Working Out and Body Awareness
I know what you might be thinking: Work Out? How am I supposed to fit yet another *thing* into my already crazy schedule?? Trust me. I get it. I now have two jobs – Second Flute with an orchestra and university teaching – along with my 3 growing children, commitment to whole foods (read: slow-food) cooking, and everything that goes along with being a committed wife, mother, and owning a house. It’s insane. But it’s important. Healthy living impacts everything from how you feel to how you play and how you live.
Working out, either at a gym or at home with free weights (which is what I do), and maintaining a healthy body has a whole host of benefits to musicians. I doubt I even get close to listing everything. There’s, of course, the benefit of increasing stamina, lung power, improving and maintaining body structure, and balance, thus helping reduce injury and prolong productivity. Working out also maintains and can improve overall mental function (super important!). You also increase cardiovascular health, reduce stress, and help your bones stay strong all by working your body and your heart.
Another exciting benefit that I have personally found is that my workouts have helped increase my own body awareness. By focusing on certain areas of my body during workouts I have found areas of tension that I can release, and I have applied this to my flute playing, as well. For example, while holding a plank I notice that my neck, specifically the back of my neck where the vertebrae are located, likes to become very tense. By feeling like I am elongating my neck throughout the 2-4 minutes of my plank, I can keep it much more relaxed and hold the plank for longer periods of time. My shoulders are another area that hold a lot of tension. Being more aware of what extreme muscle tension feels like while working out, I have found that while practicing I more easily notice areas of tension and can release them.
Yes, taking 20-40 minutes five days a week can seem like a lot, and maybe even impossible, but with a little creative schedule flexibility, it can be attainable. One positive thing to remember is that the time you work-out adds up over the day. So, say you just have 10 minutes in the morning, then you can maybe find another 10-20 minutes later in the day. It all counts. Maybe just getting up 10 minutes earlier for some early morning yoga would make the difference, then it’s just a matter of finding another 10 minutes later for some stair running/walking or walking/jogging with the dog, a bike ride through your favorite part of town, etc. Just keep in mind to get lots of protein, some healthy fats, and load up on colorful vegetables. You’ll love how you feel and how much you’ll impact your performing in a very positive way!
Honestly, I started working out just so I could keep up with my children! I no longer struggle to pick them up, chase after them, and otherwise be the mother that I want to be to them. I have the mental and physical capacity to do what I need to for them and for my playing. It all ties together.