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Is Your Playing Suffering Because of Your Health?

Sleeping, eating and exercising your way to better chops

This month I’m going to go out on a limb a little farther than I have in the past. However, this is not some outlandish topic meant to titillate or stir up controversy, but to restate what we already know to be true. The quality of your health directly affects the quality of your musical life. Sure, we all were young once and while I don’t consider myself old (at least I don’t feel old) I do seem to care more about my health than ever before. Perhaps it was because a few things have knocked me on my ass in the past few years and have made me take a closer look at the overall point of being and staying healthy. Most certainly it is because after making some changes I’ve found a new respect for my health and with it a whole new level of musicality.

Even if you live a fairly healthy lifestyle you’d be amazed how just a little more attention to your well-being can help your playing. For several years I wondered why I couldn’t sleep even though I was tired, and why I was always sore. Finally when my doctor did a full blood workup on me we found that my thyroid was out of whack. Getting it balanced changed more things than I expected, and it resulted in not only getting a good night’s rest and removing the bags from under my eyes, it actually improved my playing.

Sounds ridiculous until I noticed all of the other areas that were being affected. It turns out that what I thought was early onset arthritis was the effect of slower circulation. My aches and pains left and all of my finger pain and swelling disappeared. This happened within just over a week of taking my medication. My focus increased exponentially and I had the energy needed to make it through the day or a show without feeling exhausted. What’s scary about this is I had become so used to the way I had felt that I didn’t realize how bad things had gotten until after they were fixed. I was tired of hearing that I looked beat or seeing pictures of me with black eyes. That trip to the doctor changed everything.

But what does health really have to do with being a better musician? When your body is running properly and efficiently it makes everything easier. Do you play a lot of gigs and have a sore back? Work out and develop your core strength to ease the burden that you ask your body to carry. Having a hard time concentrating or learning charts? Look to your diet to find deficits in your vitamins and fats (the good ones). Is it difficult to carry your gear or are you running out of breath before the chorus? Hit the gym, or better yet go for a run or brisk walk and enjoy the great outdoors. That’s another thing that can’t be said enough…get outside! We live such isolated lives these days and rarely get the benefits of fresh air. Even if you’re stuck in traffic, roll down the window and let the sun (or rain) come in. You’ll feel better. Every Saturday after guitar building class I greatly enjoy the drive home by rolling down the windows and taking in the fresh air after being around sawdust all day. It’s a great way to roll into my evening and clear my head before I hit the studio.

If all of this sounds simple it’s because it is simple. We have become lazy with the advent of fast food, Tivo, computers, etc. It’s just as easy to pack a healthy lunch for work as it is to go out to eat. OK, maybe it takes a little more effort, but your wallet and your gut will thank you. And let’s face it, if you can save money, feel better and make music creation easier and more enjoyable why wouldn’t you do it? Let me recap:

1. Get a good night’s sleep.
2. Don’t overdo it. Moderation is key and consistency is integral.
3. Exercise. Cardio and strength training. Mix it up.
4. Get outside! Remember riding a bike when you were a kid? Adults can do it too
5. Stretch and warm up before you practice or perform.
6. Eat right. You don’t have to diet, just eat balanced and reasonably.
7. Feed your mind. Eat brain foods, read books!
8. Take frequent breaks. Breaking it up helps restore concentration and retention

Maybe I sound like my parents did when I was younger but maybe that’s because they were right! This isn’t rocket science folks. Treat your body with respect and care and it will give back in ways you never imagined. Simple? Yep. Effective? Absolutely.

Time for a hike!