As a musician, why should I care about staying healthy?

As an independent or self-employed musician, it’s vital that you lead a healthy lifestyle. (see what I did there? 🙂 )

At some level, your health will determine how far you can go in the business. It effects your performances, your mental capabilities while composing, and so many other things. It behooves you to take a moment and reflect on your current health and what you’re doing to stay healthy.

I’m certainly no health expert, and I’m definitely not a health nut, but you don’t have to be in order to reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, there have been long seasons in my life where I’ve lived an unhealthy lifestyle in several respects. That said, I have run several half-marathons in the past and did a metric century bike ride. I’ve done P90X a couple times in the past and am currently following a fun little exercise plan I’ll explain more about below. Although I’m not the healthiest person, I am trying. And that’s all I’m recommending for you: try.

Health is a journey.

The Internet and bookstores are full of information on this topic, so I’m just going to add a few things and let you explore on your own. One thing to remember is health is not a destination, it is a journey. If you fall down, then get up, wipe yourself off, and start moving forward again.

NOTE: A gym membership is not required to stay healthy.

Personally, when I think of “fitness” or “health”, I break it down into five distinct categories: Diet, Strength, Endurance, Flexibility, and Mental Health. How is your health in each of these areas?

1. Diet (aka “what you put into your body”)

Diet fads and nutrition advice come and go, but one truth remains: you are what you eat. It’s common sense, really. If you eat a bunch of unhealthy junk food, you’re not going to feel that great and your body is going to revolt and start shutting down on you. If you don’t eat enough healthy food, your body is going to atrophy. So choose a diet that works for you and make some good choices.

DietStaying hydrated is also really important. Drink a lot of fluids, especially water.

Tip: If you hate diets or don’t want to change what you eat or drink, at the very least employ the simplest of tricks: portion control. In other words, be mindful of how much you take in. Simple. Instead of eating five cookies, eat just one or two. Instead of drinking six sodas a day, drink two or three. 😉

What you eat greatly affects how you think. Want to become a better composer or perform those fast riffs on the guitar or piano? Want to feel energized for a long session or while traveling? Then choose a healthy diet.

2. Strength (aka “weight lifting” and “body building”)

Strength training is probably the main thing people associate with “going to the gym.” When you look around a normal gym, most of the equipment you see is meant to help you grow your muscles and stay strong.

StrengthMy only tips here are to take it slow and also don’t neglect parts of your body. If you build up too fast or overdo it, you’re very likely to pull a muscle, mess up your tendons, tweak your back, or any number of things. Also, if you work a muscle group, don’t forget to also work the opposing muscle group. And you’ll look pretty silly if your legs are super strong, but your upperbody is weak, or vice versa.

Think of it this way: the stronger you are, the bigger the amps and sound equipment you can pick up and lug around, and the less likely you are to miss out on events or gigs because you overdid it.

3. Endurance (aka “cardio”)

CyclingThe other primary things you see in gyms are there to help your heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular systems): running, jogging, cycling, group exercises, rowing, etc. If you get tired walking up a flight of stairs or walking to the fridge in the kitchen to get a snack, then you probably want to examine what you’re doing in this area of your health.

The healthier your heart is, the more stamina you will have in all sorts of areas in your life. Do you get tired after doing a 30-minute gig? Want to think clearer? Hate it that you sound out of breath while you’re singing? Then take a look at what you’re doing in the cardio department.

Tip: Just 30 minutes of cardio a few times a week will make a huge difference. Find a type of cardio workout you enjoy, or switch it up between lots of different types of exercises, and get going.

4. Flexibility (aka “stretching” and “bend without breaking”)

I feel so bad for Flexibility… it’s often neglected and left out from the conversation completely, even though it is so important. FlexibleFlexibility is what allows you to bend without breaking, touch your toes, turn, twist, reach, and achieve things otherwise impossible.

When I don’t work on my flexibility, I find I get hurt in the most stupidest of ways. Here are some examples. I’d turn my head and tweak my neck. I’d bend down to pick up some trash and throw my back out. I’d reach up top for the cereal box and tweak my shoulder. These types of stories not only make me feel old, frail, and embarrassed, they also sadly often put me out of commission for a week or two.

Tip: As with strength training, make sure you stretch and flex all the major parts of your body regularly.

5. Mental Health

Mental HealthLast, but certainly not least, is your mental health. All of the things above greatly affect your mental health. Included in your mental health are things like mental clarity, mood, emotions, and social well-being.

Besides improving those other areas of health above, you can also work on your mental health specifically by doing unheard of and unorthodox things like resting, relaxing, reflecting, and meditating. (doh! I couldn’t think of another “r” word) 🙂 Really, though, it’s important to slow down and take a break. Given my ambitious and driven personality, this one is really hard for me, and I can notice when I haven’t given myself time to rest and relax. This is especially true at night when my mind is racing with things to do, work, and such.

Tip: if you want to kill lots of birds with one stone, try yoga. Not only will you work on your mental health, you’ll also work on your flexibility, endurance, and strength.

So what are some things I’m doing for my health?

Now that we covered that, as a fun exercise I thought I’d share with you the workout plan that I’m currently using (see what I did there? 🙂 ). I’m sharing this with you to give you a glimpse into how I’m working on some of the things above.

I’m not recommending you use this plan. In fact, it sort of flies in the face of the well-known rule about resting a day or so between exercises of a certain muscle group. Rather, I simply want to encourage you to reflect on your own health and find a plan that you would be excited about and you think you could do. In addition to the plan below, I’m also trying to eat better in general (thanks, wifey!) and eat in smaller portions.

I’m currently following a neat little workout plan that I heavily modified based on something I read over on NerdFitness. I was inspired, and so I put together my own modified plan that would suit my needs. I added some other exercises as well to round it out. I started it back in December 2016, and my goal for this plan is to finish by summer. In other words, I time-boxed this effort and will make a new plan, possibly something completely different, when I’m done with this one.

I printed it out and check off the workouts each day! I love checking off items!

After a few weeks of following this plan and eating better, I noticed real changes in my body. I started getting noticeably stronger, building muscle, and losing weight. I feel better, healthier, and can think more clearly. After a month or two, I modified the plan again to suit my lifestyle and goals.

Start small and build up.

Here’s the basic idea: start with a very small number of reps or time, and then increase it slowly every day. Once an exercise gets to the maximum amount I want to do, the reps reset to a small number that is bigger than the number of reps from the last time. It’s basically a saw-tooth pattern.

Workout saw tooth pattern

Anyway, my plan is nothing special. Remember that the exact numbers of reps aren’t the point and don’t really matter. Choose numbers that work for you.

I originally started out back in December 2016 at lower reps (3 minutes stretching, 20 jumping jacks, 30 seconds plank, 5 reps of the other stuff). What I’m showing below is the plan I’m currently following after I reset back to 10 reps. That’s because I decided to change around the plan and how often I would work out (it was originally every single day). I used to do the saw-tooth idea for stretching and cardio, too, but I decided to stick to 10 minutes of stretching (love it!) and 30 minutes of cardio three times a week. I also gave myself a day off once a week. Although it shows to workout on Saturday, I let myself either do it on Saturday or Sunday, whichever fits my schedule. Same type of thing for cardio.

Without further ado, here it is. Feel free to use it, if you like. Make sure to modify it to fit your personal needs. It’s definitely not a “beginners” plan. Don’t overdo it and get hurt! That would make me sad. If you’re really out of shape or have an injury, you’ll probably want to talk to your doctor first.

My Current Short-Term Workout Plan

DateStretch (min)JacksPlank (sec)SquatsPush-upsLungesSit-upsPull-upsCardio (min)
Wednesday, Jan 25, 20171058601010101010
Thursday, Jan 26, 2017105970111111111130
Friday, Jan 27, 20171060801212121212
Saturday, Jan 28, 2017106190131313131330
Sunday, Jan 29, 2017
Monday, Jan 30, 201710621001414141414
Tuesday, Jan 31, 20171063110151515151530
Wednesday, Feb 1, 201710641201616161616
Thursday, Feb 2, 20171065130171717171730
Friday, Feb 3, 201710661401818181818
Saturday, Feb 4, 20171067150191919191930
Sunday, Feb 5, 2017
Monday, Feb 6, 201710681602020202020
Tuesday, Feb 7, 20171069170212121212130
Wednesday, Feb 8, 201710701802222222222
Thursday, Feb 9, 2017107160232323232330
Friday, Feb 10, 20171072702424242424
Saturday, Feb 11, 2017107380252525252530
Sunday, Feb 12, 2017
Monday, Feb 13, 20171074902626262626
Tuesday, Feb 14, 20171075100272727272730
Wednesday, Feb 15, 201710761102828282828
Thursday, Feb 16, 20171077120292929292930
Friday, Feb 17, 201710781303030303030
Saturday, Feb 18, 20171079140313131313130
Sunday, Feb 19, 2017
Monday, Feb 20, 201710801603232323232
Tuesday, Feb 21, 20171081170333333333330
Wednesday, Feb 22, 201710821803434343434
Thursday, Feb 23, 2017108360353535353530
Friday, Feb 24, 20171084703636363636
Saturday, Feb 25, 2017108580373737373730
Sunday, Feb 26, 2017
Monday, Feb 27, 20171086903838383838
Tuesday, Feb 28, 20171087100393939393930
Wednesday, Mar 1, 201710881104040404040
Thursday, Mar 2, 20171089120414141414130
Friday, Mar 3, 201710901304242424242
Saturday, Mar 4, 20171091140434343434330
Sunday, Mar 5, 2017
Monday, Mar 6, 201710921504444444444
Tuesday, Mar 7, 20171093160454545454530
Wednesday, Mar 8, 201710941704646464646
Thursday, Mar 9, 20171095180474747474730
Friday, Mar 10, 20171096604848484848
Saturday, Mar 11, 2017109770494949494930
Sunday, Mar 12, 2017
Monday, Mar 13, 20171098805050505050
Tuesday, Mar 14, 2017109990151515151530
Wednesday, Mar 15, 2017101001001616161616
Thursday, Mar 16, 20171030110171717171730
Friday, Mar 17, 201710311201818181818
Saturday, Mar 18, 20171032130191919191930
Sunday, Mar 19, 2017
Monday, Mar 20, 201710331402020202020
Tuesday, Mar 21, 20171034150212121212130
Wednesday, Mar 22, 201710351602222222222
Thursday, Mar 23, 20171036170232323232330
Friday, Mar 24, 201710371802424242424
Saturday, Mar 25, 2017103860252525252530
Sunday, Mar 26, 2017
Monday, Mar 27, 20171039702626262626
Tuesday, Mar 28, 2017104080272727272730
Wednesday, Mar 29, 20171041902828282828
Thursday, Mar 30, 20171042100292929292930
Friday, Mar 31, 201710431103030303030
Saturday, Apr 1, 20171044120313131313130
Sunday, Apr 2, 2017
Monday, Apr 3, 201710451303232323232
Tuesday, Apr 4, 20171046140333333333330
Wednesday, Apr 5, 201710471503434343434
Thursday, Apr 6, 20171048160353535353530
Friday, Apr 7, 201710491703636363636
Saturday, Apr 8, 20171050180373737373730
Sunday, Apr 9, 2017
Monday, Apr 10, 20171051603838383838
Tuesday, Apr 11, 2017105270393939393930
Wednesday, Apr 12, 20171053804040404040
Thursday, Apr 13, 2017105490414141414130
Friday, Apr 14, 201710551004242424242
Saturday, Apr 15, 20171056110434343434330
Sunday, Apr 16, 2017
Monday, Apr 17, 201710571204444444444
Tuesday, Apr 18, 20171058130454545454530
Wednesday, Apr 19, 201710591404646464646
Thursday, Apr 20, 20171060150474747474730
Friday, Apr 21, 201710611604848484848
Saturday, Apr 22, 20171062170494949494930
Sunday, Apr 23, 2017
Monday, Apr 24, 201710631805050505050
Tuesday, Apr 25, 2017106460101010101030
Wednesday, Apr 26, 20171065701111111111
Thursday, Apr 27, 2017106680121212121230
Friday, Apr 28, 20171067901313131313
Saturday, Apr 29, 20171068100141414141430
Sunday, Apr 30, 2017
Monday, May 1, 201710691101515151515
Tuesday, May 2, 20171070120161616161630
Wednesday, May 3, 201710711301717171717
Thursday, May 4, 20171072140181818181830
Friday, May 5, 201710731501919191919
Saturday, May 6, 20171074160202020202030
Sunday, May 7, 2017
Monday, May 8, 201710751702121212121
Tuesday, May 9, 20171076180222222222230
Wednesday, May 10, 20171077602323232323
Thursday, May 11, 2017107870242424242430
Friday, May 12, 20171079802525252525
Saturday, May 13, 2017108090262626262630
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Monday, May 15, 201710811002727272727
Tuesday, May 16, 20171082110282828282830
Wednesday, May 17, 201710831202929292929
Thursday, May 18, 20171084130303030303030
Friday, May 19, 201710851403131313131
Saturday, May 20, 20171086150323232323230
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Monday, May 22, 201710871603333333333
Tuesday, May 23, 20171088170343434343430
Wednesday, May 24, 201710891803535353535
Thursday, May 25, 2017109060363636363630
Friday, May 26, 20171091703737373737
Saturday, May 27, 2017109280383838383830
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Monday, May 29, 20171093903939393939
Tuesday, May 30, 20171094100404040404030
Wednesday, May 31, 201710951104141414141

If you have some encouraging stories about staying fit and healthy, please share them in the comments below.

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