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Some practical health tips for working musicians

My previous post on nutrition, sleep, and exercise shared some guidance for optimal health, wellness, and longevity. Read that first if you haven’t yet. 

While I stand by every word, I recognize that for my audience of musicians who often live on the road and spend odd and long hours in the studio, that ideal can be difficult to achieve. So let me offer some advice to those musicians who don’t always have the luxury of near-by Whole Foods, 8 hours of restful sleep, or convenient places to regularly exercise.

As I wrote in the previous post, we all have to discover a routine for nutrition, sleep, and exercise that works for us. On the road or within an unpredictable schedule, however, your job becomes even more difficult to not only be aware of your body and mind’s needs for health and energy, but to be creative and willing to find ways that provide for those needs within inconvenient and uncertain circumstances characterized by a musician’s lifestyle. 

Here are a few things to consider that can help you make the best of your health as a working musician.

  • For some, this may seem funny, but reducing your recreational drug and alcohol use is a good first step. Believe me, I know that these things feel good in the short term but they cause harm in the long term. And these two posts are focused on your long-term health and wellness. Enough said.
  • Be conscious about your food choices. In most restaurants or road-side stops, there are better and worse nutritional choices. Even in a 7-Eleven, there are better choices than the luke-warm pizza that’s been spinning behind glass for the past 9 hours! Think, don’t just give in to your cravings for carbs, sugar, and fat.
  • Regarding exercise, seek out opportunities to get fresh air and sunshine. You are not a vampire. Throw shoes, shorts and a t-shirt in your travel bag and find 30 minutes to get out and run or walk. Maintaining your fitness doesn’t require much. Maybe avoid hotel elevators in favor of stairs. Hey, I hear that many hotels these days even have exercise facilities!
  • Make good choices that provide for just a couple more hours of sleep. The after-the-gig-hang is fun, but by using some discipline, be aware of the time, and don’t be intimidated by your friends shaming you out of retiring to bed at a time that you know is best for you.
  • Be honest and aware of how you feel. Your body is giving you signals all the time that you can sense if you are willing to feel them. Consider a health wearable like a Fitbit , Apple Watch, or Oura ring as a good investment in your health monitoring and management.
  • When returning home from the road, consider cleaning out your system, or what is commonly called detoxing. You can look up thousands of various detox methods like this fun video, but start by drinking a lot of water and getting to bed earlier than you have been (and don’t eat right before that nice long sleep).
Life is often about balance. Living to the age of 110 sucks if you spent it exclusively eating broccoli and juicing wheat grass, avoiding all yummy food, sleeping 10 hours daily, and jogging all morning. Find the balance that provides you with a life worth living AND the discipline to be conscious of what your body and mind need to live to a healthy ripe old age.

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4 thoughts on “Some practical health tips for working musicians”

  1. Good job Mike!! I’m glad you added this new part to your original blog because even though everything you wrote in your first blog I’m sure is true, the practicality of being able to access even 10% of it realistically while on tour or in the studio of what you recommend is pretty much out of reach unless you are Sting or the Rolling Stones and travel with a TEAM of mofos specifically hired to take care of all those important health needs of the cats while on tour. Also, I must say from my own personal experiences of being on and off the road for 50 years with people like Stan Getz, Chet Baker, Freddie Hubbard, John Abercrombie, John Sco, Lieb, Randy, Gregor, etc. Most of the time, you are at the mercy of the itinerary and tour managers and the booking agency, there are NO heathy choices if you are just a young sideman on the road traveling in a van at 2am on the German Autobahn when you are famished!! But now I am 75 and I take your suggestions to heart, Thanks for great info and for caring.

  2. Avatar
    Claudia Lang-Colmer

    I wish I had read this 60 yrs ago. I have been a pro from the age of 16 playing long hours. Never smoked (apart from years of passive smoking) or drank, but hardly any sleep and never thought about nutrition. Lockdown really affected me, going from gigging several nights a week all through the year, to nothing, turned me into an old woman which was never on the ‘bucket list’. I am now only doing one gig a month and finding it hard work which surprises me, so I am definitely going down the ‘more sleep, more nutrition’ route. Thankyou.

  3. Thanks Mike for these articles. My years on the road were packed with the tour buses who stopped at all the McDonalds, or when we were down south, family’s feelings were hurt when someone said “You ain’t gonna eat some of Mama Lee’s cherry or apple pies? What about uncle Sonny’s sausage?” Not to mention the backstage tables lined with homemade cooked foods that were ready upon our arrival.

    No wonder we all looked like young houses then!!

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Michael Lake

Trombonist, author, marketer, & tech guy

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