10 Ways to Stay Healthy While On The Road as a Traveling Musician

Lack of sleep, bad food and no exercise are all factors that can pile up and leave you feeling bad while on the road. Here are 10 ways you can beat the blues and perform at your best.  

1. Good Nutrition

The most tempting thing in the world while on the road is to go for fast food, because it’s well, FAST!  Or, rely on a steady diet of pizza. Putting Broccoli on pizza gets you somewhere, but it’s still pizza. While everything in moderation is ok, not having a balanced diet can affect your body and mind tremendously and I hate to say it, especially when you get older. But, guess what?  Eating healthy is not as hard as it sounds. When you find yourself in a major city, there are tons of options for more vegetable heavy meals.

Take advantage of salad bars or ready made salads in grocery stores, hot soups, asian cuisine with healthy options, vegan restaurants, organic heavy cafes with interesting fare and fresh juices.. When it comes to nutrition and eating well, be an explorer of taste. The cool thing about being on the road is all the new restaurants to be explored.  Why rely just on In and Out and Miss Out?  In all seriousness, more and more evidence is coming out to support the importance of gut health. Think of the gut as another brain.  What you put in there will affect every cell in your body, so it’s best to choose something healthy, especially when you need to be in peak performance mode.  

2. Get Moving - Cardio

Nothing clears the head, gets the blood pumping and raises our natural endorphins like good old fashioned cardio. A good workout in the morning soon after rising can set the tone for the entire day, regulating your energy, mood, stamina and more.  It doesn’t matter if you are a late or early riser while on the road, the body will benefit from a good sweat. Thankfully there are great options to choose from as far as cardio goes.  If your hotel has a gym, jump on the treadmill, bike or hybrid cross trainer.  My personal favorite is the rower.

Going outside for a run or a brisk walk is also great if a gym option is not available. Look for a local gym or facility that has drop-in classes or personal workouts. A 30 minute cardio workout can be enough to provide lasting positive effects throughout the day. And if you can stick to it 3 - 4 times a week, the results will work wonders on your endurance.  Adding some muscle building exercises using weights will not only strengthen your body, but your mind as well.  You can also bring some weights on the road, like a Kettle Bell, which is has a whole full body workout system that many people receive benefit from.  

3. Get Stretching - Yoga 

Musicians on the road often sit most of the time on buses, planes, trains or driving themselves from city to city. Even backstage, there is a lot of waiting often between sound check and performance times. The body needs deep stretching and sustained movement to enhance flexibility and prevent cramping. Yoga is a great way to do this. There are so many different kinds of yoga classes now available all around the world offering whatever pace you may need. There are more active yoga classes that can also double as your cardio for the day, more restorative classes that provide deep stretching and poses held for a long time to also help relax the body and mind. There is more to just stretching with a yoga practice. The meditation and spiritual aspects of yoga studios can assist with the challenging mental aspects of life and provide inspiration to move through life with more ease and grace.

4. Sleep Soundly

The euphoria and excitement of a performance can keep you up into the wee hours of the morning. After many nights of this routine, It’s helpful to have a strategy to wind down so you can get a good night’s rest. Many musicians are night owls by nature and prefer to sleep in as travel allows. Keeping as regular a sleep schedule as you possibly can is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body’s rhythms. If there are a few intense travels days in a row with plane travel, get in a nap when you can. 

Some musicians use prescribed sleep aids and that works for them.  For me, I often try to exhaust more natural options first, but in some cases and for some musicians I’ve talked to, sleep aids work great, especially when flying across multiple time zones. I always say everything in moderation and be mindful of reliance on anything that has side effects that affect any other aspect of your life or performance. For some people, having a glass of wine or a drink helps the relaxation process, but when this habit turns into multiple drinks it can turn into an area of concern.  Musician’s Wellness company has a great supplement with two very important natural occurring minerals, Magnesium and Melatonin which aid in the relaxation and sleep process.   

5. Unplugging From Media

Musicians are constantly communicating with their fans, friends, representatives and more through social media and email to keep up with the promotional and managerial to-dos from city to city.  Like many working professionals and social media addicts alike, it’s hard to put down the phone, tablet or computer at all to catch a breath between updates.  There’s a sense of always needing to be connected, an urgency to follow-up, to not miss out or do something before you forget. Unfortunately, this lifestyle totally disconnects us from our immediate physical world, especially when having to check in constantly.

Unplugging from media means putting away the devices for an extended period of time, at least 30 minutes at a time would be my suggestion, and doing something else to support your well being. You can use something from this list, like meditate, do some yoga, ready an actual book or magazine, have a conversation with your bandmate without the phone in your hand, take a walk, gaze out the window at the moving scenery while traveling, or eat a meal without looking at the phone. Electronic devices are a blessing when you need to get things done quickly on multiple levels, but a curse that we are so reliant on them at the same time, especially when being plugged starts to affect our mental and emotional health.  

6. Vitamins And Supplements

Here’s the thing about vitamins and supplements - they don’t provide the ‘quick fix’ or ‘band-aid’ that prescribed pharmaceuticals do.  They often take longer to ‘work’ and balance deficiencies in the body. But, after going through my own health crisis related to gut issues with hormones and minerals being out of whack, supplements truly work in supporting the basic systems of the body, which in turn help the mental, physical and emotional states. I am in no way discounting certain prescribed medications for people who chronic illness or issues that need support of medications to function and by all means, it’s important for those people to make sure they have the supply they need to be at ease while traveling.  But, I do want to address the reliance on substances like alcohol and pain killers, which deplete the body’s vital minerals, among other things, with overuse and lead to all kinds of issues. 

Getting on a good program like the service Musician’s Wellness provides is a great place to start if you are totally new to the supplement game. First it’s a good idea to have your body analyzed for vitamin, mineral and hormone levels. Many naturopaths do this as part of their practice. Then, you know what kind of program to put together or your optimal health. Most of us are deficient in Vitamin D and Magnesium, especially if you are under stress constantly.  I love Musicians Wellness because they put custom packages together for Musicians that include the supplements you may need and you can mix, match and switch any time.  They have great products for vocal health too to protect the singers in your groups who are belting out the hits night after night.   

7. Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness Meditation is all the buzz these days and for good reason. There is more and more scientific evidence emerging that meditation has incredible benefits for your overall health. This really falls under the ‘unplugging’ category of staying healthy. But not just unplugging from your electronic devices, but completely tuning inward to your own inner world with eyes closed and dropping into a 10, 20 or 40 minute session that is just for breathing and inner contemplation. Meditation is about just being in the moment without doing; Accepting whatever comes up and letting yourself be an observer of what is happening without judgement. This takes practice! 

You can meditate anywhere and anytime for as little as a few breaths to a whole session at a yoga or meditation studio. Maybe you're not ready for meditation in complete silence?  That’s ok because there’s a perfect solution for musicians who would like to get into meditation and that’s sound healing or sound meditation. Sound meditation works the same way as silent Meditation, except the guide or practitioner plays a variety of soothing instruments and tones to help you ‘drop-in’ to a calm brain state and also give you something to focus on when anxious thoughts begin to arise. Sound vibrations, as musicians know, are powerful tools for well-being and are now offered more and more in meditation environments as another vehicle to increasing healthy states of awareness. 

8. Connection With Friends And Family

It can be lonely out on the road, even if your bandmates and your crew are your best friends. Traveling musicians often leave families back home and don’t see or connect with the people they care about as often as they would like.  Connecting with loved ones provides solid emotional and mental support, provided that you have healthy relationships to begin with! Utilize that FaceTime and Skype resource to say hello, talk about a difficulty, share exciting news and say I love you.  Make connecting with loved ones part of your schedule, so you always have a piece of home with you.

9.  Avoid Stress With Smart Scheduling

Travelling comes along with all sorts of unforeseen surprises, especially late or cancelled flights or car troubles, which can be stressful on everyone involved. While some things related to being on the road are out of one's control, there are still ways to organize the daily/weekly schedules to minimize stressful situations. As you adjust from city to city, try to keep a solid performance day routine that includes the exercise, solid meal times, arriving at the venue for sound check with plenty of time to set up and execute a solid performance later in the evening.  If you are a smaller indie operation, assign someone like a significant other, assistant or intern type person to help draft this schedule and help you stick to it. 

I think this is most crucial during performance days. There’s nothing more stressful, in my opinion, than constantly feeling behind or late as the day progresses and then not being prepared on all levels to deliver your greatness. On off days, which is another important feature to have embedded in the schedule while traveling, you can be more spontaneous and free to balance the rigors of game day, while still maintaining good choices around your well-being of course. 

10. Take Some Personal Creature Comforts

If you have children, you know how important it is for them to have their favorite stuffed animal or blanket wherever they go. But adults need creature comforts too, especially when out on the road for many weeks.  Of course as an adult, those things are different than what children need, but it’s important to be comfortable and have a piece of home with you in whatever form that may be. It may be your favorite slippers, the pair of sweatpants you can’t live without, a crystal or gift/token from a loved one, framed picture, good luck charm, a content stock of your favorite snack or beverage, your pillow, etc.

I’d love to hear your what your favorite comforts are while on the road. As musicians, we live kind of a gypsy lifestyle of sorts.  We are needed in the world to provide entertainment and inspiration, but we also should be well taken care of and comfortable while doing it. So, take care of yourself while you are taking care of the world.

Namaste! <3

Lynda Arnold is a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist (voice, flute, piano, and guitar), and electronic musician/sound artist who has been producing, performing, and developing her own sound for over 12 years as ‘Divasonic;’ an ethereal, song driven electronic music project with multiple album and single releases on labels EMI, Cl... Read More

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