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Big Damn Advice: Let's get physical


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  • Will McCarty

With hundreds of thousands of miles traveled, dozens of countries toured via interstates, planes, vans and buses; from dining with royalty in the South of France in castles to living on the road with hobos and vagabonds, Rev. Peyton has seen and done a lot. As an internationally revered recording artist and performer ­— and a proud Hoosier — we asked Rev. Peyton to lend his unique perspective and wildlife experiences to our readers.

Got a question about music, traveling, love, food, religion, politics, family, friends or enemies? Send it in to or submit anonymously to, and Rev. Peyton will answer back in a regular column. Anonymity is assured.

Read more about wellness for beginners in this week's cover story.

Dear Reverend Peyton: What’s your workout routine while touring? How do you stay fit and active in the bus/van/compact car? How much are tickets to the gun show, bro?

Well the first part of this question is reasonable and fair, I don’t know what to do with the last bit there, so let's pretend it doesn't exist. I think it is a compliment, but we’ll just move on.

When the New Year rolls around people start making resolutions to improve themselves in one way or another. In fact 44 percent of Americans will make a New Year’s Resolution. The majority of those resolutions will be to lose weight and exercise more. Only 8 percent of people that make resolutions succeed in their cause. That means that 92 percent are failures.

Those are sad numbers, because I know what it is like to want to change and fail. The global health club industry is somewhere close to 80 billion dollars. Yes Billion. (This number varies slightly based on who you ask.) Late night infomercials prey upon people sitting on their couch, desperate to want to better themselves. I wonder how many treadmills, Bowflex machines or Chuck Norris Total Gyms sit gathering dust in the United States, currently being used to hang clothes in dark basements and laundry rooms?

You don’t need any of that stuff. I can tell you how to stay fit living out of a backpack doing routines you can do in any hotel room or any floor anywhere in the world. You only need a desire to be better. You don’t need much time either. I’m talking about minutes a week, not hours.

When I first started touring full time, I was so poor I couldn't hardly afford food. “Tour life” and the junk that is available to poor people and travelers to eat took its toll. The literal struggle to survive in the music business became my number one focus and my health suffered for sure. I have always been very active, and a person who sought adventure, but a few years ago I decided that I wanted to be better and in my personal journey, I learned a few things. It is my hope that I can pass them along to anyone who might want to better themselves.

I want to start by saying that in this endeavor don’t ever compare yourself to anyone else. The only way to win is to become a better you. That is all that matters anyway. I know it is a cliche, but if you are forever chasing genetically gifted people or those who are enhanced chemically, then you are setting yourself up for failure. That being said, if you stay the course you will be amazed at what you are capable of. Before I dig in, I want to say that if it is weight you want to lose, then you have to change your eating habits. I recommend a book called the Primal Blueprint. It changed my life, but since this question is specifically about exercise I want to keep myself on track.

It all starts with calisthenics and bodyweight exercises. If calisthenics are good enough for UFC fighters, Navy Seals and Olympic athletes, then they are good enough for you. You can also make some equipment for literally pennies. I spend the majority of my life on the road. About 25 percent of my time is spent in Europe or elsewhere abroad. I don’t have the time or money for the kind of gym membership that could work for me traveling the way that I do. I have to be able to workout in any hotel or green room anywhere in the world.

What are calisthenics and body weight exercises? Pushups, bodyweight squats, lunges, pullups, chinups, jumping jacks, planks, dips, etc. A quick Google search and you can find tons of these type of exercises that require nothing but a floor. Can’t do a pushup yet? Then you should do them against a wall until you can. If you can only do one, then do one a few times a week until you can do two. Do them with perfect form. I believe in pushups. When you start out you will get strong fast. When you start getting advanced there are literally hundreds of pushup variations that will kick your butt. My favorite are diamond pushups with my feet on a table.

For pullups, you need a bar, but you can get a doorway pullup bar for 25 bucks. I made mine for cheaper, with stuff at the hardware store at first, because I love DIY and I am cheap. It stems from being broke for so long. If you can't do a pull-up yet, get a TRX strap and work your way up to pull-ups. TRX straps are basically adjustable straps with handles. They were designed by a Navy Seal who needed to stay fit while deployed. Because they are adjustable they are perfect for beginners, travelers, and even advanced gym rats. TRX straps are about 100 bucks. Target has a cheaper knockoff TRX style strap for 30 bucks. I made mine with climbing rope and dowel rods for less than 10. They hook on top of a door or tree limb, and can be used anywhere.


My backpack weighs about 40 pounds depending upon the tour situation. I always weigh it before we fly so I know exactly what it weighs when full. I wear it when I do these exercises for a bigger challenge. I like to push the desk next to the TV stand in hotel rooms and do full bodyweight dips wearing my backpack. I keep my wife – who is also the band's amazing washboard player — Washboard Breezy Peyton, up at night doing crazy stuff like squatting the dresser in the hotel room. I like to work with what is available. I love the challenge.

As I got more advanced and looked for new ways to challenge myself I got into sandbag training. Sand costs less than 3 dollars for 50 pounds at your local hardware store. You can get an army surplus bag, trash bags and duct tape and make a workout sandbag for so cheap. My German driver and friend Nails, who drives the band when we're in Europe, likes to tell the story of crossing Eastern European borders carrying 150 pounds of sand for me. He said he wasn't sure how to explain it to border guards! Sandbag training is functional and will carry over into whatever adventure you are into.

Do a Google search on HIIT and Tabata workouts. They take 10 minutes and they work. All this really requires is a desire to be better. You don’t need any money to get started. You need very little time. Please beware of charlatans trying to sell you things this time of year. Use Google for workout ideas and to perfect your form. Use your floor. Get healthy and compete with yourself.  


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