Being a professional gypsy can be a lot of fun, but let’s face it, it’s not always conducive to optimum health. I lived a really unhealthy life when I first started touring – in fact I had every bad habit going – but over the years I’ve figured out ways to love life on the road and look after myself at the same time. Here are the good-living tricks I’ve picked up along the way, I hope they give you some ideas if you’re trying to take better care of yourself!
Drink and drugs
Ok, let’s start with the obvious. A lot of us drink more than is wise – it’s all too easy to get on the bus and have a few beers. Even if you’re not actually getting mullered on a regular basis it’s a good idea to give your body a rest and have a few AFDs (alcohol-free-days) a week. It’s easier if there’s something healthy on hand that you like to drink instead – coconut water, decaff and herbal teas are good; in the States I really like GTS ginger Kombucha (if anyone knows where you can get it in the UK, let me know!) and I’m also a fan of alcohol-free beers. Sometimes you just want that “job well done” feeling of a nice cold one, and the best I’ve found is Beck’s Blue – I can’t tell the difference in taste. When you do have a drink, a glass or two of a decent red offers some health benefits.
As for cigarettes and drugs? There’s no middle ground really…. you know what to do if you and your body want to stay friends. I found Allen Carr’s “Easy Way” book a massive help in stopping smoking; and a great incentive to knocking bad habits on the head is stashing the money you would have spent and treating yourself to something cool as an end-of-tour present instead!
It’s reasonably easy to eat well if you have tour catering, but it can be hit and miss if you don’t. Even with catering there are great and less-great options, so just be mindful and make the best choices you can – it’s never going to be perfect, but go for the most nutritious thing on offer. Juicers make frequent appearances in catering these days, so take advantage – use plenty of vegetables and not too much fruit to keep the sugar down. (I like to compete with myself to make the ultimate disgusto-juice – greens, beetroot, ginger, the hardcore stuff – the worse it tastes the better it must be for you, right?!) If you’re at the mercy of local catering, which can be perfectly fine and can be… um…. “challenging”, then it’s good to have an emergency stash of healthy stuff. I keep things like nuts, protein bars, oatcakes etc in my tool drawers for bad-catering days – and in my suitcase as well, to stop me from monstering the hotel Pringles at a million dollars a throw when I check in and I’m ravenous!
I’m always hungry after load-out…. oh alright, weak-willed and greedy… anyway, I got my newest healthy touring trick on a bus where some people wanted the usual load-out pizzas and some wanted a change. We had a chat with production, and they agreed that we could halve the amount of pizza, and use the remainder of the budget for different things that we would put on the runner’s list. That worked brilliantly. We had a selection of things like vegetable crudites, houmous, nuts, crispbreads, dips, avocados, dark chocolate etc; whatever we fancied within reason and budget, and everyone was happy – it’s much easier to resist the siren call of cheesy carbs when there’s an alternative! Another favourite trick for a load-out snack is eating light before the show and boxing up some of my dinner; no, eating late at night isn’t ideal full stop, but being realistic it’s a better option than piling into the crisps at midnight!
Probiotic / vitamins
I take a multivitamin and my supplements as an insurance policy, and I’m a big fan of taking a probiotic tablet each day, particularly when you’re travelling in far-flung places – it can really help keep your digestion happy.
Loading in and out is a workout in itself, and as most of us are on our feet all day the general activity levels on the road are pretty high. Maximise the good work by taking advantage of hotel gyms on days off to get the cardio happening, or if that doesn’t appeal then take yourself out for an explore on foot around the city. (Pub crawls don’t count sadly…) If you’re near decent countryside you can even pool resources with a few others and rent a car, get yourself out into nature! My yoga mat goes wherever I go (no shock there), and I like to get an hour in before work, or in the lull pre or post soundcheck. (I’ve alarmed many a venue staff member who’s walked in on me upside-down in a spare room!) There are lots of online fitness classes you can stream or download for days off, and if yoga appeals then why not try one of my Youtube classes (see link button below), there are options for all levels including complete beginners.
Part of the fun of touring is going out for dinner with your mates on a day off, and there’s no reason to stop doing that, but once in a while it’s a treat to hibernate. Find a supermarket and get yourself a roadie buffet, or have some room service, watch a movie or box-set, chill out and have a luxurious early night!
Guided relaxations are a lovely way to help you fall asleep and are a great entry point for meditation and all the associated benefits of stress reduction and improved sleep. You could try one of the many Youtube guided relaxations or podcasts that are available for free, or download an app that you can listen to on headphones in your bunk. This has the added bonus of drowning out the collective farting and snoring.
So be inventive, experiment! Rome wasn’t built in a day, but just making one or two changes can make a big difference to how you feel every day, and help you to live fast and stay young!