Behind the Bar The Business of the Bar

The Holidays Are Nuts for Bartenders. Here Are 5 Ways to Stay Healthy During the Busy Season.

Image: Elizabeth Reyes

Longer shifts, busier work and social schedules, plus the usual seasonal indulgences, make it next to impossible to prioritize your health and wellness during the holidays. “It’s a taxing time of year for those of us in hospitality,” says Kirsten Amann, a certified yoga instructor and brand ambassador for Egan’s Irish whiskey. “You’re working more without necessarily getting any time off for yourself and expending extra energy meeting guests’ expectations.”

Amman and other industry pros shared their tips for incorporating self-care, quality workouts and clean eating into their frenzied end-of-year routines.

Aldo Sohm. Thomas Schauer

1. Practice Mindfulness

“You’re much more likely to have that third or fourth drink or reach for fatty foods if you’re checked out and stressed out,” says Amman.

Aldo Sohm, an avid cyclist and Le Bernardin’s wine director in New York City, agrees. “When you pay more attention to what and when you eat and drink, you eat and drink differently and are much more thoughtful about what you consume,” he says.

Amman recommends applying the same mindfulness to your workouts. “Maybe instead of hitting the gym for intense cardio, if you’re feeling tired, go to yin yoga or do some gentle stretching,” he says. “You’re still moving but preserving valuable energy for your work.”

J.P. Smith.

2. Just Move

For J.P. Smith, a former Cirque du Soleil performer and bar manager at San Francisco’s Mourad, it’s all about doing the little things every day. “Get up and do some stretching or yoga,” he says. “Get outside and hike or bike or ski. It can be as much of a mental release as a physical one.”

Jared Adkins, the founder and master distiller at Bluebird Distilling in Phoenixville, Pa., doesn’t let cold weather hinder his workouts. He surfs all winter long or hits the slopes for snowboarding. “I just love getting fresh air, and it’s great for combatting the excesses of the season,” he says.

If working out indoors is more your style, Devin Kennedy, who ran track in high school and is the head bartender at Cote in New York City, recommends finding simple goals, like dunking a basketball, running a mile or doing 50 pushups in a row to keep you motivated during the chillier, busier holiday months.

Jared Adkins.

3. Honor Your Routine

“Write your workout down and commit to making it happen, or else it’s easy to let it slide this time of year,” says Derek Mercer, a recreational soccer player and bar manager at Chicago’s Blackbird.

“If I don’t work out in the morning, it doesn’t get done,” says Jordan Zimmerman, a New York City brand rep for Edrington and an avid runner and CrossFit enthusiast.

Devin Kennedy. Gary He

Similarly, former competitive college swimmer and bar manager of San Francisco’s Rich Table Tommy Quimby says, “Even if it’s just 30 to 40 minutes a day, just get up and do something, and make it part of your routine. I know my quality of life goes down if I skip my workouts.”

Sohm says his staff and his girlfriend know his Sunday morning bike rides are “non-negotiable” and that his regular workouts keep him calm and focused during an otherwise crazy season.

Jordan Zimmerman.

4. Be Prepared

The Boy Scouts weren’t wrong. Eating regularly, having healthy snacks on hand and hydrating well are crucial to minimizing holiday overindulgences. For Scot Sanborn, a former college athlete and owner and founder of North Carolina’s Sutler’s Spirit Co., that means packing healthy snacks like bananas, nuts, apples and protein bars to snack on during long days in the car making sales calls.

Zimmerman admits she buys Quest bars “by the case” and that she always travels with those as well as fruit, nuts, carrots and other portable snacks. “Get some food in your stomach before your event or shift, even if you’re not hungry,” she says.

Tommy Quimby.

Mercer recommends “things you can pop in your mouth quickly so you’re not totally starving at the end of shift or before hitting a party” on hand for himself and his staff. And don’t neglect your water. “A lot of times when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually thirsty,” he says.

5. Find Some Balance

“In our industry, we have a tendency to get excessive quickly. We eat a lot, we drink a lot. You have to give your body a break and sweat it out now and again, or you’re going to end up 300 pounds or sick all the time,” says Sohm. “If I don’t get my workout in, I don’t feel crisp or sharp. When I do, I’m better at my job—calmer, more precise.”

Scot Sanborn.

“Being a small business owner, it’s all about balance in life,” says Sanborn. “If I didn’t have that stress release of daily exercises, I’m not sure I could handle it. I really believe in moderation in everything.”

Kennedy agrees. “I try and take care of myself and be healthy, but I also enjoy food and drink during the holidays,” he says. “I’m going to get my stuffing, my turkey and my ham, and then I’ll wake up the next day and get back on track.”