The Vocal Athlete: Cool Down
You did it! You just sang through a whole show, it was amazing, you were amazing.
But now what? Well, looking at our elite athletes it is now time to cool down and stretch. The verdict is still out on this one, some research is suggesting that a cool down routine can help alleviate vocal fatigue, tension, and swelling the next day; conversely, if you are young, fit, and singing with good technique you likely are not experiencing these symptoms. But despite our best efforts none of us are perfect all of the time, so maybe we should just get in the habit now.
A good vocal cool down is going to be short and easy. Our goal is to phonate gently and help relieve any residual tension you may be experiencing, think raised larynx, false fold constriction, or shouting. I would recommend starting with some descending octave scales, starting medium-high and moving down, switching to five-tone descending scales, and finally doing a few sirens all of this at a very low intensity. All in all your cool down should only take about five minutes.
The Vocal Athlete: Life
Notice: As we look at the life of a vocal athlete there is some general advice, I however am not a medical professional. Please consult with your doctor before making any radical changes to your exercise, diet, or lifestyle.
The life of a vocal athlete is important, as we talked about way back in part one nearly every aspect of life will affect how your voice responds to what you ask it to do, again except the alignment of the planets. Because of this, we need to be aware of how our lives help or hurt our abilities.
Starting at the top, sleep & hydration. Sleep, yes sleep, as you know you need a good night’s sleep every night to keep your body and your mind in tip-top shape. Minimize distractions and keep a sleep schedule to maximize the benefits. I know that life is busy, but you will find with a proper amount of sleep that you will be more productive with the hours you are awake. Hydration is key for vocal flexibility and avoiding injury, just do it. Drink water, track your water intake, avoid beverages that dehydrate you, and just remember that the water you are drinking now won’t help you until later so be consistent.
Diet can be a real problem for performers, we tend to work horrid hours and are around a lot of alcohol and fried foods, or are eating in our cars between rehearsals. Your instrument is quite literally a part of you and you are what you eat. Make a plan and try hard to stick to it, but you can still enjoy it in moderation.
Depending on what genres you perform exercise is more or less essential. If you are signing any style of contemporary commercial music you are likely running around the stage dancing and putting on a show while you are singing. The level of cardio and strength required can be quite significant, so much so that a common suggestion is to work up to singing while running on a treadmill! If you are performing a more park n’ bark style where there is less movement your physical fitness is still important for your overall health and that of your instrument.
Medications, there are thousands of medications used by individuals every day, ask your doctor how it will affect you as a singer. Pay special attention to any medications that impact blood flow, blood pressure, or hydration. Some common medications like ibuprofen can increase the likelihood of vocal hemorrhage, and most common allergy and congestion medications will cause dehydration. These symptoms can be quite manageable if you know about them. Ask your doctor and pharmacist lots of questions.
Alcohol gets its own mention from me. It goes almost hand in hand with a significant amount of performances, and what isn’t to like? It feels good, you can perform more freely when you drink, everyone else is drinking, and of course, it doesn’t impact your performance, right? Wrong. First hydration, it will rapidly dehydrate you, and remember hydration helps prevent injury. Second, record yourself singing sober and singing when you’ve been drinking, listen to it later, and be objective, were you objectionably a better performer while drinking? I doubt it. Remember your job is to deliver an exceptional performance every time, remember you are an elite singer.
Out of all of the comparisons between elite athletes and elite singers, I think that lifestyle is the best comparison. In order to be your best requires work on and off stage, it is a commitment in every part of your life. You can do it!
The Vocal Athlete: Conclusion
We have looked at the vocal athlete, how does the comparison of a singer being an athlete hold up? In general, I really enjoy the comparison. It can help a singer look at the behaviors that are required to truly excel in a very involved, challenging, and competitive industry. As long as we remember the ways that singing is different from exercise and sports there is little harm in it. Go be a vocal athlete, work hard, and train smart.