Sorry to spoil any preconceived notions you may have about rock & roll excess, but I usually return from tour healthier than when I left.
Routines Old & New
One of the harsh realities about tour life is that it’s difficult to maintain many of the routines from home.
Working out, eating healthy, practicing guitar, replying to emails, and writing regularly-scheduled blog posts can easily go right out the window.
But with a tiny bit of discipline, tour can also be a great opportunity to establish new routines.
Day-to-day life on the road tends to be repetitive––lunch at eleven, load in at noon, sound check at two, dinner at five, show at eight, load out at eleven, bus roll at midnight.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
It doesn’t take much effort to establish one more routine alongside all those others. Here are seven pointers to help you stay healthy on tour.
1. Plan Ahead: Pre-Tour
Have a fucking plan.” -Martin Atkins
Before you leave home, make a plan for working out, practicing, or working on a personal project.
What tools do you need? Is it a kettlebell, some workout clothes, a pullup bar?
This tour I’ve been lifting weights, and so I compiled a database of gyms near venues. The tour before I was training for the Chicago marathon, so I brought run-specific items.
On the practice side, I frequently pick one instructional book and play my way through it over the course of the tour.
It’s become a cliche, but that’s because it’s true:
Failing to plan is planning to fail.
2. Plan Ahead Again: Day-to-Day
Decide today what you’ll do tomorrow.
If you wait for inspiration to strike you before you workout or practice, you’ll never get it in.
The road is a terrible place to be in a reactive mindset.
There’s always something to go explore, a pleasant waste of time, or a well-intentioned bandmate that’ll derail your efforts.
Knowing that you need to hit the gym (and that it’s a mile-and-a-half walk away) before soundcheck (or whatever) keeps you focused.
3. Have An Ally
I’m terrifically lucky in this regard, because I tour with a group of health and fitness nuts. There’s always someone going for a run, riding the folding bikes into town, or swinging a kettlebell in the venue parking lot.
Just like at home, having a partner keeps you accountable.
Find yourself an ally.
4. Eat The Vegetables First
The first thing I do when catering hits is to fill a plate with vegetables or salad. I eat that, then fill a plate with protein. I eat a pile of healthy stuff before I go back for carbs or sweets.
It’s simple opportunity cost: if you fill up on real food first, there’s less room for cookies and chips.
5. Take The Leftovers
Before you leave for tour, get yourself a few different sizes of high-quality ziplock storage bags. When everyone’s done eating, go through and pack up the leftover fruit, the vegetable tray, the lunch meat, and those last four chicken breasts.
When you’re hungry at midnight, you can eat real food instead of fast food and/or truck stop beef jerky.
In Tallahassee, we had a day-off BBQ. In Baton Rouge, I slow roasted a pork shoulder in a hotel room. At a truck stop two hours East of San Antonio, I cooked scrambled eggs in the parking lot while we got a tire fixed on the trailer.
This is the first tour where I’ve attempted to cook, but so far it’s been a raging success.
I’m planning I wrote another post specifically about the Road Kitchen, but for now let me just say that it’s paid for itself, and I’ve eaten healthier in the process.
7. Fuck FOMO––Get Some Sleep
For me, the hardest part of staying healthy on the road is being disciplined enough to put myself to bed at a decent hour. These are some of very favorite people on this earth, and it’s tough to avoid staying up late, swapping stories and drinking whiskey until 4 am.
This is where having a day-to-day plan comes in so handy.
If I know I need to cook a new batch of steel-cut oats, do an hour-long workout at gym that’s a mile away, and write a blog post––all before a noon load-in––that means I need to be awake (and well-rested) at a decent hour.
I shoot for seven hours of sleep at night, with a short nap between dinner and showtime.
Staying up all night every night is a sure-fire way to get sick. And when you live in a confined space with ten roommates, that decision affects more than just you.
To Sum Up
Of course, these things are useful outside the confines of tour bus life too.
Planning ahead, finding an ally, cooking, eating, & sleeping are also a recipe for success in staying healthy, getting better at your instrument, and living the good life.