I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Singing is a sport. When singer-athletes are deciding how to enhance their crafts, they need to approach it the way other athletes do. By incorporating healthy habits into their daily lives.
Your body is your instrument.
How you nourish it, how much you hydrate, how much sleep you get, as well as your emotional state all play a part in the functioning of your instrument. Why spend hours each week strengthening your singing muscles with vocal exercises only to bog them down with too much fast food and not enough water? Healthy habits are a must. As a singer-athlete, you’re demanding a certain level of performance from your body. You want to do your part to help it come through for you.
Everybody (and every BODY) is different.
What works well or against me may not work well or against you. You have to assess what brings out the best in your voice through trial and error. But there are some general guidelines that are universal to all singers.
- Drink lots of water. Just water. Pure, unadulterated water.
- Get sufficient sleep. This doesn’t mean never have a late night. It means try to average at least 7 hours a night.
- Avoid an abundance of salt. Salt dehydrates. You want to stay hydrated.
- Avoid spicy foods. Not forever, but definitely the day of a gig or rehearsal.
- Avoid anything that you know will give you heartburn. Again, I mean this particularly in the hours leading up to a gig or rehearsal or solo practice session. Singing with stomach acid rising to the back of your throat is not good, and not fun.
There are some foods commonly avoided by singers. Consider dropping them from your diet for a few days to see how it effects your performance.
- Dairy. It can make you phlegmy. I limit my dairy in general, but stop eating it altogether about 36 to 48 hours before a gig. It helps my throat stay clear, as well as my sinuses, where I want my voice to resonate freely.
- Sugar. A little is okay, especially if it’s coming from a piece of fresh fruit. But a lot of processed sugar can make you phlegmy, make your body have to work hard for digestion, and create a sugar crash before or during your gig.
- Alcohol. Alcohol (and other substances) messes with your muscular function. For some (like me), it creates excess phlegm. It can also dehydrate you, which can prevent your vocal cords from vibrating properly and can make them more easily irritated. I’m not saying never drink. I AM saying never drink excessively. It’ll set your progress back every time. If you insist on having a drink during your gig (“Because it’s part of the lifestyle, Dude…”), drink moderately, and have twice as much water.
- Coffee. It isn’t only the coffee itself that gets most people. Cream and sugar is a phlegm-producing combination. But the acid in coffee can contribute to heartburn, which you want to avoid on the day of a gig or rehearsal.
In a general sense, anything that’s good for your body is good for your voice. Which leads me to…
- Aerobic Exercise: It’s good to exercise 3 or 4 times a week. You don’t have to be fancy about it. A brisk walk for 30-45 minutes will do. Anything that raises your heart rate and respiratory rate will help your body use oxygen more efficiently, and will increase your stamina for gigs.
- Stretching: Stretching keeps you flexible (for better performance of physical tasks) and increases blood flow to your muscles keeping them healthy and strong. Regular stretching helps maintain good posture, which is good for keeping your ribs open AND for photos! Also, maintaining a full range of joint motion through stretching is good for balance, for those of you wearing high heels on stage.
- Muscle Toning: Muscle toning is part of most workout routines. For singers, it is particularly helpful to keep a strong core. So do those crunches and planks!
There are endless reasons to maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise. Being a dedicated singer is yet another one.
If you’re already someone who drinks lots of water, eats well, and gets a fair amount of physical exercise, you’ll have to assess for yourself whether there is room for improvement or not.
If you don’t already do these things and the prospect seems overwhelming, check out this video for help getting started in the right direction:
If you have a healthy habit that improves your preparedness for singing, and I didn’t mention it here, please share. Thanks for reading!