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Detailing Fitness: Mind and Body


Using the right products and tools is serious business for both Detailing Professionals and Enthusiasts alike. Without a doubt, choosing the right products is as highly important as knowing how to use them properly. Go into any detailing forum and you’re sure to find that discussions on products and techniques are among the most common. There is however a topic of discussion that is rarely discussed, and it has to do with the most important component of the detailing process, the human element. In this article, I will be addressing the importance of physical and mental fitness in detailing to help you improve your health, quality of work and mental wellness.

Detailing Fitness

In my opinion, the human element is the most important component in detailing. The products and tools we use in detailing are useless without the abled body using them. This not only means for the user to be physically fit but to be mentally fit as well. Let’s look into some of the physical factors in detailing.

Jason Warnock working on a jet wing on #projectjetdetail

Detailing can be very physically demanding, and for those of us who do it on a daily basis, it may not seem as physical as we tend to get used to the physicality involved. This “getting used to it” mentality is usually where many of the problems begin that can cause bodily harm in the long run. I’ve heard from fellow detailers having everything from a bad back, shoulder pain, neck problems, joint issues, and various other conditions as a result of detailing. I remember several years ago, my older brother asked me to help him polish his boat. We weren’t even 30 minutes into the project when my brother stopped and asked me “how can you not feel any pain? My arms are killing me.” It then hit me that I was conditioned over years of using a polisher for an extended period of time. I never really gave it that much thought before.

Justyna Brys of JB CarDetail cleaning a Ferrari F430

Physical Wellness Tips

Detailing can be pretty rough on the body, and I’ve known many detailers that have been stopped in their tracks due to back problems and other physical issues. The odd physical movements, repetitiveness, and exposure to chemicals can certainly cause issues without some precautions. Prevention is always important, so here are some tips to help.

  • Stretching is key. Before, during, and after a project, take some time to do some basic stretching exercises. For detailing, it’s good to stretch the shoulders, arms, legs, neck, and back. It only takes a few minutes, and your body will thank you for it. When writing this article, I reached out to my good friend Justyna Brys at JB CarDetail and she told me that she always stretches before and during every detail project to stay flexible. She also exercises regularly to keep in detailing shape. Having been detailing since 1995, Justyna has certainly learned some best practices to keep her wellness a priority in order to keep detailing safely for decades.

Simple stretching before, during and after detailing can go a long way to healthier detailing.

  • Take a break. If you are feeling tired, take a break to stretch out, clear your mind for a bit. Don’t overexert yourself! As you start to wear down physically, you also begin to mentally lose focus, which is also when your quality of work greatly begins to decline.
  • Proper Diet. We’ve all heard this as kids, “you are what you eat” and in detailing, how you fuel your body is highly important. Being fueled by fast-food, cigarettes and caffeine is never a good thing. Making healthy choices in your diet will benefit your body by strengthening bones, supporting muscles, boost your immunity among other benefits.
  • Exercise Regularly. It goes without saying, but regular exercise is always a sure bet to help you keep physically fit. The benefits of regular exercise are tremendous and will certainly keep you healthily detailing for years to come. Being in my late 40s, I make it a routine to go to the gym 3 times a week and especially focus on my shoulders, back, and arms to help keep me fit for detailing. I can tell you that for me, this had been a tremendous benefit, and it’s one that makes working that much healthier.
  • Safety First. Wear the proper Personal Protective Equipment and live to detail another day. In detailing we work with a lot of chemicals, solvents, abrasives, etc. I’ve seen people use ceramic coatings without a respirator, gloves, safety glasses. One thing is posing for a promotional picture, another is the reality of working with these products and wearing the appropriate PPE in your shop. Always make safety a priority in your shop or detail studio.
  • Love your Heart. Heart disease is a major threat and unfortunately its symptoms are not always recognizable. I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t feel if I have high cholesterol. So, it’s always important to see a doctor regularly to get your blood pressure checked and blood tested. Stress and mental health can greatly affect your heart as well, which brings us to our next topic, mental health.

When detailing flexibility meets cleaning rear glass. Justyna Brys at JB CarDetail

Mental Wellness Tips:

For enthusiasts, detailing can be viewed as therapeutic as a way to get away from the stresses of everyday life. For those of us who make our living detailing, it’s a business. Like most business owners, running a business can be mentally exhausting and, in many ways, become extremely unhealthy. I know plenty of detailers that find it difficult to turn off that work/life switch. As a result, I’ve seen everything from divorce, anxiety attacks, heart attacks, addiction, and even suicide.

Not only can mental health affect the body, your quality of life, but in terms of detailing, it can greatly affect your performance.  Things that cause you stress and anxiety can come in various forms. Stress and anxiety can come from customers, social media, family, friends, work environment, or relationships to name a few. Recently, I was a guest on the Detail Solutions Podcast with Alex Russell, and we discussed mental health in detailing. I shared with Alex my story in regard to detailing and mental health.

Before I started Forza Detailing, I had previously worked at a shop that greatly affected my mental health. So much in fact, that I had lost my love for detailing and needed to see a therapist for almost a year. The work environment had begun to affect all aspects of my life and my health began to decline as well. For the first time in my life, I had experienced an anxiety attack and that moment scared me enough to seek help. I’m not ashamed to share this, as I feel that it is important for other detailers to know that one’s mental health is absolutely crucial to their quality of life and can affect everyone. Thankfully, after professional therapy, exercise, support, and leaving that hostile work environment, I was able to regain my love for detailing and most importantly, improve my quality of life tenfold.

So here are some tips that have helped me and other fellow detailers in regard to mental health.

  • Seek Professional Help. Some signs that you may need to seek help may include things such as depression, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, excess anxiety, or disconnection from normal activities. There’s no shame in seeking therapy!
  • Reach Out and Community. Isolation is not good. Reach out to veterans and/or fellow detailers in your inner circle. As detailers, we speak a common language, and we can understand each other in ways that someone outside of detailing can understand.
  • Sleep!!! The body and mind need to recharge. It’s important to get into a good sleeping pattern with 7 or more hours per night. Avoid checking your phone before going to bed. Devices can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep by not allowing your mind to unwind.
  • Avoid Staying up late. On weekends, stay up late and by all means, sleep in if you can. During the week, stick to a normal work schedule. I’ve seen many detailers post that “late night grind” pic at 3 am and pretty soon it becomes an unhealthy routine.
  • Breathe. Simple deep breaths have been shown to reduce stress, help you relax, and reduce anxiety. I typically do some deep breathing exercises when taking small breaks during a project. Sometimes you need to step away from that insane paint correction and take a few moments to breathe and relax. Wooooosah!
  • Phone Calls. Set boundaries for yourself and your business. We’ve all gotten that message from a customer on a random weekday at 11am. If it’s after your business hours, reply during your working hours the following day or available day. I made the mistake of not doing this once and the next time that customer called me at midnight on a Sunday night. For after hour messages, I recommend setting up an automated response on Facebook and Instagram. This goes for tagging your company as well. Set up your Do Not Disturb on your mobile phone to coincide with your business hours. Even on the weekends, because again, a random call on a Sunday night at midnight can happen.
  • Social media. If there’s one thing in this modern world of ours that has certainly affected mental wellness, it’s social media. Social media anxiety is a reality and is pretty common in today’s online world. Disconnect from your phone and social media and give yourself a mental rest.  Avoid checking your phone and social media before going to bed. Otherwise, the next thing you know, you are hours deep down the rabbit hole in detailing videos and forums. And whatever you do, don’t become a social media troll, looking for conflict, flexing your knowledge on forums, etc. Some good advice, if something bothers you or you prefer not to see it, unfollow them and move on. Personally, I average about 3 minutes a month on Facebook and even that is 3 minutes too much for me. The madness of social media has become pretty intense in recent years and signs of its effect on mental health are pretty easy to see. Be social media responsible.
  • Take time off/Vacation. I know a lot of fellow detailers that feel guilty for taking time off and have not taken a vacation for years. Everyone needs downtime to give themselves a major recharge. Schedule and make a commitment to spend quality time when taking time off. Your customers don’t like to be bothered when they are on vacation, so why should you be bothered when you take yours. I know what too many people that do the “workcation” thing, and that’s something more suitable for something like the SEMA Show and not an actual vacation.
  • Manage your ego. Having confidence in your abilities is one thing, being cocky is another. If your head no longer fits through your garage door, you may need to take a good piece of humble pie. This is one that was at the top of the list of many of the detailers I spoke with for this article. As detailers, we all have an ego, but that ego requires management. As many of you read this, I’m sure you can instantly think of a few individuals who let their egos get the best of them. Unfortunately, we tend to work in an industry where huge egos are pretty commonplace. Having an unmanaged ego affects mental health by negatively impacting your quality of life. You simply stop enjoying life and can no longer be comfortable accepting things as they really are. I personally went down that road many years ago and it negatively affected my relationship with others around me. Luckily, I had people in my life that made me take a good look in the mirror and made me realize what I had become.
  • Stay in your lane.  Oftentimes, it’s easy for people to become discouraged and unhappy because they see a competitor or someone online “killing it” and appearing to be much more successful than them. This is something that tends to create much anxiety and can cause you to lose focus of your goals. Remember that success is relative and remain focused on your happiness and goals.

When the mind and body are in balance, there's no feeling like the Zen of detailing.

Closing Thoughts:

Like anything in life, it’s all about balance. Too much of anything is never a good thing and it’s easy to fall into some bad habits and routines. Unfortunately for many of us, we have to hit a low point before making a change in those bad habits or routines. Having that proper work/life balance along with regular exercise, a healthy diet, healthy lifestyle will certainly help improve your mental wellness. Being sound of mind and body can also have a major positive impact on your quality of work and in turn helping create success in your business. Put enthusiasm in your work, give it your best and learn to relax.

Detailing can be a very fulfilling profession. The ability to take something and make it better gives you satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, and pride. Despite the recognition, accomplishments, financial gains, nothing lasts forever. We are human, and in a blink of an eye, our lives can drastically change. Our health can suddenly take a turn for the worse, and there is no celebrity ego trip that can save anyone from something like that from happening. All of the money and success in the world means nothing if you are truly unhappy. I believe it to be a true blessing to be able to do what you love for a living. For me, I am thankful every day to have regained my love for detailing. I hope these tips can help you to keep detailing for many happy and healthy years to come. Stay healthy my friends!

Mike Cardenas
Forza Detailing
Northeast Indiana
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10 comments on Detailing Fitness: Mind and Body

  1. Rodney Tatum says:

    I do not think this topic, content, or effort put into this kind of article can recieve enough praise.

  2. Ron Ayotte says:

    Detailing a vehicle is like a gym workout… between carrying the equipment to do the detail, working on the vehicle, crawling over, under, sideways and down, contorting one’s self to get into tight spaces to clean, not to mention the number of steps you take just doing the job.

    I know one thing… that after I finish a detail (I only do one vehicle a day unless they are ceramic coating maintenance washes), I am exhausted!

  3. Billy Swiney says:

    So I agree with comments already provided one thing I should mention is clean eating and Exercise promotes good health and endurance meaning you’ll have the energy to last through the day And with the proper stretches The fatigue will be minimal

  4. Keith Cowley says:

    Great advice Mike. Although I was ok mentally, I had to undergo all of your physical tips after needing a replacement heart valve a few years ago when I was still working as a cab driver. The cardio team drummed it into me that physical exercise and proper relaxation techniques were absolutely vital and I found I really enjoyed them as time went on. I’m still here to tell the tale and although I’ve given up cab driving now in between all the walks, stretches and a little yoga I really enjoy detailing my 23 years old almost classic car. Yes, I love it!

    • Thanks for sharing Keith. It’s amazing how stress and lack of relaxation can take a toll on one’s heart. I’m glad to hear that you are doing much better and have found the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Keep up the good work!

  5. John Petru says:

    This is an especially well-written article concerning the physical and mental aspects of automotive detailing.
    To me, it was a reminder of the importance to “take a break” if you are feeling physically tired during a detailing session. When this occurs, take a few minutes to relax and reenergize before returning to the task at hand.

  6. For additional mental health tips and information for detailing, check out this episode on The Detail Solutions Podcast in which I was a guest on.

  7. We recently started our new mobile car detailing company and came across this article.

    Really appreciate you taking the time to educate us on this. I’ll be honest, I’ve never thought of our business as something that we need to be fit for in body and mind. It was just something that we just had to do. I’m really glad that you stressed the importance of mental health, because I know personally that the drive to perfect your craft can sometimes make us neglect our minds and ultimately lead us to breakdown in the long-run.

    There’s a lot of different aspects of car detailing, but you were the first in describing what you refer to as the human element of it and describing why we need to focus on this in order to be the best we can be at our jobs.

    Thanks a ton!

    • Thanks for the feedback and positive words. In my opinion, in Detailing it’s those intangibles and aspects that are rarely discussed or trained on that truly make the difference on running a successful business. It’s important to keep the work/life balance and create a work environment in which you never want to retire from. Most people find a job to retire from. There’s a difference.

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