Singers Make Great Runners

SirensI’ve been singing since I could talk.  There are home movies of me at 5 years old, singing Frosty the Snowman in front of our fireplace and swatting my baby sisters as they tried to sing along, because they were stealing my thunder.  There are cassette tapes of me and my sisters singing songs to my grandparents.  I have been in school concerts, choruses, plays and professional performances.  As I’ve begun running more and more frequently, I’ve realized that my lifetime of singing actually gives me an edge in my running performance.  Here are a few reasons why:

I hydrate like a boss.  Mrs. Bushey, my chorus teacher from 8th through 12th grade, drilled it into our heads that hydration was important.  She told us that our pee should be light yellow, if not clear, all the time.  We were encouraged to bring water bottles to school and drink that water like it was our job.  I have been in the habit of good hydration since I was 13 years old, and that habit has helped me tremendously as a runner.  I know a lot of my runner friends struggle with staying hydrated, but I LOVE water.  I crave it all the time.  I keep a 32 oz Nalgene bottle on my desk at work, and try to drink one before lunch, and one after.

Click for Source

Click for Source

I’m already a belly breather.  In singing, a lot of your vocal power comes from your diaphragm.  As a singer, you are taught to breathe not into your lungs, but into your abdomen, expanding all the way around, in order to get the most from your breath.  I naturally breathe into my belly 90% of the time anyway.  But not everyone does.  There are lots of articles out there about runners and belly breathing, and for most runners, it’s something they have to train themselves to do, something they have to really work on.  I’m lucky, because I just do it without even thinking about it, and I know it helps my performance.

Being in rehearsal for a performance is pretty similar to being in training.  When getting ready for a performance, you start preparing weeks in advance.  You practice several times a week.  In each practice, you warm up your voice, do your vocal exercises, and work on your song(s).  You are dedicated to your schedule and don’t miss any rehearsals.  You make sure you’re drinking lots of water and getting plenty of rest.  On the day of the show, you bring all your gear, warm up, and do your thing.  And no matter how much you’ve practiced, sometimes things go wrong–your accompanist flubs, your voice cracks, or you miss a breath.  But no matter what, people clap and cheer, and you can’t wait to do it again.  Sound familiar?  When training for a big race, you train for weeks, but anything and everything can go wrong on race day.  But the cheering crowds get you through, and when you get that PR or medal, you can’t wait to sign up for another.  Transitioning from the structure of rehearsals to the structure of training for a race was kind of a no-brainer.  I just wish I was as good at getting up early for runs as I am at getting up early for rehearsals…

I perform well in front of an audience.  I have a dear friend who regularly runs 10+ miles.  I asked her if she’d do a race with me someday, and she refused, flat out.  Her excuse?  She doesn’t want people to see her when she runs, because she gets sweaty and red-faced.  So she only runs at night.  With her husband, or alone.  I, on the other hand, apparently have no issue looking like a fool in front of a bunch of strangers–in my years on stage, I’ve been seen in such fantastic get-ups including but not limited to:

…a giant pink bird:

Seussical the Musical

Seussical the Musical

…this ridiculous wig:

Beauty

Beauty and the Beast

…a full-on BDSM outfit:

Rocky Horror

Rocky Horror

…and last but not least, my birthday suit (the musical “Hair”)–and no, I don’t have any pictures of that!

So really, being a sweaty lobster-face is not the weirdest way I’ve looked in front of a crowd.  And having people cheering and clapping ALWAYS puts a smile on my face and makes me work harder.

Any other singer/runners out there?  Do you think your singing training has helped you to be a better runner?

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8 thoughts on “Singers Make Great Runners

  1. dgobs says:

    I’m jealous of your ingrained hydration abilities! 😉 These are all really good points that I had never thought of before. I sang chorus at school in the 8th grade and was pretty good about the belly breathing, but forgot about it as soon as I hit high school and quit chorus. I do tend to struggle with breathing when I run… I’ll have to try to remember that!

  2. SuzLyfe says:

    This is fantastic. Don’t forget that you have excellent breath control and diaphram muscles–prevent those side stitches 😀 and you are prepare to run in costume, and you ignore any and all chafing because you have seen oh-so-much worse.

  3. nevie b. says:

    I LOVE this post!! I used to act professionally and in DC singing sort of comes with the territory – in our acting classes we had to work a lot on belly breathing and getting in touch with our core, because that’s where the physical manifestation of emotion comes from. I SO relate to this and I love it!!! I’m going to share it with all my theatre friends 🙂

    • DarlinRae says:

      YAY! So glad someone else out there can relate. It’s amazing how your interests can intersect and skills from other areas can help you succeed in new ones 🙂

  4. runningsouthern says:

    Never thought about this, but it makes total sense. I am a terrible singer, but I still love to belt it out. Especially WHEN I am running. I get some weird looks for this one…

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