Rush’s Neil Peart: Drummer, Athlete

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A few years back I heard about a study that concluded that rock drummers are are “top athletes.” I made it a point to make my wife aware of this since it sounded like an excellent excuse for me to pick up a drum kit some day. Since she often reminds me that we should start exercising soon, I thought this would be a great way for me to exercise and have fun at the same time.

Since it’s been over twenty years since I’ve even sat behind a set of drums, I don’t know how my stamina is these days, but if 58-year-old Neil Peart is any indication, I’ve got a good shot at getting back in the groove when the circumstances are right. Peart, regarded by many as the best rock drummer of all time, is a fellow that takes fitness very seriously.

yogaThere’s no doubt that every musician that spends hours on stage performing for fans has to be in pretty decent shape, and although I don’t want to take anything away from singers, guitarists or bass players, it’s easy to see that drummers are the ones that are expending the most energy during their performance. With all four limbs busy just about constantly, drummers are probably burning more calories than anyone else on stage.

Recently interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, Peart revealed that he honors a pretty rigorous fitness program that includes cross-country skiing when he gets a chance to spend some time in his native Canada during the winter. At his home in Southern California, he swims, lifts weights, bicycles and does yoga. Although this may sound like more than an adequate amount of physical activity to keep someone ready for just about anything, Peart has to ramp things up significantly when preparing for a tour.

“Playing a three-hour Rush show is like running a marathon while solving equations. My mind is as busy as it can be, and so is my body; full output all the time,” Peart says. Anyone familiar with Rush’s body of work is likely to be in complete agreement with that statement. Other rock bands may rock as hard as Rush does, but few of them can match the technical expertise and musicianship that Rush is so well known for.

Even when he’s on the road, Peart’s tour workouts don’t keep him from taking on physical challenges like climbing 14,000-foot mountains. The man might be compared to a perpetual motion machine!

Admitting that he was a kid with “spindly little ankles,” and wasn’t able to skate (kind of a big deal for a Canadian), Peart has certainly made up for his youthful lack of talent on the ice or athletic field since then. I wonder how many of his former classmates and childhood friends could even come close to keeping up with him these days while he cycles, swims or hikes up a 14,000-foot mountain.

Perhaps a lot of musicians wind up where they are as a result of similar circumstances. Since I was never anywhere near the top of the list when it was time to select team mates during gym class, I can relate to Peart’s childhood lack of athletic ability.

Unfortunately, I haven’t followed in Neil Peart’s footsteps where physical fitness is concerned. Although I was just in the doctor’s office a few weeks ago for my annual physical and worked out my BMI or “Body Mass Index” at about 23 according to the chart hanging in the office wall (that’s a pretty good number), where exercise and physical activity is concerned, I’m pretty-much a sloth compared to Neil Peart.

Peart also took time to point out that drumming is excellent physical activity for kids and helps them develop stamina and blow off some steam without the risk of injury that comes with other sporting activities. That is something else I might consider pointing out to my wife when the time comes to plunk down the cash for a drum kit. Unfortunately, I ‘m pretty certain the only reply I’m going to get from her is, “Neil who?”

While I’m on the subject of Neil Peart, I would be remiss if I did not mention that recently reported that Peart’s next instructional DVD is scheduled for release in October. Taking Center Stage: A Lifetime of Live Performance is set for release on October 14th.

Is that guy busy, or what?

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