I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that keeping yourself fit and healthy, both physically and mentally, is important regardless of whether you’re a guitarist (or musician of some other description) or not. It’s so very important for making us feel happy, feel good about ourselves and keep us feeling fit and strong for life!
Physical fitness – its importance to the guitarist
So why is physical fitness and regular exercise important to guitarists in particular? It’s not as if our instrument is heavy or playing it requires excessive physical exertion.
Well, there are a number of reasons why….
(1) We’re sat on our bottoms most of the time
And human beings are just not meant to sit, especially in the one position, for long periods of time. Add to this a desk-based job which so many have these days, watching TV or online activities such as reading or writing blogs (ahem….) and that’s a lot of “butt time“.
Whilst it probably is time spent working the brain and expanding one mind, it’s not so great for stretching the body and exercising the bits that keep us working (i.e. the heart, the lungs, our muscles).
(2) Keeps us in prime physical condition (well, relatively. Everything’s relative!) to get the most out of our playing
Being fit, and strong can help to decrease the occurrence of certain issues cropping up, such as my recent neck and shoulder gremlins! It can help with over-use injuries, sort out any troublesome weaknesses and leave more able to focus on what we’re playing and how we want it to sounds and not how this that or the other is bloody hurting!
(3) Helps keep us mentally focussed and alert for practice and playing, and receptive in our lessons
Exercise and physical fitness also has benefits for the mind as well as the body. When we’re healthy we tend to feel happier. A wee bout of exercise can also set off the “happy” chemicals in the brain (endorphins). It’s a bit like nature’s little pat on the back to us for getting moving and doing a wee bit of work.
I don’t have time! I don’t have the inclination!!
You DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT have to have a gym membership or some fancy-schmancy equipment or a personal trainer to do some kind of physical activity that will reap benefits for your playing. And most importantly, just like with our playing, have fun with it!!
Pick activities that you really like to do! Why would you bother spending your precious time slogging your buns off doing something you hate?!
Go for a walk to the shop, a walk around the park (those in Melbourne – you’re most welcome to come walking Bob The Dog with me!), walk to work, walk part of the way to work, walk to a different bus stop or tram stop, go for a swim, go for a ride on a bike, kick a ball with the kids, kick a ball with the dog.
Go before work, after work, during your breaks, walk the stairs instead of the lift or escalator. Let’s get rid of the idea that exercise is something “special” to do. Ok, scratch that. Kind of. It can be something really special to do, like a 100km bike ride or training for a mass participation fun run. But is also something that is “everyday”.
As with our practice “hygiene”, as its called (although I always think that sounds like a schedule for washing your hands or something) a little bit and often will pay far greater dividends than doing something in whatever size chunk just once or twice a week.
Ooh and make sure you’re getting up off your bottom every 30 – 45 minutes when practicing.
And don’t repeat the some thing over and over and over and over again. They don’t call it repetitive strain injury for nothing. And besides, if you’re not “getting it” after the third time it’s probably a good idea to just stop and asses what’s really going on. Playing it incorrectly again probably isn’t going to help!
Guitarist/ musician specific exercises
There are plenty of methods around which have either been developed specially for musicians or adopted wholeheartedly by musicians, with specific sets of exercises to do – Feldenkrais and Alexander Techniqueto name but two.
I read an article a few weeks back, around the time of the London Olympic Games opening, discussing the athletic nature of practicing, playing and performing music and avoiding the injuries that can go along with that. The article talks mainly to the prevention of injuries and describes us musicians as “small muscle athletes,” as the saying goes, versus the large muscle athletes competing at the games.
So yes, marvelous musical athletes that you are, keeping fit and healthy is good for the body, good for the mind and fantastic for your playing.
What do you do?
What do you like to do? Let me know! I’d love to hear how you keep yourself fit and healthy for practice, playing and performance.