Instructor Self-Care: Vocal & Body Prep & Repair
Teaching aquatic fitness can take a toll on the body and the voice. Chris Lacour shares a series of stretches for before and after class to promote flexibility and prevent bodily injury. He also demonstrates vocal exercises that can be done before and after a class to prepare and repair your vocal cords and other sensitive areas of the throat.
PREPARING & REPAIRING THE BODY
Understanding what muscles require the most stretching involves an intuitive approach that honors your body and your personal history of strains and injuries. If you have experienced numerous strains to your hamstring, then you obviously need to give extra attention to that muscle group. If like Chris, you experience chronic back soreness, then you need to pay attention to your lower back, hips and glutes. Appropriate stretching also requires attention to muscles that get overused when demonstrating exercises on deck. Below are some muscles you may want to give extra attention to when stretching before and after a class.
- Iliopsoas (Hip flexors) and Quadriceps - Arguably the most overused muscle in the body, the hip flexors and quads and involved in walking, running, stair climbing, sitting, standing and much more. Instructing aquatic exercise from deck requires lots of knee lifts, kicks, skis, simulated tucks and more, all emanating and powered by the hip flexors. Tight hip flexors can lead to pain, inflammation and potentially contribute to other conditions such as tendinitis, IT Band Syndrome and more.
- Hamstrings - Tight hamstrings are not only vulnerable to pulls and strains, but they are also one of the biggest contributors to sciatica and lower back pain. Tight hamstrings plague both athletes and couch potatoes because the causes stem from both overuse and excessive sitting.
- Calves - One of the most common problems that instructors deal with is pain and injury involving the feet. Aquatic fitness instructors often demo impact on deck with plantar flexion, raising the heels repeatedly to mimic weight shifting. This obviously overworks the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. Tight calves are one of the biggest contributors to foot problems, such as plantar fasciitis (heel pain), bunions, flat feet, tendinitis, inflammation and more. Keeping the calf muscles flexible is essential to the structure of the ankle, the foot and even the knee.
- Anterior Deltoids and Pectoralis - Fitness instructors spend hours lifting their arms into the downward pull of gravity and thus overusing the shoulders and chest. Life also ages us into flexion as we spend much of our time with shoulders forward - typing, texting, driving, pushing, reaching and more. These activities pull us into poor posture, tightening the anterior muscles of the upper body and leading to injuries down the road.
These are just a few of the more important muscles to focus on. However, a regimen that stretches all of the major muscles groups is best.
PREPARING & REPAIRING THE VOICE
As a vocal instructor for 15 years, Chris entered the world of fitness instruction keenly aware of the need to prepare and protect his voice. He equates teaching a couple of classes to singing in a cabaret all night.
Aside from the vocal exercises that Chris demonstrates before and after a class, he also provided some advice regarding what you consume before a class and the difference it makes in how hard your voice will need to work. Here are some good and bad options:
Things to AVOID for optimum vocal health:
- Cold/Icy Drinks
- Sugary Drinks
- Too much Citrus
Things to CONSUME for optimum vocal health:
- Herbal Teas
- Warm Water (add a little lemon and/or honey)
Chris also suggests lozenges. “There are some great throat lozenge options that contain slippery elm, which help with keeping the throat naturally coated and helpful to endure for long classes,” he says.