Drummers are athletes. After being on tour for the last 16 months supporting Fitz & The Tantrums’ record, I know how much energy it takes to put on a great, high-energy show every night. We are musicians but in a weird way we’re also jocks.
Start thinking of yourself as an athlete and try to live more like one. Can you imagine a pro basketball player drinking beer, smoking, and partying it up every night and then trying to hit the court the next day? There is no difference between what we do physically and what a professional athlete does. Need proof? Check out the study done on the great Blondie drummer Clem Burke (clemburkedrummingproject.com). Researchers found that Burke lost up to two liters of fluid, burned between 400 to 600 calories an hour, and his heart rate rose as high as 190 bpms. That’s comparable to Cristiano Ronaldo in a soccer match!
I have found that running at least three times a week, even while on the road, has improved my endurance and performance drastically. Sprint training is very beneficial, as it sort of mimics what occurs with the tempo changes during a typical set or even going from a verse to a chorus. When you jog, choose a point or landmark in the distance that is reasonably far and sprint to it. If you are listening to music while you run, try sprinting for the length of a chorus of a song. Do this ten times or so throughout the course of your run, and try to get to the point where you are sprinting and jogging in equal amounts. Build up to running three–four times a week and increase your distance until you can comfortably run five or more miles.
Cut back on fast food and find healthy grocery stores in cities you tour through. Request healthier food on your backstage rider, not just beer. Eat an hour or so before you go onstage so that you are energized, not weighed down or lethargic from the food.
With all of this exertion and training comes a lot of sweat! This presents quite a problem when you’re touring, unless you are a big rock star that travels with a wardrobe person. Sweat turns clothing into a mildewy, stinky mess to which you subject your bandmates. I’ve done a lot of research into clothes that look good onstage and are also built to dry quickly and not stink. Check out any clothing with anti-microbial fabric woven in. The best I’ve found is Levi’s Commuter Line. Intended for bike commuters and messengers who sweat and get rained on yet still need to be presentable, the classic trucker jacket and slim-fit jeans are perfect for drummers. They look great onstage, and the stretchiness to the fabric makes them much less constricting.
This lifestyle change helped me immensely and some nights made me feel bionic. I hope it helps you.