Tone on Tour
Posted On Jul 19, 2016
By Andrew C Stone
We all face fitness challenges when we’re away from home base, but no one feels the pressure like a singer on tour. Here, we catch up with Grammy winners Natalie Cole and Wyclef Jean, as well as a trio of world-class trainers, to get the skinny on staying slim while on the road.
A BEAUTIFULLY REALIZED SONG has the power to lift, inspire, and change us—anyone who’s been transported by the notes of a symphony, ballad, jazz riff, or dance tune knows as much. Music’s purpose, by definition, is to produce “beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.” The stewards of the art form—musicians—are tasked with the sacred discipline of speaking to our souls, and the act of performing is widely recognized as a transcendent joy. The pressures that accompany the musician’s life, however, can be far less than joyful, as scrutiny and sacrifice come with this territory (not to mention a fair share of temptation).
Performers are asked to call upon inner reserves of flexibility and stamina to channel their music, night after night, city after city, time zone after time zone. It’s a worthwhile challenge… “If I cannot fly, let me sing,” said Stephen Sondheim. In fact, a study from Myplan.com has shown that musicians— singers, in particular—are the most satisfied of all professionals. However, once a musician reaches the highest echelon of notoriety and talent is no longer in question, image becomes an issue. How vibrant is your live performance? Does the exterior message lend itself to the sound within? Can your voice last from New York to Nashville to Los Angeles?
Let this “healthy on the road” packing list help
you hit your fitness goals away from home.
? Jump rope
? Running sneakers
? Bathing suit
? Sports bra
? Running shorts
? Compression socks
? Sweat bands
? TRX resistance bands
? Flip flops
? Breathable exercise t-shirts
? Wraparound sunglasses
? Yoga pants
? iPod/MP3 player
? Ear buds
“I think it’s vital to find a healthy balance in your life.
Get your family time in. Leave work at work if you
can. Walk in the park with your iTunes playing. Reflect
on self. You deserve some time when the focus is just
on you.” –NICOLE CHAPLIN
WYCELF’S WINNING WAYS
Iconic rapper and songwriter Wyclef Jean is no stranger to the spotlight. The Haitian phenomenon— a political figure, philanthropist, and founder of record label All Handz on Deck—is as prolific as he is outspoken. He has traveled exhaustively since his career’s inception in the 1990s, as part of hip-hop group the Fugees. A consummate perfectionist, Wyclef is intensely committed to fitness and conditioning, and he counts on celebrity trainer Nicole Chaplin to keep him performing at peak condition. “When you’re on tour, your body is running a physical marathon,” insists Wyclef. “You have to be conditioned. There are days you go without your normal supplements, and your body has to adjust. The biggest demand placed on your body is its ability to maintain its balance—proper nutrition, adequate rest, and mental recovery.”
Chaplin, author of Yes Mam: Your Muscle as a Motivator, has worked with Wyclef for 14 years, imparting healthy principles with intensity. “I’m a big believer in accountability,” insists Chaplin. “If you have someone you lean on—a trainer or manager or friend with you on the road—use them. You want them to ask you, ‘How are you doing with your planks today?’ You have to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing.”
Wyclef has seen extraordinary results with Chaplin, and has become devoted to a healthy lifestyle under her watchful eye. “She provides me with exercises that include calisthenics to ensure that I maintain my cardiovascular fitness and strength,” he says. “I prefer exercises that work on my chest, traps, and back, but the workouts cover my full body. I enjoy pushups the most, since they can be done anywhere and always provide your body with a challenge.”
To keep Wyclef ’s stamina up, Chaplin preaches regular interval training to burn calories— meaning she expects the star to get moving in his hotel room with rapid sets of jumping jacks, burpees, pushups, knee tuck jumps, and squats. “Hotels usually have swimming pools, too,” Chaplin says. “Just jump in the pool for ten minutes. Tuck a jump rope or TRX in your bag. There’s no need to overcomplicate it. You can get your exercise in.”
Yes Mam, Chaplin’s first book, puts a spiritual spin on fitness concepts, placing emphasis on overarching health goals and using individual muscle groups as metaphors for the consummation of these goals. “It’s all about working out from within,” she says. “I say, start with the soul… What are your goals? As I go through my book, every muscle correlates to a different positive inner goal. The heart is a muscle, so I ask: What are your heart’s desires? If you work to strengthen your heart, you will always get closer to those desires.”
Having achieved many extraordinary goals, Wyclef focuses on moves that let him perform in a way his fans now expect. “I use cardio to work on my lung capacity, which allows me to maintain my vocal projection at the level I desire,” he says. “Flexibility—especially in my neck—relieves tension, and keeps my muscles from being sore after training sessions.”
“I know I have to stay physically fit,” says Grammy-winner Natalie Cole, 63, whose new album, “Natalie Cole En Espanol,” has recently been released. “One of the greatest joys of my life is to sing and give joy. I give one-hundred-and-fifty percent when I sing, so I need my stamina and energy.”
Cole—the daughter of legendary crooner Nat “King” Cole, who released three successful Spanish speaking albums during his own career—suffered a major health setback in 2008, when a Hepatitis C diagnosis necessitated that she find a kidney donor. While she was on a long wait list for a transplant, one of her biggest fans had just passed away. His family asked that Cole receive his kidney if the two were a biological match—and they were. She underwent a transplant in 2009, and has spent the past four years returning to full vitality. “My donor family is from El Salvador, and I’ve wanted to do an album like this ever since the surgery,” Cole says. with a sigh of gratitude. “Knock on wood, I’m in pretty good shape—certainly better than four years ago—but I definitely have to watch my diet. I’ve contracted a lung issue that actually keeps me from working out. Regardless, I have to stay physically fit.”
To keep her energy up and health on point during rigorous travel times, Cole sticks to tried-andtrue health guidelines. “It’s not nuclear science,” she laughs. “Number one is sleep. That’s key— along with drinking very little alcohol. You can’t be doing too much partying when you are on the road. My medication tends to dry me out, so I drink a lot of water and stay really hydrated. I also eat a lot of fiber and protein. I know when my body’s not feeling good. If that means cutting out some things and not eating too late at night, so be it.”
Regular massages and a frequent habit of candlelit baths are Cole’s rewards for staying disciplined and health-conscious. “It’s those little things that bring me a lot of peace and joy,” she says.
“Singing is really corecentric. You feel it right
through your body, like a tuning fork. Vocalists
have to focus on building a strong core, and work
on stabilization, rotation, and flexion. Mobility is
the key, for everyone.”
-STEPHANIE VITORINO OF EQUINOX, WEST LA
AQUA, REST & MOTION
Both Cole and Wyclef identify hydration and adequate rest as keys to peak performance. These may sound like common sense concepts, but how many people in today’s hectic society get eight hours a night and eight glasses of H2O a day? “We talk a lot about fitness and exercise, but rarely do we talk about things like sleep and hydration and nutrition,” says Stephanie Vitorino, Group Fitness Manager of Equinox Fitness in West LA, who has worked with a hush-hush who’s-who of vocalists and A-list actors. “For performers, sleep deprivation can be really detrimental to performance. This is a focus lifestyle, and people have to make choices that lead them to their goals.”
Vitorino is the creator of several top-selling workout DVDs, and believes that training pays off tenfold for entertainers. “You don’t want an evening’s performance to be the first time you’ve broken a sweat that day,” Vitorino says. “You’ve got to connect with your body and breathe in the morning to set a tone and mindset. Then you can save up your energy for the performance. This is how you really lead that lifestyle you’ve worked so hard to get.”
The lovely and lithe Vitorino, who conceived the “Spring Body Breakthru” class at Equinox, preaches a multi-tiered approach to optimal health—strength training, cardio work, and focus on the core. She lives by the credo that anyone can be stronger and better and fitter at any age, and insists that mobility is a far more youthful attribute than wrinkle-free skin. “For artists, there is tremendous pressure to look young,” she says. “But a lot of top artists are fifty and over right now. People remember how you move on stage, and your waistline, above all else. Think of Madonna and all the things she can do… Now that’s attractive.”
ENLISTING FOR BOOTCAMP
If there’s one woman who exemplifies limber, and who truly walks the talk in terms of setting and reaching exceptional fitness goals, it’s Natalie Raitano, a top trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. Barry’s is full-on fitness phenomenon, with outposts in LA, New York, San Diego, Nashville, the Hamptons, London, and Norway (a Miami club is soon to open). These clubs offer high-intensity, high-metabolic training and plenty of classes that combine strength training and cardio within a sleek, military-themed space.
Raitano spent years as an actress—she was a series regular on Pam Anderson’s series V.I.P.—and she understands the demands of the entertainment business firsthand. The picture of health, tone, and high-energy sexiness, Raitano proudly admits that she is 46 (which probably isn’t so hard, since she looks 15 years younger). “Entertainment is not an easy business,” admits Raitano. “Any record exec wants their artist to be in tip-top shape. You have to come out sexy, and you have to bring it.”
Among her boldfaced clients are iconic music producer Antonio “LA” Reid and his gorgeous wife, Erica. “I’ve never worked with anyone who works out as hard as LA,” Raitano says. “He has to work out before he starts his day. It’s how he lives his life, and it’s a big part of why he is so successful.”
One of Raitano’s other clients is an alluring young pop singer named Jarina De Marco. Miss De Marco is a burgeoning artist on All Handz on Deck, Wyclef Jean’s label. Apparently, fitness runs in Wyclef ’s family. “Jarina came to us because she had to get video-ready,” Raitano says. “She’s gorgeous, and we just wanted to tone her up as her record was getting ready to drop. We started with private training and then she started taking our classes. She got right in the center of it all. I trained her the same way that I teach my classes—interval training.”
When tailoring a program for a singer, particularly one who’s about to go on the road, Raitano keeps performance top of mind. While in the gym, she’ll ask them to sing their songs as they run. Though she is a ball of energy, she recognizes the value of quality rest. “No one should go balls-out on a day when they have to perform,” she says. “I recommend carbs the night before a show. On the day of, I am all about kale salads, to which I’ll add some tuna and beans. Being hungry sucks.”
One of the most crucial principles for singers, stresses Raitano, is to save the liquor until the tour is over. “Alcohol swells your vocal chords,” she insists. “You’ll retain water. You’ll be moody. Have your party when you get done with the show. In the meantime, sleep. Sleep is everything.”
Raitano’s preferred kind of high comes from 60 minutes of exercise, which she considers to be the fastest route to self-esteem.
”I can push you, but I can’t force you to work
out. Getting in amazing shape is not easy, and
you have to really want it. But if you let that
desire motivate you, you’ll never be sorry.”
-NATALIE RAITANO OF BARRY’S BOOTCAMP
LIBERTY & FITNESS FOR ALL
Everything is exaggerated in the world of celebrity. Triumphs are sweeter. Challenges are more public. Praise and criticism flow in absurd quantities. But at the end of the day, high-profile musicians are people, like anyone else, and the healthy habits they embrace can be adopted by anyone with the inclination to change their life.
“We are all maturing in age,” says Wyclef. “It doesn’t matter whether we’re in the public eye or not. It’s part of the human experience. The most important factor is to continually do what you love. Concern yourself with giving the world your best, in the healthiest way that you can, and leave all else at the door.”
For Ms. Cole, great health is non-negotiable, as are her supportive relationships with friends and family and the balance she has learned to strike between excitement and self-care. Ms. Vitorino, who lives by the phrase “bad habits are bad habits,” insists that every day presents new choices to live healthier, better, and stronger than ever before. Ms. Raitano asks her clients to set an attainable victory, every time they work out—and those victories keep them coming back for more.
As for Ms. Chaplin, the disciplines of exercise and healthy eating are all about one word: love. “It starts with loving yourself,” says Chaplin. “I watch my weight and make sure I am healthy because I live in this body. I want to be proud. And I make sure not to compare myself to anyone else, because that’s just a hamster wheel that won’t ever stop. It’s time for us all to say, ‘I am beautiful the way I am.’”
Just as a great song can stir the soul, a vigorous workout and some healthy food can take your day from hum-drum to extraordinary. And just like your favorite tune, this self-affirming approach to life gets even better on repeat.