For a lot of musicians, touring is the experience of a lifetime – whether it's your first or your twentieth. But touring takes its toll, from organizing dates with promoters and band managers to the long flights and the longer drives.
Being on tour presents unique challenges to musicians in terms of managing their health – many, if not most, tours are fraught with bad food, little sleep, and loads of stress. But a little planning can go a long way in staying healthy and rested while you're on tour, making future tours much more likely. Here are five ways to manage your health on tour.
One of the biggest keys to good health is getting enough sleep, and on tour, getting enough rest is even more critical. For musicians with incredible stamina, touring for a month straight with little sleep might not tax them as much; but no matter how strong, fit, and healthy you already are, you'll want to make sure to schedule downtime during your tour. Think of your tour the way you'd think about your job – working too many days in a row with no days off at all wears you down and, eventually, can make you sick. Schedule days off throughout your tour where you can sleep in, relax, and prepare to move on to your next tour location. It will make all the difference to your energy levels – and help keep your immune system strong.
Don't Overdo It
All dedicated musicians care about putting on a fantastic show, but a lot of musicians totally overwork their bodies onstage, resulting in both short-term injury and long-term mobility issues. Many a musician has had to see a doctor or visit a hospital following a show because they absolutely shredded their bodies during the gig – and over time, doing this too much can result in a number of long-term physical maladies like arthritis, bursitis, and shin splints. It's normal to be a little sore after a show, but don't work so hard that you're in real pain.
Skip the Booze and the Energy Drinks
Both alcohol and caffeine heavily dehydrate the body, and dehydration interferes with everything from cognition and memory function to restful sleep and muscle responsiveness. Sure, having a drink here and there is fine, but don't booze up before and after your shows, and take it easy on the caffeine. If you really need a boost, try an espresso over an energy drink – or try foods or supplements that slow-release big amounts of energy over time, like granola, protein bars, or power green smoothies.
Eat Real Food
This is one area of touring where planning is especially careful, because while a lot of touring musicians live off fast food and Waffle House while they're touring, not eating real food seriously depletes your energy, leading to sickness and exhaustion. When you're making your tour schedule, look at where you might really need to stop off for food rather than making something – like if you have two locations far enough apart where you have to drive hard and fast to make it in time. The rest of the time, though, make time to hit the stores and farmers' markets to get real food. Eat whole and nutritious foods – including lots of produce, lean proteins, and whole grains – and it will make all the difference to both your overall health and your energy levels throughout the tour. Even if you can't cook, a sandwich and a piece of fruit are still a way better bet than just stopping off at Taco Bell.
It's tempting to pack in as many dates as you possibly can into a tour – but the biggest temptation is to extend the tour if you get a lot of gig offers. Even if you're taking care of yourself, touring is exhausting, and more than one musician in the annals of touring history has had to spend months recuperating from a lengthy tour once they got home. Generally, you'll want to limit your tour to four to six weeks, max – and that's if everyone in your act is in relatively good condition with few or no chronic health conditions to manage. If you're getting a ton of gig offers, take the ones that make the most sense, and take a rain check on the others for your next tour.
Managing your health on tour isn't the easiest of tasks. The heavy amounts of travel, the late nights, and the constant on- and off-stage activity can be grueling even to the most seasoned musicians. However, taking the time to ensure you're getting enough rest, enough nutrition, and enough relaxation will make for not only a better tour, but better performances – for the tour you're on and the tours to come.