Oh no, not that exercise again!

Weekly Teaching Tip – March 30, 2015
by Leigh McRae

Oh no, not that exercise again!
This is a statement that I am all too familiar with. For a great many years I was an avid jogger. In fact I loved it so much that I did it a little too much and in time it caught up on me. Eventually in The morning following running I had to roll out of bed onto the floor, then move from lying on my stomach to going onto all fours like a cat to being able to stand upright with a degree of pain that was barely tolerable. Chiropractic, painkillers, massage, injections, meditation, manipulation and lots of hope didn’t fix it. Finally I had to concede that running as such was over for me.

When I stopped jogging I took up walking as I was so use to getting up early and going out to exercise. Naturally I was able to do it everyday and pain free as well. Of course I got tempted and took a few sprints here and there and before too long I was back on the floor and the painkillers. A friend introduced me to a Pilate’s instructor. Pilates, who me! I was of the opinion that it’s not a sport if you don’t move or sweat and I was wrong! So we set a goal to get my core muscles stronger to support my lower back etc etc. This goal introduced me to an exercise called ‘hundreds’. Now to you younger fit gym junkies this might be quite the normal thing to do, but for me Mr 50+ holding my legs up in the air at 7 am and pumping my arms whilst maintaining a ‘scooped belly’ was difficult, uncomfortable and just plain unenjoyable. Not this exercise I would say to my instructor to which she would answer ‘it is often the one you dread doing that will give you the most benefit’.

I have met so many singers with similar stories about their voice and career. As dedicated voice teachers we do everything within our power and resources to fix any problem that we are faced with. I have a student who has been plagued with health issues that quite frankly most folks would say, that will do it’s just too hard. He has endured procedure after procedure and he perseveres with a voice that is improving marginally at best. Why does he do it I ask myself? Oh yes the running, I remember…

So often we prescribe a particular set of exercise, vowels and musical patterns with an overview to getting a voice to function with greater proficiency. Just what happens when the student leaves your ‘control’ is very difficult to fathom. Are they doing the thing that is most difficult? Have you convinced them, cajoled, begged and promised to name your next child after them if they will just follow through? Where is the student’s real desire? Are they just toying with the idea of improving? And most importantly where is yours to run the risk of losing someone because you are not willing to stand up to them?

I can vouch for the most difficult thing to be done giving the greatest rewards, not only in singing but in life. Just today I celebrated my 8th week of jogging, pain free with of course, a jog!

The next time someone says ’oh no not this exercise’, remind them and yourself that therein lies the success.

To you my colleagues and friends, stay the course.

Leigh McRae
(The happy jogger)

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