Being committed to the music I write requires a sincere dedication not only to my mental well-being but also to my physical fitness.
Earlier this summer I decided I needed to start taking better care of myself. This came about for a number of reasons. 1. I’m a 53-year-old father and husband of an incredible wife and a 10-month-old baby boy who I want to be around for, for a long time. As I’ve grown older I’ve gone through a couple of knee surgeries, came close to dying from a ruptured appendix and have battled the aches and pains of a 6’6” former basketball player and in March I tipped the scales at 239 pounds, the most I’ve ever weighed. It really made me think about how nonchalantly I was treating my health. Going non-stop every day, practicing yoga, but not being mindful of my nutrition or how I was feeling overall in a body that feels like it’s breaking down.
My shows are physical I love to get in the audience with my guitar and run around the venues. For all my years in music, I’ve always taken the extra time at every show, airport, restaurant or street corner to connect with our audience. Not that I don’t take time out and go off the grid, because I do, but when I am in public I consider myself available to people who approach me with kindness.
When I’m on tour without Sara and Taj I use every waking moment to create new music so that when they come out I can be more focused on our relationship and family time.
All of this requires a great deal of energy and for years I’ve practiced yoga, ran, and tried to eat healthily. My energy requirements and overworking left me in a constant lack of sleep, desire for quick energy (read SUGAR!) and feeling like I was in adrenaline mode just to keep up.
I’ve tried for years to curtail my sugar addiction, but it’s been worse than crack for me. If I see a bowl of M&M’s in the dressing room and eat one of them, I may as well eat the whole bowl because once I start I can’t stop. Shit’s real for me.
In early May we played a show in Honolulu and a trainer named Christina Farias contacted me via Instagram and told me she worked with other musicians on their wellness and wanted to know if I was interested. I thought about it for a week or two and finally set up a call.
She explained to me that what she did wasn’t just about physical training, but rather was about observing patterns and breaking ones that were no longer serving me and replacing them with ones that do. And that although there would be physical measurements including tape measures, photos of my body, daily scale readings, caloric intake and burn, steps walked, workout sets completed, hours stepped, water and alcohol consumed, resting heart rate, etc, that at the end of the day all of this was about how I feel each day and not about what the numbers added up to.
So during the first week of June, we set off on a journey, changing what I ate and drank, when I trained, when I rested, when I slept and each week we had an hour-long check-in call about how I am feeling and where I was succeeding and where I could do better.
The first step was to get me on a nutrition path that replaced all the sugar I was consuming, with proteins, good fats, complex carbohydrates, green vegetables and lots of water!!! More water than I’ve ever drunk in my life. 3 liters a day on non-show days and 5-6 liters on show days when I sweat a lot. And I sweat A LOT!
Next was to create a training schedule that worked for my life on the road. I put together a road case with dumbbells, a Bosu ball, rubber straps, a Monkii (TRX style pulley straps and handles), a Pilates ring, yoga mat, and a weight bench. Christina set up a weekly schedule of me doing workouts 3-4 times, with yoga days in between and 1 or 2 complete rest, short meditations in the morning and before bed (I admit I don’t always do this but am getting better at it) and recovery days depending on my travel.
We also set up sleep goals. When we started I was sleeping only 4.5 hours a night so we moved it to 5.5 and now to 6.5. She also required that if I don’t make my sleep goal I’m not allowed to train. I actually really enjoy training and am committed to my goals so this is an incentive for me.
Throughout this process, it’s been challenging. I crave foods I know are crappy for me, I don’t sleep enough, I over-train some days and then feel lousy the next day, I don’t weigh in because I get caught up in the numbers, or the bus is parked on an incline and the scale doesn’t read right and so I don’t do it instead of moving the scale etc. When these things come up we talk through it and Christina helps diagnose what’s going on with me emotionally that’s causing me to have these setbacks.
If I’m reaching for crap foods it’s usually because I’m not eating enough of the good stuff and so we create a daily meal plan to eat more often and larger amounts of steel-cut oatmeal, or beyond burger, or greens, or a protein bar that staves off a sweet craving.
If I’m not sleeping, was it because of work stress? Sleeping with the phone in my hand, etc. We’ve created a goal (that I am still working on) of the phone off one hour before sleep time.
But the most important question she always starts off with on our calls is, “How are you feeling?” That is the most important metric.
I’ve lost about 15 pounds of fat and put on about ten pounds of muscle, so my overall weight hasn’t actually changed that much but my body composition has vastly. I feel leaner, less back pain, my knees are agile, I’m more alert, I’m more aware of what foods make me feel sick, I don’t have chronic acid reflux like I used to, I drink alcohol only on certain days and only 1-2 drinks a week.
At the end of the day, my wellness is about both how I feel In general and in individual moments. My body isn’t “perfect”, my stress has not gone completely away, but those aren’t my goals, my goals are to be able to live an active, happy life, to be able to recover quickly from setbacks and create habits that are foundational roots for the next 53 years in life, love, family, music, business, travel and play.
So far I’m on the best path I’ve ever been on. Thanks, Christina. I look forward to growing deeper in my practice as my mind and body become stronger and my heart becomes more aware of the highs and lows of my days. And for the record, my resting heart rate was 57 beats per minute today and that’s one small step towards a long and able life!!!