Rock & Roll has rarely, if ever been viewed as a cradle of moderation, temperance and health consciousness. But for Heather Findlay, whose looks enchant an ever growing fan base, her fitness and health are imperative to sustaining and enhancing a prodigious vocal and musical talent.
Before going solo, for several years she was the principle voice of seven-piece band Mostly Autumn, and Heather’s often frenetic life left little room for conventional patterns and routines. The kind of exercise programmes and lifestyle routines many of us take for granted are not an option for a member of a hard working rock band whose popularity spread throughout Europe and as far as the USA.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Conscious as long as she can remember of striving for high levels of fitness and well-being, Heather has become even more aware of these matters as her career has progressed. “I’ve always been naturally inclined to stay active and fit and over the years have probably done every class and activity going”, said the muso who is still capable of an elaborate sequence of gymnastic tumbles when the mood takes her!
“The challenge in recent years has not been in retaining that desire and interest but of learning how to make it an integral part of my life which can be rather random at times. I don’t have regular hours as such and, for periods of time, there might be no regular base”, she explained.
Adapting to changing environments
Mostly Autumn’s hugely dedicated following and success in selling thousands of albums and DVDs was founded on reaching the public through a heavy and wholehearted touring programme. As a result Heather was forced to constantly adapt to an ever shifting environment and adopt disciplines and programmes that benefited her.
“I might be at home, in the studio, involved with promotional commitments or on tour for weeks at a time. But I’d never make that an excuse to slacken off and ignore my physical health.
“I don’t want to sound sanctimonious but it does irk me when I hear people blame everything except themselves for not pursuing any kind of fitness activity. Attending a gym three times a week for 90 minutes a visit can be tricky for many, but there so are many other things you can do at any time in any environment that will benefit you”.
There’s no excuse
Regular toning exercises keep her trim and ensure a strong, balanced frame and posture – useful attributes for any singer. “We spend every day of our lives with the best resistance tool at our disposal – our own body”, explained Heather. “And it requires very little time or space to perform sit-ups, press-ups, squats and lunges against nothing more than our own weight. I get great benefits from maintaining this simple programme”.
Running is also a regular activity that – as she points out – requires nothing more than a pair of trainers and the will to get on with it.
“When touring we’d often travel overnight so I was forever falling asleep in one place and waking up somewhere completely new. Donning the trainers and getting out for a run is a great way of acquainting yourself with the locality and energizing for the day and night ahead!”
Portability of of equipment is vital in Heather’s life and her Yoga mat provides the ideal travelling accessory.
Behind the stage
For someone who appears so at home on stage and who exudes a commanding yet relaxed presence, Heather admits to regular nerves and flashes of anxiety.
“I suspect it’s only natural in any stage performer to harbour such ridiculous notions of being struck mute, brained by an overhead light or falling off stage. It’s how we deal with these mental gremlins that matters and I find Yoga an invaluable tool.”
She admitted any lurking niggles or hints of illness only exacerbate pre-show worries and concerns. “For a lot of people a sore throat or cold need not affect their working day. It’s not pleasant but it doesn’t prevent them doing a job. For me it could be a disaster and yet phoning in sick just isn’t an option.
The mechanics and logistics of a gig and a tour are significant, not only for band and crew but promoters and venue owners, record company people and most importantly fans who pay good money and travel amazing distances sometimes. With all that in mind being ill just isn’t an option!”
Finding the right balance
It’s clear Heather doesn’t blindly buy into fads and trends in pursuit of a quick fix, but takes the trouble to study and apply the best elements of diets and exercise routines that work for her. An organic diet of beans and pulses with as many meals as possible made from scratch works well for her.
She also reluctantly avoids dairy whilst recording or on tour (“I adore cheese!”) because over time she noticed it had a derogatory effect on her voice.
“I watch the timing of my meals too. I try not to eat carbs too late in the day and I always try to kick my metabolism into action by eating breakfast soon after waking. Fitting such practice around an erratic lifestyle, often organised by someone else, can be tricky, but my guidelines allow for this and a bad day can always be rectified by a good day that’s sure to follow. Fewer boundaries I set for myself the less likely I am to back myself into a corner. If I’ve not maintained my regime for a day or two I don’t feel the need to start from square one…just moderate and continue.”
Heather admitted the privileges and pleasures of a generous fan base don’t always help either. “There is so much wonderful generosity from fans and friends. Lots of hospitality and kindness comes our way and although the meals and drinks might not be totally conducive to my health and fitness programme it would be rude to refuse. I have no plans to adopt a Mariah Carey type attitude to strict requirements and demands!”
Moving with the music
Heather can command centre stage and be a clear focal point with a voice that soars, glides, explodes and lilts and a body that moves with the grace, poise and balance of an experienced dancer.
When it comes to stage performance she admits that holding back a bit might make sense during a congested spell of gigging, but it is simply not an option when standing in front of a crowd. “The music is full of dynamics: light, shade, power, subtlety, calm and turbulence. To deliver it correctly and convey the emotions I have to commit totally to the moment, the lyric, the sentiment, the song and the whole show. To do anything less is to disrespect the audience. Restraint on stage with a view to ‘personal preservation’ isn’t going to happen. Because of that I have to ensure what I do off stage allows me the kind of performance people expect”.
Constant hydration is vital to her voice and regular steam and aromatherapy sessions in the dressing room are invaluable in keeping her head and throat clear. “In the main I stick to straightforward principles of listening to my body”, she added.
“Skin and hair usually offer tell-tale signs of when all is not well. Stretching, toning and keeping active – all of which are possible whether I’m at home, in the studio or a cramped dressing room. It’s just a matter of improvising and maintaining a sense of balance and moderation. The real energy and excesses are left for the stage!”
Read more from expert Guy Holland.