When I was 18 years old, squeezing barista shifts and catering gigs into my class schedule to make rent, a very wise woman told me, “Go wait tables. You love validation. Every tip is validation. Every shift is different and you’ll make rent faster working less.”
Taking this advice, I marched myself into the nearby Macaroni Grill. There I made the case that, while I lacked waitressing experience, passing hors d’œuvres at receptions should count as basic training, right? I spent two years at that Macaroni Grill, wearing terrible ties, eating dead food and cold bread on 10-hour swing shifts, making lifelong friends and loving nearly every minute of it.
Little did I know that this now-defunct restaurant would be the first brick in the long road of hospitality that would lead me to my bar home at the Landmark Theatres, Harbor East. For the last 10 years I’ve anchored this bar, making menus for major releases and excitedly celebrating indie darling films. With this bar, I’ve found my cocktail style, honed my managing methods, founded Baltimore Cocktail Week and even met my husband!
Celebrating both my 35th birthday and 10th work anniversary this year, I’ve started what I call the “Industry Hokey Pokey.” Like any profession that involves long, peculiar hours and makes great physical demands, you start to feel the shifts a
bit more every year as you evaluate your longevity in the field. “Are you in, are you out?” And if in, how was I going to turn myself and my habits around to continue enjoying my time on bar instead of recovering from shift to shift?
It was time to turn to the talents of Amie Ward to help me find those answers. Amie is an industry veteran superwoman and the founder of The Healthtender, a business principled on teaching bartenders, chefs, servers and others in the hospitality industry to take better care of themselves, one 12-hour shift at a time. Ward is a Jill-of-all-trades. She received her master’s degree in kinesiology from University of Maryland College Park while tutoring student athletes. She is a Strongwoman competitor and a member of the Charm City Roller Girls, skating as Federal Kill. An award-winning bartender, she holds down the massive beverage undertaking that is R. Bar.
Basically, Ward is who I want to be when I grow up.
Approaching the release of “The Last Jedi” and 26 shifts in 31 days, I vowed to live this long month in true Healthtender style. Ward provided me with a 10-minute pre-shift stretching routine, a short list of vitamins, a conversation about caffeine and a guide for meal prep. I asked for her most hard and fast rules. “Stop eating 12-14 hours after you wake up. Two glasses of water for every serving of caffeine. Eat and snack when you can — this takes planning.”
While I’m not the meal prep maven Ward is, I did resolve to arrive to every shift with one prepared meal and healthy snacks on bar. Healthtender’s recommendation was Justin’s snack packs, which are pocket-sized and pack in seven grams of protein.
During this marathon month of hamstring stretches, arm circles and Stormtrooper small talk, I also checked in with some veterans of various industries to see how they keep themselves going. Here are some of the insights they shared:
Nadia Lauer, pediatric nurse,
Johns Hopkins Hospital
“My average shift is 12 hours. I try not to work more than two shifts in a row and to leave work at work. It is very important to have the correct shoes! Splurge and find the ones that fit well, support and aren’t too heavy. Healthy snacks throughout the day help with energy. Drinking enough water, in between the coffee cups, is vital.”
Susie Arnold, personal chef
“Standing not only has an effect on your feet and your legs, but virtually your whole body. Taking care of both the inside and outside of your body is key to your overall health and well-being when it comes to physically demanding jobs. So although it is key to have the right shoes, floor mats and proper counter/workstation height, it is equally as important to get massages, chiropractic adjustments, hot tub soaks, and yes, manicures and pedicures! Not to mention having a regular workout routine. Stretching, making sure you are well nourished and rested will give you the boost you need to thrive.”
Shannon Cosgrove, owner,
Ice Cream Pet Services
“I start working at 8 a.m. and I finish around 9 p.m. I spend about eight of those hours walking. The best advice I can give is to surround yourself with people who lift you up and support you. Definitely prepping food and having healthy quick options makes a huge difference and keeps me from eating like a child out of convenience.”
Ali Mente, second grade teacher,
Baltimore City Public Schools
“Seven-year-olds make it pretty impossible to sit down throughout the day! I love my Apple Watch because it keeps track of my steps and motivates me to stay
moving. I make sure I close all three of my (activity) rings at least five days a week, which sometimes means I do a few extra laps around my classroom. It’s amazing to see how many fewer steps I take on the weekends. I also incorporate brain breaks throughout our day that usually include some sort of yoga stretches. My students love them. I make sure I pack small snacks that I can eat on the move throughout the day: almonds, cut-up apples, RxBars and trail mix are my go-tos.”
At the end of the month, I reflected on how I did with Healthtender.
The Good: While it seems so simple now, having at least one meal and snacks on hand behind the bar made hectic shifts much less stressful. No more hunting down food while stocking and resetting.
I also found strictly eating for only 12 hours after you wake up made breakfast much more appealing. “You need to give your body time to decompress and flush,” Amie says. This adjustment seems simple, but when you get up at 9 a.m. to be at work at noon, to work until 11 p.m., to go to bed at 3 a.m., your cycles and eating habits don’t necessarily align.
The Bad: After two or three especially long shifts, I did give in to some guilty chocolate fixes. On one especially challenging day, I smothered a vegan cookie in my daily Justin’s peanut butter pack. Rome wasn’t built in a day and my bad habits won’t be broken in one either.
The Ugly: Not all stretching is graceful and stretching behind a bar is not without wincing. But gosh darn, does it help.
My “Hokey Pokey” isn’t over and I continue to evaluate where I will write the next chapter of my professional journey. I am grateful to Amie and her Health-
tender platform for guiding me through this growth, arming me with a new bag of tricks and helping to renew my love for this industry we are so lucky to call home.