The solstice has passed so summer is well on its way. The long weekend is just around the corner.
My son, Misha, has just spent the week in Panama where it’s perpetually summer. He was there as part of the Canadian Fencing team for the Pan American Fencing Championships. Yes, I have to stick my proud mom moment in. This is his first major world event at the Senior level. He had the opportunity to compete with some athletes who are headed to the Olympics in Rio next month. The Canadian Men’s Foil Team, which he is a part of, won Bronze. The United States won the Gold and Brazil got Silver. Anyway, to fence in that heat can be quite grueling. The fencing attire is made of four layers, most of a thick heavy material to protect from jabs – a base t-shirt (usually of technical fiber to wick away sweat, sous-plastron, the fencing jacket topped with the silver lame. It can rival the heaviest period opera costumes. Hydration, replenishing elecrolyte levels and maintaining energy is very important for top performance.
For singers. too, top performance is always important. The concert season and teaching year may be over. For many singers this can be a down time. For others it can be filled with summer intensive programs or summer festival gigs and of course, this is high season for wedding singers. With the summer heat really starting to hit, whatever you choose to do there are some important things to consider over the summer months to keep your voice thriving.
1. Increase your water intake.
We all know that staying hydrated is important. In the summer heat you want to take care to keep that hydration level. With the heat and fun in the sun, play it safe and increase your water intake. If you are working out hard and sweating a lot you may also need to replenish you electrolytes. Avoid using sports drinks that are full or dyes and chemical ingredients. You can make your own very simple sports drink by diluting pure fruit juice of your choice 1:1 with water and adding a ¼ teaspoon of sea salt.
2. Visit farmer’s markets.
This is the time! Buy local, buy fresh, choose organic or natural and buy lots of greens. If anything can be labeled a superfood it’s greens! They are chock full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, lots of anti-oxidants and chorophyll (more on this later). By weight they contain more protein than a steak. Berries are also another great summer time staple.
3. Treat yourself occasionally.
Yes, I’m giving you permission. Sometime you just need to be told it’s ok to have a gelato on a warm summer evening or a cool beer at the lake. But don’t overindulge. Ha! I got you there. There are so many occasions to get together and socialize over the summer it’s easy to go overboard with the treats. Set your limit and stick to it. Too many sangrias on the patio will do you no favors.
4. Get out and get active.
This is the perfect time to be active. Walks, games of Frisbee, swimming at the lake, hiking, playing golf, cycling…there are so many choices. Try an outdoor bootcamp. I’m running one this summer and it’s been a lot of fun so far. Try a race – Mud Hero is an obstacle course race suitable for all levels or perhaps a 5 km fun run/walk for a charity. Giving yourself a goal will help you stick with workouts. Though my training has been off somewhat this year, I still plan on doing at least one sprint triathlon this season.
5. Get some sun.
At least 15 minutes a day without sunscreen. Vitamin D production is stimulated by UVB rays, which sunscreens will block. Co-enzyme Q10 is a powerful anti-inflammatory found in spinach and other leafy greens. When coupled with sunlight and the choryphyll in your blood stream from those greens it helps convert to ubiquinol which is a critical component of energy production in our cells. When you do cover up be very careful with sunscreens. They are full of carcinogenic chemicals, which is ironic since we wear sunscreen to protect from skin cancer. Try a natural sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher instead and choose lotion instead of spray - you don't want to be inhaling the mineral particles.
6. Take time off from singing.
Overworking the voice is detrimental. Any physical activity needs a recovery period. In the last year high profile singers have had vocal complications because of their extreme schedules. The list includes Megan Trainor, Adele, Michael Buble and others. Take a week off. Just be sure you don’t take too much time off or your singing fitness will regress just like with any other physical activity. Athletes can take up to two weeks off before they start feeling a regression in their performance. Vocal athletes need to keep this in mind as well.
7. Get out of the city – get back to nature.
Being in nature is good for our brains and our bodies. The Japanese call it Shinrin-yoku - the natural therapy of forest bathing. Benefits include reduced stress, improved mood, boosted immune system, greater focus, improved creativity, improved sleep, improved energy levels and more. However, ditch the technology while you're out there if you want to get the full benefit.
Whatever you're doing this summer, incorporate these tips and you'll have a terrific summer. I'll be heading to the National Association of Teachers' of Singing (NATS) Conference in Chicago next week where I'll be presenting the Good Morning Kickstart. I'm so excited! And not just for my sessions. There will be many outstanding performers and teachers from the classical world to the contemporary commercial music world. So many sessions to choose from - there are going to be some hard decisions. Renee Fleming will be the guest artist, gracing us with a recital, a masterclass and a Q&A.
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