Prepare Your Body for the New Academic Year
Summer is almost over! Students are preparing to return to school to start the new academic year, and performing/orchestral musicians are about to begin their new season! Hopefully, many of you have made fantastic memories at music festivals, orchestral seminars, camps and conferences around the world, finding inspiration at concerts, performing with incredibly talented musicians, making new friends, and exploring spectacular, exotic, new and fun locations.
This is also a good time to take stock in how you are feeling physically. Questions to ask yourself: “Did I practice/perform too much this summer? Not enough? Is my body ready to take on the rigors of a new school/performing year? Does anything hurt or feel chronically sore? What can I do to increase my endurance on stage? How can I get the most out of my practice sessions with the least amount of physical stress?”
Here are CTFW’s top 3 picks for things you can do TODAY to prepare your body for the new academic year and performance season:
1) Pay attention to your posture… (Certainly while practicing, but also when doing other daily routines and activities like sitting at the computer, driving, carrying backpacks or instruments over one shoulder…)
If you can, check yourself out in a mirror. Poor posture signs include: shoulders slumped or rounding forward, one shoulder higher than the other, head and neck protruding forward, lower back arching…
Sitting and standing with proper postural alignment will allow you to work more efficiently with less fatigue and strain on your body’s ligaments and muscles. Being aware of good posture is the first step to breaking old, poor postural habits and reducing stress and strain on your spine. Putting this knowledge into practice can prevent the structural anatomical changes that can develop if poor posture is left uncorrected for many years.
- When you practice, take regular breaks (at least a 10-minute break for every hour of practice.) Walk around to get blood flowing. Do some jumping jacks. A 20-30 second chest stretch can help release tension. While standing, extend your arms fully at shoulder height, opening up your chest. Check that your head is centered over your shoulders, your shoulders are relaxed and gently squeeze your shoulder blades together in the upper back. Take some deep breaths, slowly inhaling and exhaling to ease your back.
- When working at a computer, your eyes should be at eye-level to the monitor. Adjust if necessary to save your neck from getting strained.
- When driving, use a lumbar back support pillow. This will give support to the entire back, allowing the head and neck to return to a centered position, not jutting forward.
- Backpacks, particularly heavy packs that are not properly designed can cause the head to move forward to compensate for the weight in the back. To correct this, always use backpacks that are properly designed to distribute weight evenly, and use BOTH shoulder straps.
2) Get good quality rest. Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health and well-being. Adequate sleep gives your body time and energy to recover from stress, and helps you to stay sharp and focused throughout your day. Now is the time to get on a good, regular sleep schedule before the long evenings of studying and concerts begin.
3) Hydrate with water! Proper hydration is one of the easiest and best things you can do to stay healthy. Drinking the right amount of fluids before, during and after physical activity is vital to providing your body the hydration it needs to perform properly, especially when it’s hot and humid outside!
Know the signs of dehydration. Early signs are:
- Flushed skin
- Premature fatigue
- Increased body temperature
- Faster breathing and pulse rate
- Increased perception of effort
- Decreased exercise capacity
We hope this has given you some simple ideas on how to prepare your body for another awesome year of music making! There will be more information and ideas to come…
Have a great beginning of the school and performance year!