It’s a new school year. For most of us it’s a busy time – getting used to a new routine. Summer hours and flexibility are over.
If you’re a teacher you’re busy getting to know your new students and lesson planning. If you’re a parent, you’re busy trying to organize the family schedule and chauffeuring. If you’re a student you’re juggling school, assignments, jobs and various other activities. If you’re a performer, concert season is starting, so you'll be learning music, attending rehearsals and travelling.
Some of you might even be all of the above!
Sometimes in all this hectic scheduling we really do forget about making TIME for our SELF-CARE. This should be a non-negotiable part of your schedule. You will function better and end up more productive. You will be able to show up and be there for the people that matter in your life and for all the responsibilities you have.
On an airplane you are always instructed, in case of emergency, to place the oxygen mask on YOURSELF FIRST before helping others! This analogy is perhaps overused, but it’s true. You won’t be any good to anyone if you are ill, low in energy or full of brain fog. And your voice won’t be there for you either!
What does self-care entail – NUTRITION, EXERCISE and SLEEP.
Don’t have time for healthy meals or snacks?
Really that’s just an excuse. With just a little planning you can have healthy meals to keep you going:
1. Plan a menu for the week. Time saving recipes can include make ahead casseroles, slow cooker meals, and quick recipes – many HEALTHY MEALS can be made in 10 MINUTES OR LESS (less time than going to even a fast food restaurant). Save time by planning to make enough for leftovers for lunches or another dinner. Don’t forget about planning snacks.
2. Meal preparation for the week. Find a couple of hours in which to prepare a bunch of meals for the week. Make casseroles, cook grains like rice or quinoa, prep slow cooker meals, prep fruits and veggies, make energy bars.
3. Keep snacks in your bag like dried fruits and nuts. Or your homemade energy bars. Emergency snacks are great to have when your schedule goes awry. An unscheduled meeting and then a rehearsal to run to with no time to stop at home for a meal can leave you sapped of energy. If you must grab a bite somewhere, instead of going to a fast food joint, run into a grocery store and grab some fruit or a ready-to-go salad. There are healthy choices!
4. Drink a smoothie on the go. Most people just aren’t getting their fill of veggies (we should be having about 5 servings of veggies a day – minimum!). These shakes can be a great way to get them in.
5. Don’t skip meals. You need to keep up your energy for your hectic schedule. When you skip a meal, first of all it can affect your mood, energy level and attentiveness. Secondly, you are more likely to make poor food choices when you are feeling that gnawing hunger. I’ve been known to look at a fridge full of healthy options and still grab a bag of chips, just because I let my cravings overtake my sense.
No time to exercise?
Again it’s really more of an excuse and you just need to re-adjust your mindset.
You don’t need to go to a gym and can incorporate a lot of movement into your day. If you're looking to build strength or lose weight you only need 30 minutes a day to get great results.
Don’t have time to sleep?
Yes you do.
If you get your sleep (7-9 hours), you will be able to do more in the day than if you only slept 5 hours. No kidding! SLEEP!!!! I'm not talking about the occasional late night.
If you are consistently not getting enough sleep and/or suffer insomnia then there's a problem that can have far reaching consequences. It's important to learn strategies to get you sleeping better.
Your long-term health depends on it!
Sometimes we know we should be doing these things, but aren't sure where to start. So let me help you. Join The Fit Singer Community here.
This topic is one that I’ve been meaning to write about since last January, but there always seemed to be something that came up. Now with back-to-school time looming I figured it was about time to tackle it.
By now most people have heard this term. Text neck is a condition caused by looking down at your cell phone, tablet, or other wireless devices too frequently and for too long. It can be the cause of neck pain and damage. It also contributes to poor postural form, which for singers, of course, means less freedom in the instrument. It will affect breathing and constrict the larynx.
Hunching over isn’t something new. People have been doing it for ages to read, work at a desk and so on. The problem with texting is that it adds one more activity that causes us to look down. And it’s not just texting is it?
Just a couple of weekends ago I went to listen to some live jazz at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. Just about everyone had their phone out. Apparently it’s a hot spot for Pokemon! If you thought Pokemon Go was great for getting kids out of the house and doing something active – think again. More text neck inducing activity!
Younger and younger children have access to phones and tablets. These growing spines are susceptible to possible permanent damage to their cervical spine that could lead to lifelong neck pain.
For adults a study has shown that 79% of people aged 18 – 44 had their cell phones with them for all but 2 hours of their waking day! This can result in neck, shoulder and upper back pain. It can also contribute to early onset of arthritis and subsequent chronic problems.
This issue was recently addressed by The Voice Foundation Symposium in Philadelphia in June 2016 and a subsequent article in Musical Theater Resources.
Being made aware of posture and making sure the ears are over the shoulders is a great first step. For some people however, this is of limited value if the musculature and even skeletal system are out of balance.
As you can see in the diagram the greater the angle of looking down the greater strain is placed on the neck. This can cause the vertebrae to slide out of alignment. It shortens and tightens the muscles at the front of the neck and chest. Meanwhile the muscles at the back of the neck and spine become stretched and weak. When standing in an upright posture you can often see an excessive lordotic curve of the neck and kyphotic curve of the upper back.
Spinal alignment can be temporarily achieved through methods such as chiropractic. However, the pull of the tight muscles and weakness of the stretched muscles will only cause the vertebrae to slip back.
So how can we correct this?
Following are a series of practical exercises to find that alignment. Some simple equipment is needed such as a resistance band and a foam roller.
First we will start with an exercise to develop stronger muscles at the back of the neck and upper trapezius.
The next exercise is to strengthen the back muscles that will help keep the shoulders back – that is the mid- and lower-trapezius, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi.
The following exercise opens up the chest and can help with correcting a kyphotic curve (keep in mind that there should be a slight kyphotic curve through the thoracic vertebrae.
And finally we will finish with a series of neck and shoulder stretches.
Some things to keep in mind:
First of all, everyone is different and may have different areas of muscular imbalance. A postural assessment by a qualified trainer, physical therapist or chiropractor may be necessary. A voice teacher, though knowledgeable about alignment, may not necessarily be trained in postural assessment and exercise program design. A properly done assessment will require some degree of undress to see where issues may be arising (beyond the scope of what one expects in a voice lesson) and based on that an individualized course of action can be implemented.
Secondly, though these exercises may help text neck, complete core conditioning is essential for optimal posture. Weak muscles of the lower back and abdomen can also contribute to rounded posture. You may like to check out the video 10 Uses of Resistance Bands in the Voice Studio.
Finally, as mentioned before, awareness is very important. Take frequent breaks from downward viewing positions. Try to hold your device higher or keep your laptop at an appropriate height so you don’t have to look down. Get up and move around and do some stretching. Fix your posture every time you think of it.
As always, a beautiful posture, free of unwanted tension, will help produce your free vibrant sound.