IMPROVE YOUR TOURING HEALTH
FRIDAY // JANUARY 12, 2018
If your friends and family don’t know by now, you’ve probably reassured them glitz and glamour does not exist in the touring world.
In fact, the short-lived Showtime drama, Roadies, surrounded this reality with its slogan, “The Unsung Heroes of Rock.” Whether you embrace this statement or not, the show would certainly not go on if it weren’t for the skills and rigorous labor of the touring crew.
William Pepple, tour manager and FOH engineer with 14 years of touring experience, told Esquire, when constantly traveling across time zones, “touring is hard on the body and soul. You eat questionable food and sleep weird, erratic hours.”
That being said, what are the effects of draining your body and soul into touring? Dr. Martin of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told the New York Times the lack of research there currently is on travel health.
This article aims to outline some of the implications touring crew members experience living a chaotic, nomadic lifestyle and things you can do to live a healthier lifestyle on the road.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the circadian biological clock regulates sleep and awake stages each day. The circadian rhythm decreases and increases at various times throughout the day.
Meaning, the strongest point of sleep is usually between 2-4AM and between 1-3pm, but varies from person to person. If sleep deprived, the intensity of drowsiness increases.
Jet lag disrupts our circadian clock, since the shift in time and light forces our bodies to deviate and adjust from our normal pattern. When this happens, we have difficulty thinking and performing tasks.
According to Kwangwook Cho’s chronic jet lag study in Nature Neuroscience, people who cross time zones frequently will suffer from this phenomenon. More specifically, the frequent pattern of light and darkness throws our circadian rhythms off sync from the external time cue. Repetitive disturbances impair both psychological and physiological health and induce stress.
To summarize the gist of the lengthy study, repeated jet lag exposure affected a deficit in spatial learning, such as packing the trunk of a car or hiking with a compass or map.
In addition, the exposure can damage your memory as well. Previous studies, Cho noted, have outlined this damage to the temporal lobe structures may also cause amnesia. To read more about how she obtained these findings, click here.
In Jon Anderson’s 2015 jet lag study, he found when people experience jet lag, the body has to readjust its functions over a minimum of two to three days.
The amount of symptoms sound all too familiar to touring professionals: sleep disturbances, poor eating habits, lassitude, anxiety, irritability, depression, slow reaction and decision making, short-term memory deficit and a habit of accepting lower performance standards.
Poor Diet & Lack of Exercise
A December 2017 study by On Call International collected statistics from today’s business travelers:
- 54% are less likely to exercise out of town compared to when they are home
- 44% say they are more likely to eat unhealthy foods
- 36% report experiencing higher levels of stress during work-related travel
- 16% say they drink more on trips
- 8% are more likely to smoke cigarettes
The study concludes an unhealthy diet combined with lack of exercise creates consequences for one’s well being and may lead to serious health problems down the road.
To expand on frequent travelers’ long-term health, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health’s 2015 study says people who travel 20 or more days out of the month have poorer health on various measures compared to those who do not. These include poor self-rated health, higher BMI and higher cholesterol.
Andrew G. Rundle, DrPH, a co-conductor of the study, said people in their 30s who travel frequently with poor eating and exercise habits will experience health issues in the next decade, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Past studies, reported the Harvard Business Review, noted travelers who frequently venture long distances will experience an acceleration in age and an increased likelihood of stroke, heart attack and deep vein thrombosis.
Lack of Sleep & Poor Mental Health
The On Call International study also found 36% report having trouble sleeping while on their work-related trips. Unfortunately, the more stress one experiences, the less likely they are to sleep, and having a bad night’s sleep increases their stress felt throughout the day.
This is an equation for disaster in the touring world, with a combination of long hours, late nights and event pressure.
Dr. Rundle also found 24% of these employees scored four or more on the Generalized Anxiety Scale (GAD-7) and 15% scored four or more on the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), meaning levels of mild or worse anxiety or depressive symptoms are all common for workers who frequently travel.
As a touring professional, there is already enough anxiety and pressure to get things done efficiently and correctly. Throw a hectic, chaotic touring travel schedule in the mix and the anxiety heightens.
The time away from home, family and loved ones creates an underlying feeling of sadness or maybe even guilt if you are away from the family you are ultimately supporting financially.
THERE’S STILL HOPE
For those new to the touring world or thinking about diving in - this article is not meant to scare you!
If you regularly check in with your physical and psychological health, the hectic and chaotic touring world is a positive experience like no other and a story you’ll repeat to your kids and grandkids for the years to come.
Your Body is a Temple, So Feed It Like One!
Food & Flights: Before boarding a long haul flight, you may want to consider eating nothing at all in order to avoid jet lag. But if you absolutely must eat, your food choice can either make or break your flight experience.
First and foremost, AVOID greasy foods at all costs. The last thing you want to add to your travel and event stress are awful gastronomical issues before, during, or after your flight.
Beware of select healthier options such as onions, cauliflower, cabbage, beans and lentils - these veggies are high in sodium, make you thirsty and cause bloating, reported Smarter Travel. Avoid carbonated water and sodas, beverages responsible for bloating.
Stick to low-sodium snacks such as nuts or non-cruciferous veggies such as carrots or opt for fresh fruit. And always hydrate hydrate hydrate!
Food & Touring: While on tour, eating out may be your only option for some nights. After a long day of paying attention to every single detail besides your hunger, it may be tempting to inhale the cheeseburger and fries at the local diner before hitting the hay.
Instead, try to substitute steamed veggies for fries or ask for vinagrette dressings and other sauces on the side for salads and other entrees.
Everyone knows breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but only if it’s done right! CNN Travel outlines the dos and dont’s for your first meal of the day.
The Frosted Flakes cereal, chocolate donut, pastry or a Starbucks venti white chocolate latte will ruin your day. In fact, a venti white chocolate latte contains a whopping 18 teaspoons of sugar.
If you prefer not to crash on-site, choose foods high in protein such as eggs, low fat Greek yogurt, quinoa, skim milk and cereal low in sugar yet high in fiber.
Coffee and espresso are acceptable, but avoid returning for multiple cups a day. If you must ingest caffeine, try out a caffeine supplement in order to avoid the added cream and sugar.
Get More Sleep, Whenever/Wherever You Can
This sounds like a given, but a reminder to all that your body must recharge in order to feel and perform your best! When you’re working 40 plus hours a week, sleep is most likely the first thing on your mind. But, if you’re the one driving, planning a power nap in between is the safest thing you can do -- plus the extra energy will make your job easier.
Can’t find a place to sleep in peace? If you lost your ear plugs, it may sound silly, but a pair of comfortable, padded, noise cancellation headphones actually help. If the bulk doesn’t cut it for your slumber, there are even fabric headphones designed to use for sleeping comfortably as they resemble a headband. Check out options here.
Don’t Forget Your Vitamins!
Mom always knew best, but she’s most likely not on tour with you to remind you. Vitamins support your health and body while traveling, as well as boost your energy.
Mashable sums up the best vitamins you should stuff in your bag on the go. If you are traveling to foreign countries, be sure to check their policies to avoid all implications with customs.
- Multivitamins: These provide the most basic and necessary nutrients you may need to balance touring life. This doesn’t mean you can eat fast foods every day as long as you take your vitamin! The multivitamin will help fill the gaps in what your food intake for the day may be missing.
- Vitamin B Supplements: Vitamin B boosts energy and your metabolism - both crucial to touring life.
- Omega-3 Supplements: Many foods, let alone food stops on tour, include omega-3s that help lower risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis, according to The University of Maryland Medical Center. Pick up a bottle of Omega-3 supplements such as Fish Oil, to make up for these lack of omega-3 enriched foods.
- Probiotics: Probiotics are another supplement that boost your immune system, along with your digestive system. While you may not be able to keep probiotic drinks cold during travel, you may want to consider a probiotic complex.
- Vitamin C: You may find yourself in tight spaces on tour, whether you’re trapped on an airplane or a tour bus, the last thing you want is that guy’s whooping cough. Take vitamin C capsules or an immune health booster you can pour in your water bottle such as Emergen-C or Airborne.
If you’re staying at a hotel, visit the hotel gym sometime before your gig. No gym? No problem, use the floor! Doing squats, push ups, sit ups, and other mat exercises is a good way to keep your body moving.
If you have no idea what you’re doing, there are thousands of YouTube workout videos to stream on your phone to prop against the foot of the bed.
If all else fails - take a jog. Breathe in the fresh air and the uncharted territory around you.
In this industry, you tend to place your wants and needs on the back burner. Reminder: your health comes first, no questions asked. The study by On Call International reports 1 in 10 work travelers forget to take their daily medications. Don’t put your health on the line for your career. Take your medications, get regular check-ups with your physician and visit the doctor when any alarming health concerns arise.
Manage Your Stress
Last but certainly one of the most important aspects of wellness on tour.
According to the above research, when you provide your body with sufficient nutrients, sleep and exercise, the less stress you are likely to experience.
However, this industry guarantees stress and pressure so you will still have to closely monitor your stress levels and nurture your mental health.
At last, the events industry has increasingly been focusing the conversation on mental health. Forbes ranked an event coordinator No.5 on its list of the 10 Most Stressful Jobs in 2017. It takes a special kind of person to want to work in this industry - whether you’re wearing 10 hats as an event coordinator or living a nomadic lifestyle as a crew member.
We get it - you work best under pressure. This doesn’t mean you should avoid the topic of your mental health and wellbeing.
In August 2017, Event Industry News released a podcast titled “Health & Wellbeing in the events industry: do we need help?” The podcast addresses implications event industry workers experience in the topics addressed above.
Additionally, the new site EventWell.org includes tons of resources entertainment professionals may take advantage of in order to keep mental health in check. Read more from our previous blog post on managing mental health in the events industry here.