Hey, it’s Dr. Marisa Lee Naismith here, and I’m so honoured to be sharing today’s solo round episode with you learn how to increase your levels of focus, productivity, confidence, energy, and feel fulfilled in every area of your life. Because as singers, our whole body is our instrument and our instrument echoes how we feel physically, mentally and emotionally. So don’t wait any longer, take charge and optimise your instrument now. Remember that to sing is more than just learning about how to use the voice. It’s about a voice and beyond. Without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.
I don’t want to sound like a broken record here. But as you are all very well aware, as singers, our whole body is the instrument. And I know you know that. My question to you is how well do you take care of your instrument?
So we’re talking about your vocal instrument, that is the one that you sing with. The one that makes you money, the one that you use to model to your students, the one that you use in performance to an audience. Okay, this might sound a little extreme here. But can you imagine if a guitar teacher turned up to work with a guitar that had dents in it, it had broken strings, and was not properly tuned? Yes, I know, it is a bit extreme. But think about it. What kind of shape is your instrument in? Please, this is not a personal attack, and it’s not a body shaming thing. This is not my intention at all. In fact, it’s far from it. This is about how well do you take care of the very thing that you invest so much time, money and energy into using and you vow and declare using your voice is your purpose and your passion?
In this episode, I just want to share an important message that not only do we need to take care of our body, because it is our vocal instrument. But taking good care of our body is one of the most important things we can do to improve our overall physical and mental well being.
I’d like to ask you, and please be honest, do you take care of your car better than you take care of your body, you may laugh at my car scenario. But before we drive our car, we make sure that it’s working at optimum performance by having it serviced regularly. By checking the tire pressure, the oil, making sure the wipers work, the lights turn on. And look, I can go on and on and on. Regarding all the maintenance areas of the car, we need to regularly maintain all those things so that we can be sure that our car is going to run efficiently. And we can arrive at our final destination safely and on time without any breakdowns along the way. We make sure that these things are in check before they happen in our car, because the results could be absolutely catastrophic, even life threatening, in fact.
So now let’s go back to my earlier question, and this is a big question and you need to be honest with yourself. Do you maintain your body as well as you maintain your car? The problem is that for many they wait until their bodies shut down or they are seriously ill or they simply receive that scary warning from their doctor who says if you don’t start to take care of your health, your quality of life and your longevity are going to be severely compromised. And the weird thing with this is that some people still don’t listen. They wait until they receive the worst possible diagnosis. And Worse still, some people don’t live long enough to receive that warning. It’s simply too late. The message here is that overall health, fitness, strength and posture are important to longevity and quality of life. Functional limitations will occur when you are not at optimal fitness and health and your vocal health will flow on from that you can make change and you can take better care of your body in three different ways. By regular exercise, good nutrition and the right amount of sleep. Today, we’re going to focus on the importance of physical activity for your mental, emotional and physical well being.
In order to achieve long term success, happiness, good health and well being, you have to participate in some kind of physical activity every day. There are so many positive benefits to being active. I truly believe that motion is lotion. I love that saying, just getting yourself moving a little bit more here and there, and a little bit more every day, you are going to feel better. I promise you getting active gives your body’s general health and well being a massive boost.
Let’s look at some of these amazing benefits that you can achieve by physical activity starting with the first benefit, and that is the mental health benefits of leading a more active life.
I’m sure you all know that physical activity releases feel good chemicals into the body like endorphins, serotonin and stress hormones. These chemicals can alter your frame of mind and can lift your overall mood. There are a number of studies that have proven that exercise actually helps with depression. And there are many theories as to how being physically active helps with managing depression. Theories, such as exercise may block negative thoughts or that it can distract people from their daily worries. I know this to be true because this is what it does for me. Being physically active can also reduce feelings of sadness, and can be proven to reduce stress and anxiety as well as improved sleep. This is why people can become addicted to exercise. Dare I use that word? It’s not about the exercise itself. It’s the amazing feeling once the happy hormones have kicked in, that people become addicted to. To be perfectly honest, I don’t really love exercise. I just love how it makes me feel after I’ve exercised, it can shift my mood so dramatically. So it’s become a major part of my self care regime, especially in managing stress and anxiety. I can go to the gym or my Pilates session feeling a little down or a little stressed and by the time I’m done, my whole mood has changed. That’s why I keep going back. This physical activity definitely elevates my mood and helps me cope with everything that I have on my plate.
As for us as singers, there are great benefits to because exercising before we perform can really be invigorating and helps to relieve tension. So despite what you’ve heard, it is fine to exercise on the days you’re due to perform. In fact, exercising for 30 minutes on show days can help reduce your nerves and loosen up your muscles. But please always warm up and stay hydrated and cooled down properly as part of your workout so your muscles aren’t left tight and contracted. And most importantly, whatever you do on performance days, don’t overdo it and fatigue your body. Just make this workout gentle.
Did you know that how we think and feel depends directly on how well our brain is functioning. A healthy, well nourished and rested body provides the foundation for your mind to function at its best. This may come as a surprise but there is a direct correlation between brain function and physical activity. So being physically active is not only good for your mood, but it also helps to improve concentration and your level of self confidence. Here is another interesting fact and I love this one. Research tells us that high performers are more likely to work out more intensely five times per week.
Then under-performers, it’s been scientifically proven. So don’t get angry with me, the top 15% of any given industry on average worldwide tends to work out that is to exercise at 70% of their capacity five times a week. And according to these high performance studies, an exercise regime can increase productivity by up to 20%, depending on the intensity. This is why runners are far more productive because they have far less stress in their lifestyle because they are getting those longer, more intense workouts. So imagine your performance as a teacher improving by 20%. How would you like to experience that? Imagine your student outputs if your brain function and productivity improved by 20%. All right, to be fair, I’m not a runner. But a brisk walk is beneficial to all you have to do is move.
There are so so many health benefits to physical activity. And this is all the other powerful stuff that is related to overall physical health and well being. Therefore, not only does physical activity have all the mental health benefits, but it also increases your energy levels. And it has been scientifically proven in numerous medical studies, that physical activity helps to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and some cancers such as colon and breast cancers. That’s incredible. I’m sure for many, though, this is old news, but if you’re still not getting that big, scary picture. Let me paint it to you this way, an increase in physical fitness has been proven to reduce the risk of premature death, and a decrease in physical fitness has been proven to increase the risk of premature death. Now, does that not motivate you into moving your body just a little bit more?
Still not convinced? Alright, then, let’s look at the science results from a research study out of Canada revealed that physically inactive middle aged women, that is women who were engaging in less than one hour of exercise per week experienced a 52% increase in all cause mortality, a doubling of cardiovascular related mortality and a 29% increase in cancer related mortality compared with physically active women. This research is not to be taken lightly by us, as this study is focused on a significant representation of our voice teaching community in terms of age, and gender. And I’m included in that demographic, and I find it frightening. What’s unfortunate is that the irony in all of this is that these relative risks are so similar to those associated with moderate cigarette smoking.
Well, as a voice community, we are so blatantly anti smoking, and so concerned about passive smoking to the point where we preach about how bad it is for us, but yet, by not being physically active, it is equally as dangerous to our health and mortality. It’s quite hypocritical, just saying, but you might be thinking to yourself that I’m a 40 plus year old person and I have never exercised and it’s probably too late for me to start being physically active. Now. The damage is done. I do have something positive to share with you if that’s what you’re thinking. The good news is that the greatest improvements in overall health status are seen when people who are least fit become physically active, so it’s not too late to move and enjoy some of the many benefits associated with physical activity. You too may be able to take control of medical problems like blood pressure, cholesterol, type two diabetes, bone and joint problems such as arthritis. Another major benefit is that being physically active helps you to control your weight and reduce body fat. It also assists in areas such as pain management, maintaining and increasing joint movement and ultimately physical activity helps to prevent falls and injury.
If that still hasn’t convinced you to start moving your body, I don’t know what will please if you are not moving that body of yours, it’s not too late. You may ask though what type of physical activity is right for you. And here is where we do start with a disclaimer. Please note that before you begin any exercise regime, you need to consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner who knows your body, your genetics, and how your physical health is affecting you.
Everyone is so very, very different with where they’re at right now in terms of Fitness, Health, age, and environment. If you are just starting to introduce exercise into your daily regime, I suggest this could be as easy as gardening or a gentle walk. If this is too overwhelming. You can start by getting creative with how you get active. Try walking around when you’re on the phone or get moving between TV ad breaks or episodes. Increasing your incidental exercise will help you keep active and feeling good.
If you want to step up your exercise. Here’s some other ideas. There are so many free online classes and workouts you can do from the comfort of your house. To help you get started. You don’t need to go to the gym, especially as since the pandemic there has been a huge surge in free information and workouts online. To add intensity to any of these workouts or to build strength try using items around the home as weights. Try lifting the cat my cat is almost nine kilos which would make for a decent workout for anyone but he definitely would not be too happy.
Seriously, just put on some music and bust out a move. Every Friday night at my place is dance party night. Yes, my husband and I listened to our favourite Spotify playlist that has all the classic rock songs from the 60s 70s and 80s. And we listened to it really loudly on our surround sound system. It’s such great music and you know what I do? I just start dancing. And if my grandson’s are there, they dance with me and they love it. Otherwise, I have no shame to say that I dance are my arm all around the living area. It’s so liberating. And it makes me feel incredibly happy. And I don’t care what people think. I don’t care if they think I’m mad. Well, I probably am. But who cares. I look forward to my Friday night dance party. As I said, it is so invigorating, it gets both my heart rate and my baseline pumping. Dancing combines all the benefits of listening to music and exercising. For me it is a joyful way to be more physically active and is suitable for people of all fitness levels. So I dare you to try that one.
On a more serious note. For others who consider themselves to be more physically active, you can try something more intense such as biking, swimming, jogging, rock climbing, or, or doing a CrossFit session. Look, no matter what it is, you need to find the thing that really works for you. It’s like everything in life, we are all unique, and the activity you choose is entirely up to you. But just make sure you stick to it. And the secret to longevity in physical activity is that you need variety. There are some days where I don’t feel like going to the gym and I feel that I need to get outdoors and walk along the beach, breathe in some fresh air because I’ve been cooped up inside and I just need some vitamin D. So listen to your body. And remember the old thing that changes as good as a holiday and exercise is no different. If you tend to vary your physical activities, you will stick to it longer. And here’s a fun fact about this. Did you know that every time you do something new, the brain actually rewards you because when you do something new, the brain releases dopamine and oxytocin which brings you joy in turn elevating your physical experience. those chemicals are released into our body when we do something new so our brain gets addicted to vulnerability.
It loves change, makes sense really. Imagine if you did the same vocal exercise and sang the same song each time in every single practice session, not only would you become bored, but singing would lose its Pep and its zeal and you’d want to give it up. This is exactly the same with physical activity. By mixing it up, it will help you stick with it longer. So for me, my weekly physical activity sessions are broken up into two reformer Pilates sessions, which include cardio, I go to the gym twice a week where I do a brisk walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes, followed by some weight training. And once a week, I like to go for a walk outdoors. And why do I do this because I want my brain to work. And because it makes me feel so amazing. And some of this workout is done at a super comfortable pace. That other times I do challenge myself to increase my pace. And I challenge you to do the same so that you will start to develop a good cardio workout that will improve your productivity. It will help you manage the stress that you’re facing during the day and give you the endurance to offer your best throughout the whole day. The days that you are not working out. You can go for a nice long walk outdoors. This is what I do. And my husband now joins me as well. The fun part of that walk is grabbing a coffee together on the way back home. No matter whatever it is that you do, you need to move in a way that gets your heart rate accelerated and increases your frequency every day.
The recommended is a minimum of 30 minutes a day, which is just enough to allow you to enjoy all these tremendous benefits to your physical and mental health. So you may ask what about physical activity and the single the best workout for singers is dividing up and mixing your workout days between cardio workouts and strength training a couple of days a week doing a Roby exercise paired with a couple of days. Working on core muscles doing a workout such as Pilates or yoga is highly recommended. Running swimming or jogging counts as a form of cardiovascular exercise and is a great workout. It increases a singer’s lung capacity, improves breath control and build stamina, all the great skills that we need when it comes to singing. doing any one of these activities requires conscious breathing to pace yourself through your workout. And as we know a good breathing technique is crucial for singing as you can use up to 90% of your lung capacity when you perform something were not used to doing in everyday life. Running will develop your lung expansion and teach you good breath support habits. But just remember that if you’re going to work out before you sing, you have to ensure that your workouts are always done in a mindful way that you don’t over exert yourself and leave your body feeling stressed. And always leave at least two hours after a workout before you sing so you don’t exhaust your body and perform under stress.
If you are exercising outdoors, avoid conditions that will negatively impact your voice to things like extreme weather conditions can dry out your throat and lungs and exercising in areas with lots of air pollution, like running next to roads can irritate your vocal folds. Once again, let me remind you that no matter what you do need to be reasonable and you do what you can when you can take the tortoise and the hare approach easy and carefully for longevity. Sometimes your schedule won’t allow for this and then there are days when you have to listen to your body. You must only do what you can doing more than you’re physically capable of will cause injury and burnout and you will dread exercising and you won’t want to do it long term. If something causes you pain stop immediately. Learn what is good for your body and know your limitations. The last thing you want is to be injured and as I said earlier, and I’m going to be honest here for me going to the gym is a stress relief. It’s a time for me to empty my stress cup.
It’s also a time for social interaction. And if I can’t talk while I’m training, then I’m training too hard. I have to slow it down. If I’m going on the treadmill and I can’t talk, I slow it down. People laugh at me at the gym. It’s kind of like a joke for all of them. But hey, it works for me. So in my life, I just want to be fit and healthy and maintain my body weight and size. I hate exercise, but I love how it makes me feel. I feel so much more energised and productive. On the days that I exercise. If I don’t exercise, my stress levels increase. I need those endorphins to help me cope with my massive workweeks. Admittedly, this does come easy to me as I’ve always played either a team sport or I’ve exercise from when I was at primary school, I played state grade squash for 10 years, I’ve played indoor cricket and have been going to the gym for over 30 years. It’s just part of my lifestyle, and I’m so grateful for it.
How many of you notice that when you sit all day, that’s the dentary state fogs your brain and makes you feel lethargic. Sitting has been called the new smoking. It’s a real problem in our current way of life. For this reason, I choose to do most of my teaching standing, I find that I’m far more alert when I stand and my students are far more engaged. I tend to move when my students sing, especially when it’s an upbeat song. I find I can’t help it move to the rhythm. And sometimes I bust out into little dance moves as a bit of fun. My students are so used to it, they don’t even flinch. You may laugh, but when you move, you are actually teaching your students to move also, they are not so self conscious and movement becomes a natural part of the singing process. This movement helps to release tensions within their bodies and increases their joy of singing. The end result is that the student keeps coming back. But also when it’s time for them to perform on stage, they will instinctively move and wired have those inhibitions.
If it’s fatiguing for you to stand for long periods of time, get up and move in between students use this time to stretch bounce, just do anything that will activate your body even try to go outdoors for a few minutes and breathe.
These things are really important to increasing your frequency. For many of us, we are paid on an hourly basis. So the question here is how often do you eat at your desk or skip your lunch break altogether, even though you know it’s bad for you? Look, I can be guilty of this I often teach back to back but it’s important to make a habit of leveraging your lunch break. Taking your lunch break allows you to refuel gives your brain a break and it’s a great opportunity to switch up your physical posture.
Reap the benefits of having a lunch break even further by just going outside, try finding the nearest Park lake or walkway and take a short stroll or a jog during lunch a few times a week. By greening your exercise you can balance your indoor activities with some outdoor ones. As singing teachers we spend all day indoors in the air conditioning so it’s important to walk outside and get some fresh air. This will not only give you the opportunity to get some much needed sun which helps boost mood stabilising chemicals such as serotonin and your vitamin D levels, which in turn helps to regulate your sleep wake chemicals. Getting outside we’ll help you connect with nature and spending time in nature has big benefits for your mental well being. Studies have shown that this tool can help reduce stress and have wider health benefits like building your immune system and lowering your blood pressure.
So no one is saying that you have to run a marathon leap from tall buildings or do a CrossFit session or throw weights around. All I’m saying is try some physical activities for three weeks, like try yoga for three weeks or tries swimming for three weeks or just try a brisk walk for three weeks. Whatever it is just do something that is going to make you move and measure how you feel when you do it. All this would be a significant game changer for you and your students movement will open your lungs in a different way and it is going to clean out your system in a very different way. It is going to activate your pair hormones in a very different way you can choose how you are going to awaken your senses and how you come alive every day. I know you are going to feel amazing, so customise and carve out an exercise routine that you can manage and stick with it for at least three weeks.
An inactive lifestyle is clearly detrimental to our overall health and well being and as voice teachers and singers. We need to do some kind of physical activity that works for us so we have the energy to fulfil our mission. This will help us serve our students at how best every day and helps put us in a high performance state. Please, this is not about physical appearance. It’s not about your body shape, and what it looks like or what you look like. It’s not even about your dress size. Because this has nothing to do with body image or body shaming. It’s about having the energy and the mental focus to manage your day and deal with everything life throws at you. It’s about quality of life and longevity.
Now is the time to develop the mindset to take responsibility and care for your physical health to help you become the best version of yourself each and every day. Strong mental and physical well being gives you resilience in the face of life’s challenges, and it’s something we can all benefit from. Fortunately, you can improve your overall well being by making small changes to your daily routine just by incorporating physical activity. You have to create space, time, and most importantly routine for it to become a part of your life. And to become a regular part of your week. You need to plan when you are going to exercise during the week. Every Sunday, I create a weekly plan for the new week ahead and I schedule exercise into my timetable. In the same way I do my work and other appointments and other commitments. It’s the only way it’s going to happen. It’s not being selfish, as some of you may think to make that time for myself. I know my husband used to think that I was selfish when I would say no to him when he would ask me to do something together with him because I had to go to the gym. He finally got it when he started going to the gym himself and made it his priority to incorporate physical activity into his life. We are both better people in our relationship with each other by having this time to take care of our health. He understands now that what is selfish is when we don’t make time for our physical activity, so don’t waste time.
Try it today. Focus on the commitment to the process. A goal is the byproduct of all the habits and actions taken along the way. Make micro commitments with smaller, achievable goals and remember to reward yourself. You have nothing to lose except however many number of years not feeling at your best not living your best life. Make a promise to yourself that you will take the time for self care and don’t break that promise. keep that promise to yourself to do this. Learn the simple discipline of an exercise routine. And this practice will help you in all areas of your life as well as helping the students you serve who will also benefit from this change. It is time to experience your best life. Until next time, remember that you owe it to yourself. Now is the time to experience your best life.
Hey, I hope you enjoyed this episode have a voice and beyond. Now is an important time for all of us to spread positivity and empowerment in our singing voice community. It’s time for you to invest in your own self care, personal growth and education. use every day as an opportunity to learn and to grow so you can show up for your students. Feeling energised, empowered, and ready to deliver your best. Be the best role model and mentor you can possibly be and watch your students thrive as you do. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. If you enjoyed it, please make sure to share it with a friend or a colleague who you think will be inspired by this. Copy and paste the link and share it with the people you think will enjoy listening to this show. Please share it on social media and use the hashtag a voice and beyond. If you would like to help me please rate and review this podcast and cheer me on by clicking the subscribe button on Apple podcasts right now. I would love to know what it is you enjoyed the most about this episode? And what was the biggest takeaway for you? I promise you there are many episodes to follow as I’m committed to bringing you more inspiration and conversations just like this one. I’d like to finish up with my final thoughts. Remember that to sing is more than just learning how to use the voice as singers. Our whole body is the instrument and our bodies echo what we feel physically mentally and emotionally. So singing is not just about the voice. It’s about a voice and beyond. Please take care of yourself and I look forward to your company next time.