New Year, New Website, New Blog. In preparing for the launch of my updated website I posed the question to those following me on social media, “What topics would you be interested in hearing about?” As a result I have material to look into for the next few blogs, and I am pretty excited to delve into these different subjects.
I don’t know if it is the start of the new year, but one question that stood out for this first blog of 2015 was “How do you keep fit and healthy? Tips and Tricks?” It’s actually a quite good question to ask a performer considering we have to perform eight shows a week, and often push our bodies and minds to extremes. It also happens to be a subject people come back to time and time again in their lives. Come January we are inundated with articles, “Fit and Fabulous for the New Year,” “Finding your Balance,” “New ways to deal with Stress in the New Year.” I doubt that there is just one concrete answer since we continuously return to the subject of how to make better and stronger versions of ourselves.
I like the idea of always striving and never settling, of challenging myself to be the best I can be, but I am also reminded that as much as we try to make our bodies well oiled machines, we are only just human. I have been reminded of this fact this fall and winter when I was hit hard twice with illness after being relatively strong and healthy last year.
So do I have all the answers? Of course not, but I can give you my perspective and how I try to keep “Fit and Healthy.”
You've got to move it move it!
Living in Europe or in a major city has its’ advantages because you walk everywhere, take stairs, etc. It is a more active lifestyle. Fitting in work outs on top of eight shows a week can be a challenge. I like to fit in yoga during the week. We are also lucky at the theater that there is a ballet class offered most weeks for the non-dancers in the cast by one of our ballet dancers.
A Trusted Team
You are never done learning or improving yourself as an artist. As performers we go to school, study, and train to have a strong technique that will sustain us in our professional careers, but I think it is almost more important when you are performing regularly to check in with a teacher. A good teacher and coach will keep you and your voice on track and make sure that you aren’t picking up bad habits or overextending yourself on stage. A healthy voice will make for a healthy career.
Fueling the Machine
Our bodies are in a way like machines, so what we eat does affect them. Everyone is different with their diets, or what they can or cannot eat before singing. Try my advice and be self-aware. If there is something you find that doesn’t make you feel well, or affects your singing, then stay away from those foods when you have to perform. I cook and prepare my meals for the week so that I don’t have to rely on our canteen or on fast food/delivery. That way I know what is in the food that I am eating. I normally order out on the weekend when we have double shows to make it easier on myself and on those occasions we normally order something high in protein like sushi. Hydration is also a key point to a healthy voice, so drinking a lot of water and staying away from too much caffeine is a good idea for singers.
Fueling also means recharging, getting enough sleep is a must for performers. We all have restless nights, but in general getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep keeps our bodies and voices functioning at the high level we need.
Body and Soul
The biggest thing I am personally struggling with health wise is managing stress. Life is stressful, we all know that, and as performers we definitely have a high stress-working environment. Eight shows a week, travel, being away from our family and loved ones; all of these factors affect our stress levels. I personally am trying to get more into meditation. Finding quiet time for yourself is important. I think it is also very important to build a life for yourself out side of work. It’s hard nurturing your friendships outside of the theater, but good friends do understand, and will be there through the ups and downs of life and your career. I feel blessed to live in an age where we have access to so much technology. Applications like Viber, Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Email make it easy for me to send emails or a short note to family and friends around the world. It helps me feel connected even though I’m far away.
It’s Ok to Put Yourself First
Ok, this is another challenge for me, right up there with stress control. There are all different kinds of performers out there. Often times you hear about the stereotypical egocentric performer. What’s that old joke? How do tenors warm up? “Me, Me, Me, Me, Me, Me, Me.” Joking aside, there are a lot of performers out there, who like me, have a “people pleaser” side. After all, what we do for a living is perform for people. We want to move an audience, we are concerned to an extent about what they feel and like. If we didn’t care about the audience’s opinion or feedback we wouldn’t have bows at the end of the show.
When you get sick or injured it is easy to feel like you are letting the audience and your colleagues down. We all know the saying, “The Show Must Go On,” so we push ourselves to get better when sometimes it is better for the show to go on without us for a while. After all, this is why they have talented people like swings and covers, and then they get a chance to enjoy performing and to shine on stage. You have to give yourself permission to do what is best for you.
As I finish this blog, I am writing from my couch on a Saturday evening. Any other Saturday night you would find me at the theater singing, but I’m still battling back after being out sick for a long time with a plague that hit some of us at the theater. I’m still finding my way back to making myself “fit and healthy.” I would like to thank that person who suggested this topic, because it came at a time when I really needed to think about, and define what being fit and healthy is for me.
Of course as you see, there is no one solution. Every performer has to figure out what factors in their lives give them the best overall balance. Keeping your life and your health on track is a process, and like any process it needs to be tweaked and rethought. Health just like life, is a journey, try to enjoy the ride and to get over the bumps in the road.