One of the biggest issues facing traveling performers of all genres is a lack of access to a gym. As a result, gig-season often jeopardizes a performer’s physical fitness regimen. This can be detrimental to a performer’s overall health and wellness since starting an exercise regimen is a challenge, but maintaining it is an even more difficult feat. In fact, it is a well-known statistic that more than 50% of people who start a new program will drop out within the first sixth months.1 How can a performer avoid a staggering blow to exercise adherence?
First of all, busy performers must remember that:
“a shorter-than-normal workout is still beneficial and will keep them exercising regularly. Three 10-minute workouts performed throughout the day are just as effective in producing health-related benefits and increasing fitness levels as a single 30-minute workout.”1
There are a number of options for finding a fitness facility while on a gig, but today, we are going to discuss the Exercise Essentials for the Traveling Performer. With these basic pieces of equipment, you will be able to get in a meaningful workout anywhere, even in a tiny hotel room! I’ve developed an essentials list for the light packer, medium packer, and heavy packer. Stay tuned for future posts with sample workouts with equipment from these lists, and sample no-equipment workouts for the those who like to pack ultra light!
Essentials for the “light packer” : For all the naturally “light packers” out there; also appropriate for performers going on a short gig and/or those who prefer to limit their packing to a carry-on.
- Sneakers. Ask any avid runner: run with bad shoes, and you will destroy your feet/legs. Take a trip to your local shoe store (bonus points for local sneaker stores) and ask for advice based on your current fitness regimen. Different models of sneakers are designed for different activities, such as running, cross training, cycling, etc. Spending a few extra $$ may save you from the horror that is shin splints — and trust me, they are a horror.
- Resistance Bands. A light-weight piece of portable, versatile equipment that packs a punch: the SPRI Xertube Resistance Band Exercise Cords. Check out this Exercise Guide from SPRI with a number of awesome, simple moves you can do anywhere. As you can see, this piece of equipment is most useful for upper body strength training.
- Jump rope. They may be small, but boy are jump-ropes mighty. Most people only think of outdoor running when they think of gym-less cardio, but you should add a jump rope to your bag to expand your cardio-horizons. Try adding in a cardio circuit too (see: future posts…stay tuned). I bought my Speed Jump Rope by Gold’s Gym from Walmart for about $15.
- Portable MP3 player with headphones. This is only an essential for those of us who NEED music while working out. Fortunately, most people have a smart phone, iPod, or something similar with earbuds nowadays, so this is an easy one. Just don’t forget to pack that extra pair of earbuds…or two…
- MP3 player armband. For my iPhone 6, I use the SUPCASE Armband. I’ve experienced little-to-no chaffing, and absolutely no sweat leakage onto the phone. Whatever you choose, make sure that like the SUPCASE, the actual phone/MP3 case is made of a waterproof material like silicon. Trust me, tucking your MP3 player into the hem of your workout pants is not an option — better spend the $16 now, instead of $300 for a new iPhone when it falls out and breaks on the concrete.
Essentials for the “medium packer” : Have a longer gig, but not long enough to bring everything and the kitchen sink? Or just don’t want to bring too much clutter? Add the following to the “light packer” essentials from above:
- Ankle Weights. After using your SPRI Resistance Bands for upper body, grab your ankle weights to get a powerful lower body workout! Avoid wearing these during cardio, as they can cause patella injuries; instead, use them for weight training. These may be a bit heavy for international travel (or any travel wherein you have to check weighted bags), but if you have spare weight or are traveling via bus/train/car, the Gold’s Gym Ankle Weights are a must-have. They come in 5, 10, and 20 lb. sets, and you can adjust the weight by removing individual weight bags from each ankle weight.
- Re-usable water bottle. Of course, you can pick up bottles of water at the local store. However, if you’re hoping to be more environmentally friendly in your water consumption, pack your own reusable bottle. Most singers have one (or six) reusable water bottles, but don’t forget to grab it for your workout!
- Small towel. Because getting sweat in your eyeballs isn’t fun — especially when you’re wearing contacts (trust me). You’ll probably have easy access to one wherever you’re staying, but if you have the extra space, throw one in your bag just to be safe!
- Runner’s mace. An easily-forgotten piece of “exercise equipment” is runner’s mace. NOTE: Check the legality of mace in the state where you’re working BEFORE you run around with it. Pepper spray is LEGAL in all states, however possession and/or use may be regulated in some jurisdictions (thank you, Cabela’s website), but ALWAYS double check and make sure you can legally possess your mace before running with it. If you are flying, do NOT carry mace in your carryon–it will be confiscated. You can ONLY pack mace in a checked bag. If you’re not checking a bag, leave this one at home. I carry the Mace Brand Pepper Self Defense Spray – Jogger’s Model every time I run outside, because you never know when you’ll run into someone dangerous.
Essentials for the “heavy packer” : This list is best for performers who are going on a longer gig, plan on checking a bag (or two) at the airport, and/or are driving to their gig and have the desire to have the equipment to accommodate any home-workout. Add these essentials to the two lists above:
Yoga mat. Obviously, yoga mats are great for yoga, but you can also use them as a mat for any other exercise. This is especially useful if you want to save your hands while doing pushups on concrete, for example. If you want to save some space, try a fold-able yoga mat.
- Lifting gloves. Weight training isn’t the greatest idea during a gig (more on that in a future post), specifically not during the tech/performance period, but if you have a longer rehearsal period and want to keep up with your weight training, you should invest in a pair of lifting gloves. There are a number of options for men, but for women, I recommend G-Loves. I have a pair and basically take them everywhere. Lifting gloves allow you to lift heavy without getting blisters all over your hands.
- Combination lock. On the off-chance that you CAN in fact get to a gym for a reasonable price, you’ll want to have a combination lock with you for the locker room–just in case. I love the Master Lock 1500iD Speed Dial.
- Gym bag. Every performer, traveling or not, should have a gym bag to keep all of their goodies. I have the discontinued REI Balance Bag. I bought this one specifically for the yoga mat holder on the front. If you’re looking for a similar bag, perhaps try REI’s new Balance Bag — I personally prefer the old one, but if it can fit all of your stuff and still fit in a locker, then it’s a good choice in my book!
BONUS POINTS! : If you have the money to splurge, you should absolutely invest in a Fitbit Charge HR (or any other fitness tracker). I’m not sure I could live and function without my Fitbit Charge HR. It was easily the best $150 I’ve ever spent. A review of the Fitbit Charge HR and why I think every singer should have one is coming soon!
[Editor’s note: I was not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned in this post. I just wanted to show you all what products have been working well for me!]
1 American Council on Exercise ACE Group Fitness Instructor Manual, Third edition