Big me.

Gettin’ on my fitness. And being a better musician for it.

The last year has been something of a journey for me in several ways. The most obvious one to anyone who knows me is that I’ve lost some weight.  I went from about 275 lbs to 230, and then put 10 of them back on over the holidays :facepalm:  The health benefits of losing weight are already well known but as far as me personally, the process of “getting healthy” has impacted me in other ways beneficial to my career as a musician as well as personally.  I was reading a friends blog a few weeks ago and his entry inspired me to write about my own process trying to keep healthy and how I’ve benefitted. You can check out Jeremy Greens “Six String Obsession” Blog here: http://sixstringobsession.blogspot.com/2013/01/benefits-of-fitness-on-your-playing.html

At one point I was 286 lbs.  That is about the weight I am in the picture at the top of this entry.  Have you ever tried to play three nights in a row of 3-4 sets a night nearly 60 lbs overweight?  My back was always “going out”, I had foot problems, I was exhausted all the time.  I was a mess and no fun to be around.  The tireder I got the more crappy food I ate.  I never had enough energy to get through shows full speed (We usually play 9:30-1:30 or 9-1).

These days I probably get less sleep, but I eat healthier, exercise on a regular basis and do yoga almost daily.  The Yoga has turned out to be one of the most important things for me.   The flexibility is something I had almost completely lost and just climbing on stages or sitting and practicing for extended periods was difficult.  I usually wake up about an hour before I need to get my kids up for school and do 20-30 minutes of yoga every morning during the week…weekends are hit and miss.  I also try to make sure I include stretches for my shoulders and forearms since they take a beating every day.

Paraffin wax bath

Paraffin wax bathParaffin wax bath – not me! :)

The next thing in my morning “maintenance” routine is the wax bath.  I’ve written about this several times on various blogs and forums over the years but essentially I have a paraffin wax bath that I soak my hands in each morning for a few minutes.  It was suggested to me almost as a joke by a family doctor but I tried it since I was having such bad hand pain at the time and within a few weeks I was pain free and I had much better fret hand flexibility on the guitar.  The moist warm heat seems to penetrate the muscles and whatnot of the hand really deeply and from what I’ve read not only does it help to loosen the hand up but it promotes blood flow through the muscles and I guess flushes lactic acid buildup out quicker.  I’m not doctor so all I’ll attest to is that its made a huge difference in my ability to continue to play guitar when I thought I might not be able to continue in my chosen career.

I joined a gym about a year ago, which has given me a little structure for the exercise portion of being healthy.  In my 20s I was something of a gym rat so I really do enjoy going in and working out every day.  I probably do more cardio than I should but I end up reading on the elliptical machine, checking my email and forums and Facebook or just listening to music I need to learn.  Its nive to be working out and getting work done.  The other side of that is that I’ve taken to riding my bike once or twice a week just to get away from the world for an hour.  Sometimes you just need to unplug.  Weight and resistance training has been good for me in terms of just building lean body mass.  At age 42 that is harder and harder to get or keep so the weights definitely help in that department.  I just have to lift much lighter than I did in my 20′s.

Changing my diet was probably the hardest part and is still the biggest battle.  I love everything I shouldn’t eat on a daily basis.  But the reality is that if I eat leaner smaller portions, stay away from “white” carbs and fried foods I have much more energy throughout the day.  My biggest issue is caffeine since my hours are such that I really can’t make it through my days without some help in that department.  I’m trying to cut that back but especially on gig nights and weekends its hard to keep the energy up at the end of the day when I need it the most.

My bike

My bike

The hardest part for me is keeping it consistent.  One thing that has benefitted me is that I’ve added 30 minutes of technique drills on the guitar in the morning after yoga and the wax bath.  Thats part of my “fitness” routine as well and has made a difference in my guitar playing in the most obvious of ways.  And on gigs I have better energy and focus during the gig and don’t feel like complete death the day after.  I’m hoping that I am able to make this such an ingrained part of my life that I can keep the weight off, feel better and play better from now on.  And the structure I’ve had to take on in regards to fitting all of this in has helped my mental state and my ability to handle stress much better.  Once again, as anyone who knows me can tell you :o

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