Basic Self-Care for DJs

If you have been following my columns, you know that I have stepped beyond the DJ and entertainment industry to add new streams of revenue, not to mention pursuing things that I’m passionate about.  Most of these pursuits flowed from one to the other, DJ work leading to commercial and audio production, doing ceremonies as an officiant, remixing, etc.  Others were associated in some way; my being a certified firearms instructor stemmed from my own security needs as a mobile DJ, for example.  My most recent, however, came from “left field” – my entry into the massage and bodywork industry.

How I became interested could be a whole column in and of itself, but my purpose here is to share a few things I’ve learned that have been extremely beneficial to my DJ career.  In a recent Facebook forum, the topic of how many of us feel the day after a gig cropped up, and it seems like the majority of DJs are in a lot of pain the next day, or are simply enervated and need rest.  I’m often asked how I’ve managed to work as a DJ for 41 years and still be fairly fit, lift my speaker cabinets and do my gigs without the “day after” lethargy.  Having now become an LMT (Licensed Massage Therapist), I now have the vocabulary to explain, as well as offer a few new tips that have worked well for me.

BEFORE THE GIG

Prior to a gig, it’s important to warm up those muscles you’ll be using when packing up, moving and setting up your gear.  Much like runners you might see before a competition, you don’t want to go in “cold,” but rather give those muscles a “heads up” by doing a few basic warmups.  These involve moving, getting your body “up to speed” by doing a short jog, say, up and down your driveway.  Do it both forward and back.  Some trainers also recommend skipping, which warms up foot and ankle flexors – very important to DJs!  Do this forward and backward as well.  Next comes the “side hop,” which works the side muscles (abductors and adductors) of the legs.  Lastly, I do about 60 old-fashioned jumping jacks.  This gets the whole body working, lymph moving and brings your arms into the game.

While I recommend saving stretches for after the gig, I do recommend a few during warmup.  The first is a toe touch: standing upright with your arms raised over your head, tuck your head and bend slowly from the waist, keeping your legs straight, and lower your arms until they touch your toes, or come as close as possible.  Allow yourself to “hang” for a few minutes, letting your lower back muscles stretch.  You might find that, given a minute or two, you CAN touch your toes, and might even touch the ground.

Then it’s time for the knee hug.  As you step forward, bring your knee up to your chest as high as possible, using your arms to pull it in.  Alternate with each step, again, about the length of your driveway (about 25-30 yards or so).  Next is the forward “lunge,” where you’ll take a long step forward, but not let your opposite knee touch the ground, with the shin being close to parallel.  Do this several times with both legs.  Lastly, I like to pay attention to my arms and shoulders, which we DJs tend to abuse, being hunched over our consoles a lot.  Doing arm circles, where you “windmill” your arms loosens them up.  Keep them close to the side of the body, and go in both directions for a few reps.  Next, I like to bring my arm up, bend it behind my head and use my opposite arm to pull it as far over as I can.  Repeat with opposite arm.  The self-hug is basically winging your arms out forward and back, like you’re hugging yourself, but alternating one arm over the other.  When bringing the arms out, bring them as far back as possible to open up the chest and release tension in the rhomboids, those muscles in-between your shoulder blades.  Your warmup period should take no more than 15-20 minutes.

AFTER THE GIG

It is important to do more than just jump into bed after something as physically grueling as a gig.  This is where the stretching comes in!  One we do almost instinctively in the morning, where you throw out your chest, bringing your head and arms back while exhaling, I call the “good morning” stretch, but it’s also excellent at the end of the day.  For the sake of brevity, I also suggest doing as many of the post-workout stretches suggested by the Jett’s workout website (https://www.jetts.com.au/jetts-life/workouts/7-stretches-you-should-be-doing-after-every-workout).  Yes, gigging IS a workout, and I do these stretches after every one for another 15-20 minutes.

Sometimes tension is more than muscular, but is a tightness of our fascia, that fibrous connective tissue that permeates the body.  For one thing, it needs to stay lubricated, so it’s important that you drink enough water throughout the day to replace what you lose through sweat, breathing, etc.  The old U.S. standard of 8-10 8 oz. glasses per day is still a good rule of thumb, and might even be conservative!  So stay hydrated.  (And no, it doesn’t all have to be plain water.  Just make sure you don’t overdo the caffeine.)

Fascia also responds to heat.  After a long, hard gig, I often will sit and watch a bit of TV before bed with my feet in a warm foot bath.  Homedics ™ makes one with infrared heat, vibration and a nice nubby roller to soothe tired feet.  Add Epsom salts and your feet are in for a good time!  For shoulders, upper and lower back, heating pads can be just what your achy muscles and stiff fascia need.  Ten to 15 minutes before bed should do the trick.  Just be sure to not fall asleep with a heating pad turned on.  A better (and cheaper) option might be a microwave heating bag or simply a moist towel heated in the microwave.  Don’t let either one become hotter than 135 degrees.

NOTE: If you have inflammation in an area, then do NOT use heat!  Instead, I would recommend the opposite in the form of Bio-Freeze, or it’s cheaper cousin, Max Freeze.  An ice pack can work as well, but I find them a bit too intense after a gig when I’m getting ready to sleep.  I’ll apply Bio-Freeze and wake up the next morning without the soreness and sluggish feeling so many of us suffer post-gig.

Until next time, safe and healthy spinnin’!

Author

  • Stu Chisholm of Stu & His Crew Professional Disc Jockey Service in Michigan has worked in several areas of the DJ Universe.

    He’s been a radio, mobile, club and roller skating rink DJ in the Detroit area since 1979, and done commercial voice-over work, as well.

    Stu has been a keynote and featured speaker at DJ trade shows in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. He is the author of the book, “The Complete Disc Jockey” and is a regular columnist with Mobile Beat Magazine.

    To contact him, email DJStuCrew@gmail.com. You can grab Stu’s book at TheCompleteDiscJockey.com.

Latest articles

The Anniversary Dance

Introduction Song Ideas

Speaker Best Practices

Related articles