Musicians' Health Collective

Musicians' Health Collective: Supporting the health of musicians (and normal people)

Travel Tips

Last year, I flew over 65,000 miles, including three cross-continental journeys, which to me, is a lot.  In the process of doing so, I've established a bit of a routine in preparing for flights and long trips which has been quite helpful.

1. Bring your own food, especially if you have dietary restrictions or preferences.  Nothing is worse than being rushed in a connecting flight and hungry and vegan/gluten-free/paleo.  Most airplane food is carb and sugar heavy, which means that you don't feel particularly full, or particularly good afterwards.  I bring those little nut butter packets, some Kind bars, some fruit, or hard boiled eggs to fill in the gaps.


2.  Bring some hand sanitizer, preferably one that smells good.  I have never seen the fold down tables or arm rests cleaned in an airplane, so I'm going on good faith that someone at sometime during the day cleans them...

3.  Don't drink a lot of caffeine, even if you have a 6:00 AM flight.  Not only will coffee make you jittery and dehydrated, it usually isn't very good on an airplane.  I usually bring some teabags and ask for hot water on the plane, just so I don't end up having a Lipton Landing experience.  (Or I just drink water).  That way, I can have at least a fighting chance of sleeping on the plane or at my final destination.

4.  If you've been feeling tired and weak, bring some emergen-c or something similar.  Nothing is worse than traveling for a concert or audition and feel mid-flight that the plague has stricken you.  Emergen-c might not prevent a full-out affliction, but it might delay the effects and make you a little happier for the flight.  In addition, always pack a basic first aid kit-Benadryl, cold meds, Advil, etc.

5.  Try to be nice and patient.  Airports, much like the DMV, bring out people's unsavory sides.  I often see folks snapping at flight attendants over not having their beverage of choice, and small children mowing down the elderly to get to the bathroom.  Musicians tend to panic a bit about getting their instruments unboard (for good reason!), but patience, calmness, and kindness, will probably serve you better in the long run than yelling about the cost of your instrument to an airport employee who is being unhelpful.

6.  Bring your music in your carry-on or case. Sometimes, you just don't want to risk having things lost.

7.  When people ask if your viola/violin is a banjo/ukelele/bass, try to be nice, even if the question is absurd.  The airport, much like the subway, is a fishbowl, and not everyone will be have musical knowledge.  You may end up having an interesting conversation, but most likely, you'll just hear how the passenger played kazoo/sitar/euphonium in middle school.  (Although I did have a family that thought my dog was a rabbit, even though they could see her chihuahua face, so...use your judgment). 

8.  Try not to sit in a chair in the waiting area.  Your whole day will be sitting (or really, slouching) in a big chair.  Stand!  Sit on the floor and wake up those hips! Squat by the electrical outlets!  Creating some movement pre-flight will definitely help your spine and hips to be happy.  When I have a long flight, I often hide in a less popular area of the airport and stretch it out.  Even better, if you're not lugging a lot of luggage or a cello, try to walk in the airport as much as time allows.

9.  Keep limber on the plane!  See here for thoughts beyond those weird pics in the back of the plane magazine.

10.  Bring things to read.  Bring earplugs for international flights.  Get one of those weird neck pillows if you're on a long flight.  Bring headphones, and maybe a hairbrush.  (I've forgotten all of these things at some point.)  Make sure your bags have your name on them.  And lastly, have fun on your trip, whether it be for an audition, concerts, festivals, weddings, or family time.

Here are some more suggestions from the internet:

Katy Says: Travel Notes

Turn-out Turn Coat

How did we come to this point of turning out our left leg so much while performing?

1.  Western civilization used to be one of dancing and military turnout, both of which demand external turnout on a regular basis.  While we are no longer a culture of formal dancing, the turn out remains.

2.  We learn our habits of standing, walking, etc from our parents/teachers/elders as a child.  If you compare your habits with your parents', you'll probably find that you have a similar gait, stance, or way of holding yourself.

3.  Musicians, on the whole, resist change.  For hundreds of years, musicians have been turning out legs/hips/feet, standing on one leg, balancing precariously, etc.  Many notable pedagogues have touted their stance technique as promoting balance.  While many of these folks are important teachers and musicians in their own right, our understanding of the body is constantly changing, which means we should change our teaching and habits accordingly.

What are the short and long term effects of turn-out?

These are some of those external rotators of the hip, which may in fact be asymmetrical contracting, weak on one side, etc.

These are some of those external rotators of the hip, which may in fact be asymmetrical contracting, weak on one side, etc.

1.  Transference-whether you're a little kid learning twinkle, twinkle, or a grown-up who plays viola and runs, it's likely that your standing habits transfer to all of your other activities.  This means that you have a slight turn out when you walk, squat, run, etc.  This transference is what can really lead to injury, tightness, and extreme asymmetry down the road.  Kids are fortunately very malleable, and their bodies are perpetually changing, as are their abilities to propriocept.  

2.  Feet-I know I've mentioned it before, but bunions and hammertoes are also correlated with turn-out as well as tight shoes.  Also, your feet may be supination or pronating, in addition to the turn out issue, which can compound issues.

3.  Knees- When we turn our feet out, we can try to turn out from the lower shin/ankle, or externally rotate the whole leg and hip.  When we just turn out the lower leg, this can put undue stress on the knee, because one is facing forward and one out.  Then imagine putting load onto that asymmetry-running, crossfit, etc.  Add foot instability, or collapsed arches, and there is an issue!  The video shows how gait changes a bit on that one side.

4. Hip woes- So the cause of this external rotation could be tight muscles on the same side hip, which in turn prevent the hip from turning internally as needed.  (AKA. Your abductors are adaptively tighter than your adductors).  This article fantastically explains how this happens.  What that means is that one side of the body may in turn be shorter than the other, and there may be discomfort on the side of the hip. 

In the end, the goal is to at least keep both legs in the same plane to start (one leg is not in front of another).  If you have extreme turnout, or have been turning out for many years, then gradually strengthening your adductors and slowly changing stance is the way to go.  If the body is exploring a new range of motion or posture, it won't be sustainable to stay in the "new normal," but it would be over time. 

Help! My ankles are weak!

So in response to a post that I saw in the facebook realm a few days ago, let's look at the ankle issue. 

1.  If you wear boots, high heels, or very thick running shoes on a daily basis, you are limiting your foot musculature's ability to truly disperse your force in an even way while walking, standing, or running.  What? You're also preventing your ankle from articulating fully, so if you're healing, keep it flat.  Read this if you didn't already.

Image from

Image from

2.  Heel strike while walking, mid foot strike while running.  This is the gait pattern that your body adjusts to when you switch to minimalist shoes, which is why some folks feel incredibly sore in the first few weeks of running/walking in vibram five fingers, merrell's, or the like.  Look at this olympian's form.  (Just a side thought, look at how short distance competitive runners run in general.  They wear very minimalist footwear, and they don't heel strike.)  Also, a note from the Gait Guys, "increased cushioning INCREASES impact forces".

Maybe you're not ready to go extreme like this, but I've had a pair of these for 3.5 years and loved them. ( A sign of my good choice is the fact that small children have complimented my shoes many times.)

Maybe you're not ready to go extreme like this, but I've had a pair of these for 3.5 years and loved them. ( A sign of my good choice is the fact that small children have complimented my shoes many times.)

3.  Point your feet forward!  And your knees and your hips.  Just like I mentioned in the violin-posture debacle, it affects your whole body, and may also refer to some weakness in other parts of your body, such as your adductors (or inner thighs).

4.  Video tape yourself walking and running.  Even if you're not a body specialist, start to notice how you strike the foot in each situation.  Is one leg stronger than the other?  Is the rotation of the body different on each side?  Which ankle is "weaker"?  Do you lean more on one side?

5.  Ankle weakness is related to leg weakness!  Meaning, that you may have instability due to imbalance of musculature in the calf, thigh, etc.  Also, are your arches collapsed and your knees pointing inwards?  That's also an issue.

So what are you going to do?  There are TONS of great articles about this, from a minimalist footwear perspective, which I where I would suggest going, at least for walking and running.  You don't have to do the toe shoe thing, but any mimalist shoe could help strengthen the musculature of the foot and improve your gait.

Read this, which gives 12 foot, calf, and ankle exercises!  Also, stretch your calves!

Try this Jill Miller video of wheelies...maybe in the privacy of your home or yard...

Start pelvic listing (also known as hip hikers in YTU®)-when you stand on one leg, whether in yoga class or in this sequence, you start to strengthen the standing leg's musculature, which is a good thing.  This also helps your hips.




Highlights of the Last Two Months

In case you're new to the site or want to revisit some of the earlier material, here are a few highlights from the last two months of posts. 

Look at the postural change from adding heels!

Look at the postural change from adding heels!

Shoulders- From anatomy to stretches, learn about what constitutes the shoulders and how to work with restriction.

Stance and Posture-  Musicians are often told to stand in a certain way which may or may not be good alignment for their body. 

Feet and Shoes- From flip flops to heels to thick padded running shoes, we often pick shoes that don't support us while performing, walking, and standing.

Developing Awareness of the Body, by the fabulous Andrea Kleesattel.

And as always, you can search at the bottom of the site for anything you might be looking for, or click on the tags at the end of each post to see related posts.



How Stance Affects Posture

As much as I've avoided the prospect of making a video of myself talking, the time has come in which my verbal explanations of things are not cutting it.  In this video, I go through four of the common violin/instrumental stances and how they affect the hips and upper body.

     A few notes- I've exaggerated some of the movements just to get the point across.   In addition, the pelvis is sort of like Grand Central Station-it's a point of structural and muscular connection between your lower body and your upper body.  The tilt of the pelvis affects everything above it, and the way you place your feet underneath the knees affects the pelvis.  Thus foot position affects the entire spinal column.  As a human being, you want to have the ability to turn your foot (hips!) inwards and outwards- this is important movement to maintain!  The externally rotated position itself isn't purely "bad" or "good," but isn't great for consistent standing and walking, as it will begin to affect the spine, gait, knees, etc., and if done asymmetrically, will have huge repercussions for the body.

  Which are your most common positions, even if you sit while playing?  Which foot do you favor? 

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