Musicians' Health Collective

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

Filtering by Tag: frequency

Give Up Your All or Nothing Attitude!

Our modern society praises quantity over quality, most of the time.  Don't believe me?  Extreme fitness is actually a trend- pushing the body to get through a series of reps (no matter what), to run a certain distance, to get through a bikini boot camp, achieve a certain yoga pose, or eliminate large groups of food to lose weight, cleanse, etc.   (Multiple week Juice Fast, I'm looking at you!)  There's a sense that if we want to accomplish something in fitness-land, it has to be extreme, hard, or we shouldn't bother at all.  This does transfer into music, believe it or not. 

Some people have an all or nothing attitude in music- I have to accomplish tasks x,y, and z, and practice for K hours, no matter what, or I won't bother practicing at all.  (In yoga and fitness, that logic might be, "I need to do a full practice/workout, or I shouldn't do anything at all.")  Or something along the lines of, if I don't get through a whole list of excerpts, or whole piece, then I haven't accomplished anything at all.  Or if I don't win an audition/competition, then I failed.  We have this attitude that there is failure and perfection, and no in between space, both in the practice room, the gym, and the competitive circuit.

The truth is that small actions, small steps, or small amounts of practicing do add up, even if it doesn't look like a 1.5 hour full body workout, or long practice session.  Walking a few miles a day might not appear to be a workout to some, but it is an essential whole body movement which can yield great payoff.  Practicing in small increments when you're really focused and aware can have the same reward.  Taking auditions and competitions can be beneficial even if you don't win.*

In a masterclass a few years ago, violist Roberto Diaz said that he never practiced for large amounts of time anymore.  This wasn't because he didn't want to, but because his schedule was too busy and he had a young child, who demanded his constant attention.  He instead set a timer for 10-15 minutes when he had time, set a goal, and did his best to accomplish that task.  While you may not be strapped for time in the same way, how can you get quality movement and quality practice in your day?  How can you have a more forgiving approach towards your work, music-making, and exercise?  Maybe it means getting off the subway one stop earlier and walking for 10 minutes, or practicing technique for 10 minutes before a rehearsal.  Maybe it means taking an audition that has terrible odds, but is your dream job.  Maybe it's doing 10 minutes of yoga or meditation or lunges or squats (or whatever your thing is!) when you can.  Where is this all or nothing attitude permeating your music-making and your approach to practice and success?

Success doesn't have to be running a marathon or winning a big audition* and changes don't have to be extreme to have huge benefits in your life.

*And if you want more on this idea of redefining success, I highly recommend Carol Dweck's book, Mindset. It definitely gives a larger context to auditions, competition, and perceived failure.

So How Much Do You Actually Sit?

Last week, we looked at sitting, and how to do it, well, better.  Perhaps with more ease, with new awareness of the body, of where we it's time to look at how frequently we sit.  Here are some questions I pose to you, not to say that there's a right or wrong answer, but just to give insight into your movement patterns.

Let's look at these questions from the perspective of an average day:

Few of us sit with this awareness of alignment...

Few of us sit with this awareness of alignment...

1) How many hours a day do you spend sitting to practice?

2) How many hours a day do you spend sitting to rehearse (small ensemble, large ensemble, etc.)?

3) How much time do you spend sitting in a car (bus, train, public transportation)?

4) How much time do you spend sitting on a couch or chair to use a computer?

5) How much time do you spend sitting (or melting) on a couch or chair to watch TV?

6) How much time do you spend sitting in order to teach/conduct/coach/etc?

7) How much time do you spend sitting to eat?

8) Do you sit to exercise (i.e., cycling, spinning, rowing, etc) and how much?

For most people, the sum total of the above questions is somewhere between 10-15 hours.  Now, the counter questions.

9) How much do you walk a day?  (miles or minutes)

10) What areas of your body consistently cause you pain or discomfort?

11) Do you have one sided pain?  Have you been told that your injury is "normal wear and tear," even though it's one sided pain?

If you're a cellist, harpist, pianist, or another instrumentalist that sits while playing, you're logging a lot of repetitive time in sitting!

If you're a cellist, harpist, pianist, or another instrumentalist that sits while playing, you're logging a lot of repetitive time in sitting!

12) Do changes in chairs, beds, pillows, car seats, etc., cause long lasting back,neck, and hip pain?

13) How much do you exercise?

So most of us try to undo the 10-15 hours of sitting with an hour of vigorous exercise, and then assume that everything will be ok.  Unfortunately, that's not really how it works.  The problem with sitting is not only the frequency (of sitting), but also that we sit in almost the exact same position every day all of the time.  Obviously, to play an instrument, that position may be necessary, but do you really need to sit as much as you do?   What about sitting in different positions, outside of chairs, on the floor, cross legged...our chairs are crutches in a way, reinforcing poor movement patterns.  Take a moment to notice how much you sit, how you sit, and perhaps a few ways you could just sit less.

(and if you want to read more about changing sitting habits, Katy Bowman's book, "Move Your DNA" is amazing!) 

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