MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA FRONTMAN Andy Hull‘s come-to-fitness moment happened when he least expected. It was December 2021, and Hull, like so many others, had fallen into bad habits. The musician admits that in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic he had gained weight and felt sluggish after he “turned to Taco Bell and tequila” for some time when the live music industry was shut down. Still, he wasn’t actively seeking a new routine. The push he needed instead came from a conversation with a friend—one that Hull had assumed was going to result in a guest spot on a podcast, not a major change to his lifestyle.
The friend was security expert and entrepreneur Big Pep, whom Hull had met while working with the rapper Logic. Pep’s PepTalk podcast was just starting to take off, so Hull took it for granted that he was being invited on the show when Pep reached out to ask a question. “I was like, I thought you’d never ask,” Hull recalls. “But he’s like, ‘What are we doing about your fitness and personal health?’ I was like, oh, boy.”
While this wasn’t the conversation Hull anticipated, it wasn’t unwelcome. The musician says that before Pep called him out, he had been talking with his wife about how much he missed being active and living a healthy lifestyle. Hull’s problem was that he wasn’t sure where to find accountability amidst the demands of fatherhood and career. He has two young children, and along with Manchester Orchestra (which has been putting out albums since Hull was a teenager in 2004), Hull splits vocal duties in the band Bad Books, releases music under his solo project Right Away Great Captain!, and scored the film Swiss Army Man with MO bandmate Robert McDowell. Compounding the issue, the trainer he worked with previously had passed away, so he wasn’t sure where to turn. The talk with Pep, Hull says, “was a real answer to prayer.”
Once he was on board, Pep became Hull’s main resource for fitness, health, and most importantly, accountability. The two hashed out guidelines for nutrition, which Hull had few problems following. The physical aspect of the endeavor was a bit more daunting. Hull says he was about 50 pounds overweight at the time, and taking the first step to get active was the hardest. He began by taking 15-minute spin classes on a Peloton bike, struggling to finish. But he kept pedaling, and eventually progressed up to hour-long sessions.
How Hull Hit the Road Healthy
This was a win for Hull after having no routine in place and he amassed a 60-day ride streak—but there was a problem: He had a six-week tour approaching, and nowhere he could put the Peloton on the road. “I was starting to worry because I’d never gone on tour before and lost weight or had a healthy experience,” he says, calling touring “an incubator for terrible lifestyles.” In the past, Hull might have left his healthy habits at home. Not this time. He bought a cheap foldable stationary bike to stow on the bus, and didn’t miss a single day, pedaling along to audiobooks wherever he could find space.
The bike was effective, but it wasn’t sustainable. Hull says the daily rides began to feel “less doable” as he bored of the monotony. Rather than quit, he took this as an opportunity to try something new: jumping rope. This was the perfect fitness tool for a touring musician, since it could fit in a small bag and be used anywhere—but it required a higher bar to entry than a stationary bike. “I said some of the most outrageous stuff out loud to myself that I’ve ever said failing for months at jump rope,” Hull admits.
Eventually, however, it clicked. Now, he jumps rope for around an hour every day before every sound check, skipping for three minute rounds at a time and aiming to burn 1,000 calories using a heart rate monitor (a habit he retained from the Peloton days). He’s kept up the practice now for nearly two years, dropping the excess 50 pounds and shifting to focus more on maintaining his aerobic health. Every day, he sends a screenshot to Pep with his workout data, and gets a message in return—a means of accountability, but also connection. Hull is never truly jumping alone.
More Than Just Jumping
Hull credits the adherence to his fitness routine for more than just the 50 pound weight loss. He says he feels “incredible” and his singing voice is stronger, too, allowing him to control his breath better when he shifts from hopping around the stage, shredding on the guitar and belting out his band’s most raucous choruses to quietly crooning the more restrained songs in their extensive alt-rock catalog. “There would be times previously when I was playing where I would feel like I had just done a 100 meter sprint at top speed,” he says. “That just stopped happening.”
Most mornings, Hull says that his first thought is about where and when he’ll get his jump. This newfound discipline isn’t limited to fitness; Hull says that he now takes time to perform vocal exercises to warm up his voice, too, which he rarely took enough time to do before. He even noticed that when he was off tour and on vacation with his family, he was more prepared to hit the beach with his kids. “It was like there was an untapped energy that I didn’t know was there,” he says.
These workouts have become a rare space for reflection in his busy life—both a creative boon and a net positive for his mental health and relationships. “It would be funny to ask my band how many times they’ve heard me say ‘I was just thinking today when I was jumping,’—I probably say that 100 times a day,” he says. “You don’t really get a chance in life to just have an hour to process something.”
The biggest piece of advice Hull offers to his peers or anyone else looking to kickstart a healthy habit is a simple one: Just get started, and don’t sweat it if your progress is slow. “It’s about giving yourself grace, but also committing to a rapid or repetitive act,” he says. “So putting it in your day the same way that you take a shower—it needs to be a full commitment, for a long time, in order for it to click.”
And once you’ve established a routine, you can’t predict what opportunities might arise. Maybe you’ll find new confidence and comfort in your body, or the newfound structure and discipline will be the key to greater success at work. Or maybe you’ll accomplish goals you didn’t totally realize you were striving to accomplish. “Something that’s really funny is when I was still working on it… my guy Pep would go, ‘I’m telling you, Men’s Health,'” Hull says. “When I told him the e-mail came through that y’all wanted to talk to me, he said he jumped out of bed. He’s like, ‘We manifested this shit dude, this is it!’ So there’s a big part for me—that’s really emotionally satisfying.”
This is a testament to Hull’s hard work and the power that can come from adherence to a routine and a friend’s accountability. Something as simple as biking or jump roping for just a short period every day can turn you into someone that you had never envisioned. Just ask Hull, who recognizes how much of a positive shift he’s made over the past few years: “I was telling my wife if you told the version of me the morning before Pep challenged me, [Men’s Health] is gonna want to talk to you because you’ve done well, you’ve achieved it—I wouldn’t have believed it.”
Brett Williams, a fitness editor at Men’s Health, is a NASM-CPT certified trainer and former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running. You can find his work elsewhere at Mashable, Thrillist, and other outlets.