Every time I see a concert, especially one that involves a lot of on-stage dancing, I am in awe that the human body can perform at that level night after night. Apparently I'm not the only one who wonders how musicians and performers can sustain this level of physicality while catching a few hours of sleep on a bus or a plane before doing it all over again. Case in point: Australian singer, songwriter, and LGBTQ activist Betty Who, who partnered with lululemon's Whitespace throughout her Spring 2019 tour to figure out how to best recover from the grueling workout that is being on stage nearly every night for months.
"I think our athleticism on tour and constant drive to stay sweaty and connected to our bodies aligns with what lululemon is trying to achieve within their community," Betty tells Bustle. The collaboration will help the artist and her dancers learn how to best recover physically and mentally during the "Betty The Tour" tour by using data science to design an individual recovery program for each person.
Born Jessica Anne Newham, Betty and her two core dancers each received wearable sensing technology that allows the Whitespace team to examine and evaluate their physical response to the demands of touring. The sensors will monitor each person's continuous heart rate and heart rate variability to get a clear picture of stress and recovery points during the day, as well as during sleep. The Whitespace team plans to use the data to give specific feedback to Betty and her dancers once the tour is over. This information provides opportunities for each person to practice proactive recovery, adjusting time to eat, workout, or sleep. The lululemon Whitespace team will also offer breathing and meditation exercises to help reduce tour-related stress.
Betty, who first partnered with lululemon in 2017, tells Bustle that she was surprised to learn she's not as well rested as she thought. "I am pretty horrified at how little rest I apparently get on tour. I thought I slept so well on the tour bus, but turns out my quality of sleep is so bad. My sleep is not actually helping my body recover the way it really needs for me to perform strongly."
What's more, well rested or not, the show must go on. "Some nights you walk on stage and you feel like you’re running a marathon that you’ve been training for your whole life. You have so much energy and you’re so present and you never want to get off stage. Other nights, it is harder," Betty says.
"You can feel your muscles, even your voice, screaming at you to stop and just lay the fuck down. Then, there will be days off after, particularly following hard shows, where I will sleep all day. My body is so tired. Between the travel and performing, meet-and-greet obligations, and sheer energy output... it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done." Betty copes with this stress by stretching regularly, icing sore muscles, and going to boot camp class for core strength training when her schedule allows.
But despite the physical and mental challenges of being on tour, Betty says the stage is her favorite place to be.
"Every day is different, especially while I am on tour," Betty tells Bustle. "I have to really listen to my body and make sure I’m not pushing too hard when my body needs rest (which is often)." Because whether you're a rock star, or you just want to stay connected to your body, recovery is just as important as a good sweat.