’t eat until 2pm. I’ll fuel up on Bulletproof coffees up until then, which, to a fasting purist, may not count as a ‘true’ fast – but I get what I need from this type of fast. I’m not spiking my insulin and I’m mentally clear and alert, too. 

The rest of my meals during the day will be mostly high fat (I’ve dabbled in ketogenic diets before), with some carbs thrown in later in the day. 

Following a restricted diet isn’t for everyone, but it’s something I’m going to keep up. 

I also got into red light therapy via @redlightrising. If you’re not sure what red light therapy is, it’s basically a light form that’s been found to increase cognitive function, boost collagen and skin healing and aid in muscle recovery – plus it helps improve a whole bunch of health conditions too.

Red Light Therapy Christopher Bailey Red Light Rising

I’ve read up a lot on it and I can’t find any negatives, so I now incorporate red light therapy into my daily routine. If you’re keen to try it, you can use code “Bailey” to get a discount.

I also bought an Oura ring to track and monitor my sleep. It was eye-opening. I wasn’t getting more than 45 mins of deep sleep – which is really important for “detoxing” the brain. 

To try to better my sleep and nightly routine, I also bought blue light blocking glasses and started incorporating breath work into my bedtime routine. Both have helped massively. Now I’m up to about 2 hours of deep sleep and about an hour to an hour and a half of REM. 

Christopher Bailey Kokara CBD oil

I also bought a sauna, so I’ve incorporated that into my daily routine – along with red light therapy and cold showers (they’re harder to keep up in winter though!).

Adding in supplements to support my diet is something I’ve wanted to do for a while to optimise both my performance and my sleep. Right now I’m taking L-Theanine, Magnesium Citrate, Ashwagandha, Krill Oil, and CBD Oil before bed.

You know what another great thing was to come out of 2020? I don’t need to rely on coffee anymore to get me through the day! Life as a fitness photographer is very busy, but I feel I’ve properly unlocked my bodies capabilities through these diet changes and lifestyle enhancements.

What’s My Best Dad Moment of 2020?

Before I became a Dad I thought it was such a cliché that this one little person comes into your life and changes it forever. But it’s true – it changes everything. 

Beach view from back of camper van

One weekend in the summer, Tripp and I set off down the coast in Wales. We chucked a mattress in the van, parked up and found a beach that was empty and secluded. We walked, went in the sea, had a BBQ, watched the sunset and it was the best thing ever. I’ve never seen Tripp so happy. 

We slept overnight in the van, woke up the next morning, opened the door to sunshine, sand and waves, and had breakfast overlooking the sea. 

I got home and immediately went looking for our own camper van so we can hop in and go spend time in nature whenever we want to. It’s about being present and appreciating every moment. These are some of the best moments of the year for me. 

How I’ve Adapted to COVID and Lockdowns

It took a few weeks to get used to the new world, but I think I did what most people did – bought a load of face masks and sanitiser, and hammered Netflix and a bottle of red every night. But, after about two weeks I realised it wasn’t a healthy routine, so I cut the alcohol back to weekend only and started learning during the week. 

I always used to think “I wish I had more time to read” or “I wish I had the time to work on my business”. So here I was with the time to actually do it all – so that’s what I did. 

Personally, what I’ve taken away from the whole situation has been mindset. 

Mindset really is everything. It’s about looking at the bigger picture. It’s Stoic philosophy that says: ‘it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react’ and I’m a big believer in that. 

I also believe in positive energy. 

What’s In Store For 2021?

I’m hoping to travel. That’s something I’ve missed this year (like shooting Mr Olympia).

Apart from that, just spending more time with my son, and spending more time in nature. 

My Parting Tips for a Strong 2021

Be present and be mindful.

Try not to get bogged down in the negatives but also don’t think you have to be super productive. Find what works for your body and what makes you happy, and who knows, maybe I’ll see you in the studio for an awesome shoot in 2021 to show off all your hard work.