Just like an athletic event, drumming can involve physical demands which you must be prepared for; not only for the sake of your performance, but for your health. Preparation, exercise and stretching can help maintain your overall health so that you can return to play night after night, year after year. Drumming is however NOT a competition. Often the physical nature of drumming leads to a competitive nature...who is the fastest, who is the "best". These are questions are irrelevant. Drumming is an art, not a competition. That being said, the physical nature of drumming deserves respect for the forces involved.
Daily and pre-performance stretching are essential for maintaining musculo-skeletal health and for maximizing your performance. Go slowly and try to perform your exercise activities in a relaxed, unhurried manner.
Good cardiovascular fitness can pay huge dividends by increasing your ability to perform for longer periods. Good cardio-vascular health can also enhance your ability to perform well throughout a long set by helping you maintain good technique. When you get physically fatigued, your technique will begin to suffer and you will eventually begin to use other muscle groups to perform. This leads to break down of your technique which can lead to injury.
During your routine practice and at rehearsals, pay attention to your form and technique. Work on staying relaxed and do not use all of your energy on a single song or section. Pace yourself and aim for a consistent energy level. Quality is indeed more important that quantity. Relaxation and good breathing technique will allow you to perform longer with less fatigue.
For drummers, it makes sense to maintain a "well rounded" routine which encourages strength and flexibility of the upper and lower body. It makes little sense to achieve massive upper body strength at the expense of cardio-vascular health and lower body endurance. Your exercise routines should be balanced between cardiovascular work and strength training.
Did you know you can help maintain your cardiovascular health while helping maintain your weight by walking just 20-40 minutes a day? You don't need a gym membership or equipment. All that is needed are proper fitting athletic shoes! You will be surprised how good you feel after just a few weeks of daily walking or hiking.
I have found Tai Chi to be a really effective way to relax and stretch while improving balance and fluidity of motion. Drumming is generally a high speed motion which uses fast twitch muscle fibers. AsTai Chi is a martial art which uses slow speed motions, it is a great counterpoint to the rapid speed motions we perform as drummers. I recommend Tai Chi practice as part of a balanced fitness program. While a Tai Chi instructor is great, there are also a number of excellent DVD's available which can get you started. webbot bot="HTMLMarkup" startspan David Carradine's Tai Chi Workout for Beginners webbot bot="HTMLMarkup" endspan i-checksum="11544" and the rest of his Tai Chi DVD series is very good, especially since those of us who remember his calm and relaxing voice!