Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Weight Room: Literally

The following post is not meant to take the place of professional medical advice. Consult your doctor for recommendations and advice before you make any changes in your health routine or begin an exercise or diet regimen. And when I say diet, I simply mean what you take into your body as food and drink. Be smart and get professional medical advice before you make a major change in your lifestyle.

Apparently it's "Preach about physical health" week around here. Maybe it's the dreaded holiday gain, but I'm thinking about my health - and yours - this week.

One often overlooked aspect of being a great musician is overall physical health (along with emotional, spiritual, social, etc.). Think about the last time you saw a career-long, successful musician up close. It probably wasn't pretty. Musicians are not exactly known for, uh, healthy living, as it were.

So, I know we've all been through junior high health (most of us, anyway), but let's have a quick review.

  1. Get enough sleep. More and more research indicates that the standard 8 hours per night recommendation may not actually be adequate for teenagers. If you're in high school, you may need 9 or more hours to function properly and perform at your peak in school and elsewhere. For the rest of us, we must be aware of when we're burning the candle at both ends. Turn off the phone, the computer, iPad, TV, and whatever the heck else is keeping you up at night (seriously - you DON'T have to be the last one to text) and rest yourself. Every night. This one thing may make more difference than anything else, and ignoring it may have very serious consequences. 
  2. Exercise daily. Again, research (sorry to keep using the "R" word, but - well, you know) indicates that just walking for 30 minutes daily (serious walking, I'm not talking about shopping at the mall here) for at least 10 continuous minutes at a time can pay huge dividends in your overall health. You don't have to be a professional athlete, but get out and DO SOMETHING. 
  3. Fuel your body. When I say "fuel," I mean it. I'm not going to get too crazy about it, but I get very worried about the future when I see how much crap we eat and drink these days. Do you really think an energy drink and a pop-tart is going to do it? Eventually, all that synthetic excuse for food will catch up with us. Eat real food that has real value. The less processed the better, and the closer to the ground you can get it, the better. And if mom or dad cooked it, it has a bazillion times more health value than if you picked it up at the drive-thru or the gas station. And remember that, even if it's good stuff, too much is still too much. 
  4. Drink water, lots of it. This is the toughest one for me, but it's one of the most crucial. Water is the basic ingredient in our body, and it's the catalyst for every single function in our body. If we don't get enough of it, systems start to malfunction and eventually shut down. And I know I'm being Captain Obvious here, but alcohol, soda, energy drinks, coffee and even fruit juices don't take water's place. Experts recommend 8 glasses per day - that's 64 oz. or half a gallon - at a minimum, just to maintain health.
  5. Get some sun. Again, I'm not talking hours of sun-bathing or being irresponsible here. Too much sun can cause serious skin damage and lead to cancer. But 15-20 minutes a day of direct sunlight can be healthy for you. The sun helps your body absorb vitamin D and helps to balance mood and body functions. It also keeps your circadian rhythm in line. Especially in winter time, get out and get in the sun for a few minutes a day. 
I'm not a doctor. But I do believe that all of our body's systems are linked. You may think that being healthy is primarily about how your clothes fit or how you look, but it's much, much more than that. When you feel bad (which may come upon you gradually, so you may not even notice that it's happening), it affects everything you do. And that includes music.

It may not be just your bad practice habits that are keeping you from succeeding - it may be your lack of sleep, diet and sedentary habits that are getting in the way of you being a double kick pedal wizard.

If your health isn't what it could be, do something about it. And if you're in great shape (lucky dog, you!), do what it takes to maintain it. We can all do a little better with how we take care of our bodies. And the positive benefits will play out not only in our music making, but in school and work, relationships and hobbies, as well.

Happy - and healthy - drumming!

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