We often hear that professional musicians are like top athletes. How true is this? Can sport nourish musical practice and how? Investigation.
Croatian thresher Lada Obradović was a swimmer before devoting herself to music. Getting up at 5 am, two training sessions a day, 4 hours a day in the water, there was not a day lost. “I was like, if I miss a workout, it will never come back to me. And I transposed that mentality to music. I am often criticized by telling me that music must be a pleasure. fun, of course, but not all the time. It is also a responsibility to work long hours, even if sometimes it is hard. “ Especially since her encounter with the drums took place when she was 17 and she felt she had to catch up. For four years, the musician locks herself up with her instrument. “I didn’t see anyone. I built a little rehearsal room for myself. I would wake up, run 10 km, play the drums until 11 at night. I would go running again to stretch a bit, and I would do it again the next day. “
So, the top athlete and the professional musician, same fight? “Muscle training is indeed specific to sport, answer Lada Obradović . But it was the mental conditioning of the sportswoman that I was that I applied in my musical practice. “ Discipline in training, therefore, and endurance in the effort to reach a goal.
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“We must quickly stop the comparison, answers Marie-Christine Mathieu, physiotherapist specializing in supporting musicians and founder of the site Smart-Movements. “Physically, musicians are people who have a very precise gesture, with an immobility in space. There are very few sports that require his abilities. I can name two: archery, and horseback riding. “
According to the professional, a musician does not need a lot of muscle strength. Practicing a sport with the intention of building muscle will, on the contrary, block the movement and make you lose flexibility. It is therefore useless to do series of abs disconnected from your practice to strengthen abdominal support, for example, for singers or wind instrumentalists. The physiotherapist distinguishes two muscle groups, including the one used for musical practice. “We have postural muscles and dynamic muscles. The musician needs to be very well coded for his postural muscles. And if he works the dynamic group, that’s not why he will know how to work the right balance. between the two.” The postural muscles must always be worked with the instrument, the balance between the dynamic groups, postural and the brain being a complex balance, specifies the physiotherapist.
What role of sport for a professional musician?
At the same time, the lack of physical activity can be very harmful for a professional musician. First, because it forces the body to remain in static positions for long hours, and second, because the highly repetitive nature of training calls for very specific areas of the brain to the detriment of its systemic functioning. However, integrating the practice of a sport into one’s lifestyle is still a relatively rare trend today, according to Marie-Christine Mathieu: “The musician often considers the practice of a sport as a waste of time, because he has to work a lot on his instrument to arrive at an increasingly perfect level. And also, because he is often afraid to do so. wrong.” Misconceptions that must be fought, because the benefits of sport for a musician are numerous when it is considered as entertainment, and not as a search for performance.
“The main goal must be to clear the head, that is to say to have fun in the deepest sense of the word, in the sense that the brain needs to get out of the repetitive pattern of practice. And during sport, when it is practiced for entertainment, the brain releases serotonin, which will help musicians concentrate and release emotions that will nourish their musical practice. ” Marie-Christine Mathieu
Or to channel negative emotions, as Laurent Koehl, tenor in the Choir of Radio France explains. Sport is part of his daily routine, and in particular to get to know his body better and fight against performance stress. “Swimming has helped me a lot with my breathing because it needs a regularity and a constant rhythm. By working my breathing, I can better control the situations where I feel the stage fright rising. “
“Sport is a major stress reliever, it helps the brain to gain confidence in itself and in its abilities, to see things outside of a performance, confirms physiotherapist Marie-Christine Mathieu, but on one condition, let it be done with pleasure. “
Which sport to choose?
Swimming, running, yoga, certain physical activities come up regularly in the testimonies of sports musicians. Are there sports that would be more advisable compared to the musical practice of a singer or an instrumentalist?
No, answers the physiotherapist. The choice of sport remains very personal for a musician. The best sport will thus be the one which will allow him to listen to his body and to make bridges between his musical and sports practice. “Choosing a sport only because it is good for your health is not sufficient motivation to maintain attendance, explains the physiotherapist. You should not seek effort at all costs either. The first question we must ask ourselves is what do we like? What are our needs and which sporting activity will bring us pleasure above all? “ The professional quotes Julie’s example, young pianist she had accompanied, who chose archery in the countryside, because “She didn’t feel like wasting her time. On the contrary, she felt like she was working her instrument differently and when she took it back, she felt like she had progressed.”
Choice of a sport, compatibility with his musical practice, intensity and rhythm of the practice … Drummer Lada Obradović had to decide. She ended up stopping swimming. “I realized that continuing with my sport and working on music for 13 hours a day was no longer possible.”
Taking care of your body is essential, warns Marie-Christine Mathieu. But be careful not to enter yet into a very rigorous discipline. The body and the brain need real relaxation. What can be useful is to be accompanied by a professional, underlines the physiotherapist. However, unlike athletes, the more efficient musicians are, the more they are alone and have the impression of having to fend for themselves, she notes. “I have seen too many musicians who added sports to their already busy schedule and who ended up with burn-out and tendonitis. We must at all costs avoid physical and mental overload. If I could give one. advice to musicians, it would be that they do a sporting activity taken over the time of their instrumental practice.