‘Early to bed and early to rise… makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’.
From an interview with Gail Bell:
Up and at it – what is your morning routine?
My father-in-law had a beautiful quote, which I’ll never forget and which I made as a sort of life motto for myself: ‘Early to bed and early to rise… makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’. Well, during concert tours, I don’t go to bed early but nevertheless I get up between seven and eight in the morning. I eat in my hotel room and after that, I’ll do my gymnastic exercises with my personal trainer, Ruud. At home I always have my breakfast with my wife Marjorie who is my biggest source of happiness. We have a little booklet called ‘Throughout the year with Goethe’, the German author/philosopher, and for every day, there is a little quote and we discuss that during breakfast. Hopefully, that makes us wise…
What might you eat in a typical working day for…Breakfast?
A slice of peperkoek, a sort of Dutch gingerbread.
Spaghetti Bolognese is a favourite.
On tour, I enjoy a little vegetable broth before the sound check and a small sirloin steak before the concert. Besides that, loads of vegetables which are so delicious.
Is nutrition important to you?
Yes, it really is important and I try to eat as healthily as I can. I just turned 70 and giving about 90 concerts every year is comparable with being an athlete. Eating variously at regular times (I prefer to have five small meals a day) helps me stay healthy.
Best meal ever?
When I was a student at the Conservatoire of Brussels my wife, Marjorie, surprised me once with a dish called Ossobuco alla Milanese – veal shanks with cooked vegetables and spaghetti. I still have very fond memories of this wonderful Italian dish.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Oh yes, it’s a piece of gooseberry cake with whipped cream or, as we call it in Maastricht, ‘kroonsele vlaoij met sjoem’.
Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?
No, not in a specific way. The fact that there are so many diets proves to me that there isn’t a single one that really helps.
Do you take health supplements?
How do you relax?
Playing with my grandchildren is a nice way of relaxing but also making Sudoku puzzles or reading books. Last year I finished one of Ken Follett’s latest novels and also the scientific work Singing In The Brain, written by my friend Erik Scherder, a famous Dutch neuro physician – and also a fan of our music.
Teetotal or tipple?
Teetotal. I don’t drink alcohol any more for the simple reason, it’s more healthy to ban this ‘drug’ out of one’s life.
Stairs or lift?
Stairs in general, except when I stay in a hotel with many storeys; in that case, I prefer taking the lift!
Do you have a daily exercise regime?
I train with Ruud three times a week and, thanks to him, I enjoy doing sports once again. I do power lifting, kettle bells, you name it… I used to play tennis but doctors advised me to give up – too much risk for my elbows, which I prefer to use for playing my violin.
Best tip for everyday fitness?
Whatever exercise you do, try to enjoy it. When you enjoy what you’re doing, you generally keep on doing it for a long, long time.
On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are and how fit would you like to be?
I’d say I’m a 10, because if I could be fitter, I’d work on it to get 10 points.
Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy?
Never tried it and probably never will. Music itself is my therapy; it makes me feel good. It is scientifically proven that the waltz (either playing or dancing it) is good for one’s health, so my advice is: ‘A waltz a day keeps the doctor away’.
Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget?
I don’t remember a lot of that time, to be honest.
Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?
The fact that twice in my life I had to postpone several concerts was a signal for me that I had to change something. Sometimes I’m too enthusiastic about new great plans, so I suffered a kind of ‘surmenage’ – not as bad as a burnout, but it was getting close. At that moment, I realised I was heading the wrong way, but now I feel better than ever.
Best health/lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?
Try to follow your dream and do whatever is needed to achieve it, or, like Walt Disney used to say: “If you can dream it, you can do it!”
Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness / attitude to life?
I’ve always dreamt of giving a concert together with Bruce Springsteen; we’re about the same age and his energy is something I really admire. He knows how to entertain his audience – it’s incredible.
What time do you normally get to bed and do you get enough sleep?
On tour, I go to bed after the concert (between 11pm and midnight) and at home, I go to sleep between 10 and 11pm. I’m so lucky that I’m able to have power naps at any time of the day and that is what I always do after dinner and before a concert… just a short, power nap to charge my battery for the rest of the evening.
Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?
I’d like to live forever but unfortunately no-one has eternal life. But there are strong genes running in the Rieu family: my grandmother was almost 102, my mother nearly 99, so I have good faith that I will be able to enjoy my fans for many years to come.