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Prioritizing Your Health as a Musician


Some of the exciting things about the music industry are fast-paced performance schedules, travel, and the opportunity to work with an array of musicians. The schedule can be vigorous and demanding, but also quite rewarding. Throughout all of this busyness, we can promptly get tasks done for everyone around us and meet critical deadlines, but quickly and unintentionally neglect our health. What is it about our busy schedules that can work against our need to have a healthier lifestyle? Sometimes it’s limited energy levels and willpower, sometimes it’s a need to reprioritize our schedules, and sometimes it can simply be that we are overwhelmed. Whatever the cause, maintaining a healthier lifestyle boils down to our choices and gradually increasing healthy habits.


Below are some questions to consider when thinking about your health:

  • Are you truly motivated to take better care of yourself?

  • Are you concerned about your health, but perhaps push it aside for now because you feel it would take too long to get back on track?

  • Are you concerned about your health but perhaps don’t do anything about it because you gave up trying a long time ago?

  • Are you not motivated because you are young and don’t concern yourself with your personal health at this stage of your life?

  • Are you not motivated because you feel you’re too old to care anymore?

The fact is, taking better care of your health is important at any age and it doesn’t need to be extremely time consuming. There are small steps you can take each day that will help you achieve long-term improvements. For example, the CDC recommends adults have at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise of moderate intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity each week (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022). For those who are really pressed for time, this can be readily accomplished by breaking this time down into manageable segments.


Let’s look at a couple of basic examples. For simple math purposes, let’s say you do 150 minutes of moderate exercise that is spread across 6 days every week (allocating a day of rest for your body to recover). This equates to 25 minutes per day. Therefore, you could schedule a daily workout for that full amount of time or break it into two separate segments (15 minutes and 10 minutes). If you have an extremely tight schedule, you could set a timer on your watch or phone and accomplish 15 minutes upon getting out of bed before reaching for coffee or breakfast. The remaining 10 minutes could be easily accomplished during a work break, before dinner, or whenever suitable. You could also opt for the 75-minute recommendation and do a vigorous 15-minute workout divided across 5 days during the week. Mix up the segments that work best for you and your schedule. The goal is to get the heart pumping and stimulate the lungs in order to accomplish the aerobic recommendation. Within a few weeks, you’ll have developed this new routine and feel more motivated to keep going—it just becomes part of your lifestyle. Setting your timer is an easy way to just begin in the moment, and seeing the timer run down is motivating in itself. When beginning a new exercise routine, keep in mind it’s better for your body to gradually increase intensity. Therefore, your first few sessions should include light to moderate exercise before moving toward the vigorous type. As usual, each individual should always check with their doctor to see what type of exercise would be most suitable before beginning any exercise routine.


Good health has many facets and taking good care of it doesn’t only involve eating right and getting aerobic exercise. You need to consider a combination of factors so that your entire body can attain peak condition, allowing you to enjoy the music profession for years to come. Here are additional items to look into:

  • When was the last time you checked your hearing? When you are working in the music industry, it is especially important to take proper precautions.

  • Have you ever checked your hearing? It’s likely that everyone knows of a musician who has suffered some hearing loss, and it’s not just your former music teacher who is now retired after years of high-decibel exposure. Scheduling a baseline hearing test with an audiologist is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself to insure you are taking the proper precautions to maintain your hearing (particularly an audiologist who specializes in hearing conservation). This type of doctor can also help you select proper and customized hearing protection when you are rehearsing and performing on stage. Consider the decibel exposure when sitting in the back of the orchestra when the percussion part calls for an anvil, or sitting in front of the trumpets, next to the piccolo, in close proximity with opera singers, or rehearsing in a small practice room. It is also important to check your hearing if you have been exposed to impulse noise (a sudden loud sound like a siren, firework, or a stage prop gunshot). Curious about your decibel exposure? Download a decibel reader app and use it to check your regular environments.

  • How are you maintaining your physical health? In addition to regular exercise, have you ever considered seeing a chiropractor to help you maintain pain-free mobility?

  • In addition to aerobic exercise, have you considered adding another form of exercise that can also aid in your long-term flexibility? Incorporating a stretching routine, Pilates, yoga, or even dance flexibility training could help with this.

  • Are you doing the right kind of exercise that is helpful to your body? If you are a conductor or someone who plays an instrument that is more physically taxing on the body, perhaps you should reconsider certain types of sports or exercise that can exacerbate or contribute to injuries.

  • Have you been put on a physical therapy routine for a current injury, but you’re not really following the doctor’s orders? Perhaps ask someone to help hold you accountable.

  • What is your sleep schedule like? Sleep deprivation is not anything to ignore. Many studies can be found that demonstrate decreased cognitive function in the short term and also in the long term. Consider prioritizing more sleep, rather than staying up late when it isn’t necessary.

  • Have you always wanted to begin a meditation routine, but still find the idea existing on your “someday” list? If you’re stressed on a regular basis, finally committing to a meditation practice is something that can help reduce your stress right away.

  • Do you feel you don’t have time for meditation? Well, as the meditation teacher, Jeff Warren has explained:

One of the counter-intuitive truths of meditation, is that, in the big picture, practice doesn’t actually take time, it makes time. That’s because whatever else it is, busyness is also a thought. We aren’t present in the moment because we’re busy planning the next one.” (Ten Percent Happier App)

  • In the digital world we live in, it’s easy to incorporate a meditation practice with an array of meditation apps and YouTube videos available. Depending on the amount of time you want to dedicate, meditation sessions are commonly offered between 3 to 30 minutes. Select whatever works in your day. You can always select a longer meditation session during the weekend.

  • Have you stayed current with your annual medical and dental exams? Any issues in these categories can quickly accelerate and cause more lengthy recovery times if you’re putting things off. Just stay current with your appointments and keep track of when you are due for your next exam. Don’t just rely on your doctor’s office to remind you about these things. Being your own health advocate is your responsibility.

When considering your busy lifestyle and planning how you will accomplish everything while also caring for your health, it is important to keep in mind one general rule: Remember to do what’s important, not just what’s urgent. Those important items that have been neglected or postponed (proper exercise, writing that letter, checking up on someone, scheduling a doctor’s visit, finishing that nagging project, spending time on a hobby) should be incorporated little-by-little throughout your week. The key is not to let another week or month go by before you have the opportunity to work on these things. Then, when you look back at the previous month, you’ll feel more relaxed, accomplished, and relieved that you are no longer postponing those items you know are important to you and your health.


References


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 3). Walking.

https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/walking/index.htm


Fitbit. (2022). Ten Percent Happier (Version 3.60) [Mobile app]. Google Play Store.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fitbit.FitbitMobile&gl=US

 

If you have any health maintenance tips that are working for you, please share them in the comments below. Your tips may help motivate or benefit another reader.

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