Today I was at the gym, working out with my friend, Gene Vano. He was the road manager for Little Feat for their entire run with Lowell George and was with Lowell on his last tour.
Gene and I will be having dinner this weekend and he wanted to know what time would be best to come over. I told him that I was performing on Sunday night, so I wanted to make an early night of it on Saturday. He looked perplexed and said, “you’re playing Sunday night.” I always start getting ready for the gig the night before, so I thought I would give you some thoughts on staying healthy on the road.
Performing is actually about energy. How much you put out and how much you give to the audience and to each song, dialog or comedic bit. And you can't put out energy if you are sick or tired.
Between the audience contact and the traveler contact, you are going to be exposed to an incredible array of bacteria, virus, disease, plague, …I think you get the idea. So you need to keep your immune system as strong as possible.
Wash your hands as often as you can without being accused of being Howard Hughes. And always wash for at least one minute with soap before you rinse. I have really cut back on the number of colds that I get since I began doing this. Also don’t put your fingers in your eyes. Your eyes have no immune system. Your mouth and your nose have things to fight disease with, but you eyes have nothing. That’s where the germ gets welcomed in to your body. Don’t touch your eyes.
I always start preparing for the gig the night before. No alcohol if I can help it. No drugs, and no late nights. I said it before. Your voice is the first place your weariness shows up. Take it easy the night before. I am a solo performer and there’s no where to hide if my health takes a dive. You folks in bands only have it a little bit easier, as there is someone who might be able to cover for you. With the solo work, it’s just you up there.
Drink lots of water. As much as you can stand. Keep your voice lubricated with plenty of water and you won’t find it suddenly disappearing on you. In the incredible heat this summer in the Los Angeles area, I’ve had my voice disappear on me twice. Entirely my fault. I didn’t drink any water that day and the heat just dehydrated me. Drink water. This also keeps your whole body moving stuff thru it in a more efficient manner. Try to get into the habit of drinking sixteen ounces of water when you wake up and another sixteen ounces before you go to sleep. If you do that, you are half way to the sixty four ounces of water that they recommend you drink every day.
Take a good multivitamin, and a 1000mg of C and a couple hundred of E. If you are traveling in a band, make certain that everyone takes 100 mg of zinc each day (take zinc, don’t stink—yes it works).
Watch your diet and try not to eat things that make you sluggish. No fried foods, not too much starch and carbs as you aren’t going to burn them off sitting in planes and tour busses. French fries and burgers at midnight are not a great idea, unless you are seventeen and immortal.
Another thing is snacks. Try to keep away from raw sugar, candies, etc. Fruit and nuts. Nobody in the world eats as much fruit as they are supposed to. Keep fruit and nuts in the car and in your travel bag.
And you need some kind of exercise regimen. If there is no gym then the stairs in your hotel for cardiovascular; two chairs and the bed in your hotel room for dips; push ups; sit ups; a great one for your abs is the plank.: hold yourself rigid and straight as a board with only your hands and your feet touching the ground. Do it for as long as you can.
If you are doing a lot of driving, then stop the car every few hundred miles and walk a bit. And walk vigorously. Ten minutes and you can drive for another couple of hours.
All these things combined should help to take some of the strain off of your body…and remember, travel is a days work. Try to get to the place you are playing the day before the gig. It will only cost you more the first night on the road. After that you’re out there anyway.