January - the month of grey mornings and good intentions. Urgh! It’s very difficult to drag oneself out for a run when daylight is in short supply and the ground underfoot is either mud, frozen mud or just big puddles of scary ice with mud trapped underneath them. There is a lot of mud in January.
But we’re singers and we’re made of strong stuff! Obviously WE haven’t been reclining on the sofa with out feet under a blanket, quaffing red wine and finishing the Christmas chocolates. Hmm…
If you’re struggling to get moving, here are some reasons you definitely should…
It Will Make You Feel Better
No one ever came back from a run saying, “I really wish I hadn’t done that. All that fresh air and deep breathing has made me feel like poo. ” A brisk walk, a bit of a jog or a kitchen disco – moving makes you feel good. Lets get those endorphins flowing and feel super motivated to sing and then get more endorphins flowing from the singing and just have a big endorphin party and then it will be spring and everything will be fine. Ok, maybe I need to step back from the feel good hormones, just a tad.
You Are You’re Instrument
I never tire of saying “Of course, singing is the most difficult instrument of all because not only do we have to build our instrument, we must also maintain it.” When I say this I tilt my head slightly to one side, look whomever I’m addressing in the eye and nod my head earnestly, while maintaining a knowing yet reassuring expression. It’s very effective. Seriously though, we are our instrument so maintaining overall health will help our voices stay well.
We Do A LOT Of Breathing
Aerobic exercise is great for our respiratory system, which is of course, a huge part of our singing apparatus. Vital capacity (how much air we can expel from the lungs) and the exchange of gases (getting rid of nasty co2 and replacing it with lovely oxygen) are both improved with regular training. The diaphragm and intercostal muscles are strengthened and regular cardio can make us more efficient at clearing mucus. This is good news for anyone, but for singers, these benefits are huge!
Perfecting Your Posture
Poor posture can have a big impact on our vocal function, sort of like a bent clarinet. The spinal position affects how easily we can breathe; if the spine is rounded the diaphragm is unable to descend freely and breathing is restricted. The position of the neck and shoulders has an effect on the free movement of the larynx. In practice this means that poor posture can cause unnecessary tension and affect tone quality. Strengthening postural muscles outside of singing lessons with some form of exercise (Pilates, obviously) is a really good idea.
Did Someone Say Pilates?
I love Pilates. Pilates has been part of my life for 10 years and as happy as that fact makes me, it also makes me feel sad for all the years I was without it. Pilatless, if you will. I think everyone should do Pilates but failing that, I’ll settle for all singers. There are multiple benefits for us warblers. Not only is it the perfect system for aligning and maintaining posture but it also helps build strength and flexibility in our vocal support mechanism. In Pilates, much of the work focuses on activating the pelvic floor and the transversus abdominis, which just so happens to be our first muscular activation in pressurising the air and supporting the voice! Can I get a celebratory arpeggio?!
If I’ve tempted you into giving Pilates a spin and you live in South East London, check out Bamboo Fitness in Crystal Palace. You will find a range of matt and reformer class for all levels and it's super friendly.