My Favorite Products and Tips for a Healthy Voice (Plus Some I Think Are Total BS)

I’ve been doing musical theatre for 20+ years now (holy crap, that’s crazy to think about), and along the way I’ve picked up a lot of tips, tricks, and favorite products to help me out. I know this is a bit of a departure from my usual running chat, but due to my impending audition, it’s on my mind, and hopefully someone can benefit from it.

FAVORITE PRODUCTS

Please note that I am not being compensated in any way to mention these products or companies. I promise none of them even know I exist. These are just my tried and true products for good vocal health.

Favorite Tea
My go-to used to be Traditional Medicinal’s Throat Coat. That was the most common “throat soothing” tea, so it was what I drank. And with its delicious licorice flavor, plus some honey, it was tasty to boot. Now, though, I use Yogi Tea’s Throat Comfort. It has the same licorice flavor, plus wild cherry, slippery Elm, and mullein. It tastes even better than Throat Coat, and I think does a better job of soothing my tired chords too.

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My Favorite Lozenge
Grether’s Blackcurrant Pastilles are the ultimate throat soother. And I don’t just use them for singing. If I have a sore throat or a bad cough, one of these does ten times more to soothe my throat than a normal cough drop, and they taste ten times better too. They come in several flavors, as well as sugar-free options, but I prefer the original blackcurrant flavor. I just wish I could find a store near me that sells them so I didn’t have to buy them on Amazon.

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Neti Pot
This is something I was introduced to my senior year of college, and I don’t know how I ever did without it. I have always had minor seasonal allergies and post-nasal drip, so excess mucus has long been a problem for me. A neti pot is basically a tiny teapot that you use to pour saline solution into your sinuses. Using the neti pot every few days flushes all the irritants and excess mucus out of my system, so it doesn’t build up in my sinuses and chest. Fair warning, it feels weird AF and takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, it’s an invaluable tool, especially if you’re prone to sinus infections.

Alkalol
No, not alcohol, Alkalol. It’s a nasal rinse similar in idea to the neti pot, but instead of using saline solution, you use a proprietary blend of antiseptic essential oils, menthol, AND saline. This stuff is the big guns that I break out when I’m actually sick, versus the everyday preventative nature of the neti pot. This stuff will clean you out, but it also feels even weirder than the neti pot. Consider yourself warned.

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Fire Cider
This is another product that’s more in the vein of mitigating the symptoms of an actual illness versus prevention, although some people swear it can help boost your immunity if used regularly. For me, I just gargle it if I feel any kind of sore throat or excess mucus on my vocal chords. It clears it up instantly. Fire Cider tastes FOUL. Like, seriously bad, but damn does it work! You can make your own, but I use it infrequently enough that I just buy it from my local health food store.

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Vicks Personal Steamer
This isn’t something I have or have used in the past, but I want one, bad. The benefits of warm steam for vocal health have been touted over and over, but it’s hard to bring a humidifier with you to the theatre, and sitting hunched over one can be uncomfortable. This baby brings the steam right to you, with a comfy face mask and different steam levels for ultimate comfort. Mama want.

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BEST TIPS FOR MAINTAINING GOOD VOCAL HEALTH

Drink All the Water
Simple, but effective. Hydration is critical to maintaining good vocal health. I keep a 32 oz water bottle on my desk at work, and aim to drink two per day. I’m not as good on the weekends just because I’m usually on the go, but I try to remember to bring a bottle with me as much as possible.

Use Your Good Vocal Habits All Day, Every Day
Breathe well and support your speaking voice. Don’t whisper or scream. Avoid vocal fry (if you don’t know what that means, go Google it). Warm up properly before you do any singing, even just goofing around in the car. Your voice is your instrument, but one that you can’t replace, and one that is very difficult to repair if it gets broken. You have to treat it well every day, or you’ll be in trouble.

Get Enough Sleep
You need sleep to stay healthy. ‘Nuff said.

TIPS I THINK ARE BULLSHIT

There are a lot of urban myths about vocal health that are continually bandied about, and some people adhere to them religiously. I’m a bit of a rebel when it comes to a lot of this stuff, but especially this first one:

Avoid Dairy Products, Because They Cause Phlegm
I’m sorry, I just can’t even with this. I have been doing musical theatre for two decades and I have never once given up dairy for a show. Not even during Chess, when I significantly cut back on my alcohol consumption, did I give up dairy for theatre! I did once give up dairy for a month or two to see if it might be causing some stomach problems I was having, and not only did it not solve my stomach problems, it did not solve my post-nasal drip and excess mucus issues. I have been known to have a milk shake right before a show and suffer no ill-effects. Now, I can’t speak for everyone, and maybe dairy really does affect some people’s voices adversely, but I’m not one of them.

Avoid Caffeine, Because It’s a Diuretic and Will Dehydrate You
Again–I can’t even with this. I’m not saying I’m Lorelai Gilmore over here drinking my weight in coffee every day, but I LOVE coffee and find it difficult to start my day without it. And with lots of late night rehearsals, sometimes I need the caffeine boost. I’ve even been known to chug a Red Bull on a two-show day. I can’t say that I’ve gone more than a few days without caffeine since I started drinking coffee regularly at age 18, but I’m generally really happy with my vocal stamina and quality, and I’m skeptical as to whether or not giving up caffeine would really make anything better. I’ve never noticed that my voice was any better or worse on days when I had more caffeine, and I drink more than enough water to compensate for the potential dehydrating effects of my moderate caffeine consumption.

Singers, any tips or tricks I’ve left out? Do you give up dairy during a show?

Product Review: Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra Handheld Bottle

Disclaimer: I received an Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

I don’t think I’m the only runner who has a love/hate relationship with handheld bottles. Love, because it can be simpler to carry a small bottle on short-to-middle distance runs than strapping on a big hydration pack. Hate, because they’re often ill-fitting, heavy, or otherwise annoying.

I used to have a handheld bottle, I can’t even remember what brand, but every time I used it, my hands got all crampy from having to clutch it constantly, and I had to re-tighten the strap every few minutes. The nozzle also was one of those ones where you have to pull it open and push it to close, so it wasn’t very fast or easy to get a drink. I threw that bottle away after only a few uses because I was so frustrated with it, and since then, I haven’t had anything to take with me on shorter runs.

When BibRave asked for volunteers to try the Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra, I was a bit wary, but I figured, why not give it a shot? We were heading into summer, and I absolutely wilt when running in the heat, so if nothing else, it would be practical to have one. I chose the 16 oz version because usually that’s all I need for a run up to 10 miles. Unfortunately, I was unable to test this while running as much as I would have liked due to my recent tailbone injury and subsequent two week running break. I did, however, get to take it on one good 4 mile tempo run, and several walks, and I was impressed.

Ergo-Lite Ultra

Features:

  • Jett-Squeeze Cap
  • Reflective detail on pocket
  • Expandable pocket and key clip
  • Thumb-lock sleeve design
  • Neoprene sleeve acts as insulation
  • 3 quick-access gel storage slots

The Good:

The neoprene strap was tight enough to actually hold the bottle to my hand, so I didn’t feel like I had to hold it in a death grip. My natural stance with running is to have my hands completely open and fingers loose, so having to hold onto something messes me up. In fact, it was almost a bit too tight, because I could feel the seam stitching biting into my hand a bit, but after the fact, I realized that the strap is adjustable, so it was an easy fix.

The bottle is also ergonomically shaped; rather than a typical round or oval bottle, the Ergo-Lite Ultra bottle is shaped to fit naturally in your hand, which I think is another reason I don’t have to hold on so hard.

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The expandable pocket on the unit is AWESOME. It actually fits my iPhone 6s in its bulky, Otterbox-style case, and I feel confident that I could also fit extra gels or chews in there if I needed to. There’s a great slip pocket inside the pocket to keep credit cards or ID secure as well.

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I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Jett-Squeeze cap. There’s no pulling or pushing the lid up, no biting or sucking–you just give the bottle a gentle squeeze, and it shoots water into your mouth, or on your head, or wherever you want it to go. I can’t stress enough how much I love this feature. When I’m hot and sweaty, the last thing I want to do is put my sweaty hand on my water bottle cap, or try to pry it open with my teeth. And best of all, it doesn’t leak. You could leave the bottle on the floor for an hour and you wouldn’t have a puddle to clean up when you came back.

The Bad:

My biggest problem with handhelds is unfortunately universal: they’re heavy and they throw me off balance a bit. Whichever arm is carrying the bottle gets tired, so I constantly have to switch off, which is annoying. If I don’t put my phone in the pocket, it’s MUCH lighter and more user-friendly, and I have plenty of shorts/capris with pockets that I can put my phone in instead. While all handhelds have the potential to be annoying, I think the ergonomic design of the Ergo-Lite Ultra makes it much easier to carry than its competitors.

My only complaint specifically for the Ergo-Lite Ultra is that the very first time I took the neoprene sleeve off the bottle, the bottle was discolored. This is probably my own fault for leaving it in my hot car repeatedly, but it still looks kind of gross.

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Conclusion:

I’m really happy with this product. It offers a surprising amount of storage space in a very compact unit, and is much more comfortable and easy to hold onto than other handhelds I’ve tried. I know it’s going to serve me well this summer.

Do you ever run with handheld bottles? Why or why not?

Product Review: OrangeMud Hydraquiver Vestpack

Disclaimer: I received an OrangeMud Hydraquiver Vestpack 1 to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

When I made the commitment to running my first marathon in 2016, I knew I was going to need a new hydration solution for long training runs. I have been using a Fitletic hydration belt for a while, but it wasn’t ideal. I could only carry 16 oz of water at a time, and the pouch was barely big enough to fit my fuel, let alone my fuel, phone, keys, chapstick etc. I decided I would save up and treat myself to an OrangeMud pack for Christmas.

Lo and behold, Christmas came early when BibRave teamed up with OrangeMud yet again to let select Pros test and review the Hydraquiver Vestpack 1. It’s called the VP 1 because it holds one 25 oz bottle; there is also the VP 2 which has two bottles.

I had the opportunity to take the VP 1 on two test runs, both of which were about 5 miles long. My first impression was: “Hooray, space!” The two stretchy cinch pockets on the front of the pack are more than large enough to accommodate my iPhone 6s in its bulky Otterbox-style case, and one of them has a key clip as well.

There are two more pockets on the straps that are oriented so that the opening faces downward, making access very easy. These pockets are great for additional fuel, chapstick, or other small bits and pieces. And then there are TWO MORE velcro-closure slide pockets on the back, on either side of the bottle. These aren’t quite as roomy, but would still be great for things you don’t need to access on the run, like cash or your ID.

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The pack is very lightweight, and made of breathable mesh, to help keep you cool. The waterbottle holster height is adjustable, so you can raise or lower the bottle to make it easier for you to grab, or to use a bottle other than the OM bottle which might be a different size.

My two biggest concerns about this pack were:

  1. Will this thing chafe the crap out of me if I wear a tank top?
  2. Will getting the water bottle in and out of the holster be awkward?

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to test worry number 1 yet. I didn’t have an opportunity to run with it in warmer weather when I could safely and comfortably wear a tank top. I am still very nervous about this, as chafing is a huge concern for me anyway, and the pack fits very close around my chest and under my arms. I will update later once I have a chance to test this.

Regarding accessing the bottle, there was definitely an adjustment period, but after the first few tries, it was just as easy to reach up behind my head to grab or re-holster the bottle as it is to reach down for a bottle at my waist, and way less tiring than carrying a handheld bottle.

I also had some difficulty adjusting the straps properly the first few times because as we have discussed ad nauseum, I am a Busty Runner. The chest strap tends to slide up and over my chest, especially when I’m wearing any kind of slippery tech material, so I end up with a bit more bounce than someone else might. I need to work on getting the side straps right so that the chest strap is less important. That being said, I would ALWAYS rather wear the VP than my stupid hydration belt. It’s more comfortable (while wearing long sleeves, anyway), and offers much more in the way of storage.

It sits high enough on my shoulders that it hardly feels like I’m wearing anything at all, and even with 25 oz of water, phone, keys, gloves, fuel, and chapstick, I didn’t feel any more fatigue than I would after a 5 mile run without all that gear.

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Overall, I’m REALLY pleased with the Vestpack 1, and think it will be critical for my long training runs this spring. In Vermont winters, it’s incredibly important to have enough gear for the brutal cold and bi-polar weather patterns, and with the Vestpack, I feel like I can carry all the gear I need and still keep proper running form.

If you are interested in trying an OrangeMud Vestpack of your own, you can use the code “BIBRAVE” for 15% off your order. If you’re interested in reading more about the Vestpack 1, check out these reviews by my fellow Pros:

Amy | Angie | Brad | Jessica B

 

 

True Citrus Review and Giveaway!

I am so excited to host my first-ever giveaway!  I have used True Citrus products on and off for several years, and I genuinely like them.  I reached out to the company to see if they might be willing to provide some samples for a giveaway, and their Director of Digital Marketing graciously sent me four different flavors to give away.

What is it?

True Citrus makes a variety of all natural products for giving your water a little extra oomph!  The TrueLemon, TrueLime, TrueGrapefruit and TrueOrange products are 100% natural, and do not contain any added sugars.  All you get is great flavor!  They are also Gluten and Preservative free and zero calories per serving.  And because the crystals are actually just crystallized fruit juice, you also get 25% of your daily value of Vitamin C!

The True Lemonade products are a bit different–more like Crystal Light powder, but sweetened with all-natural Stevia instead of aspartame or Splenda.  True Lemonade products contain 10 calories per serving, and are also Gluten and Preservative free.  AND they provide 100% of your daily Vitamin C!

You simply mix the packets into your water and voila!  You get a light, tasty drink.

In the past, I had only exclusively tried TrueLemon, TrueOrange and TrueLime, so before I received the giveaway samples, I went out and bought some True Lemonade and True Lime Black Cherry Lemonade so I could try and review them for you.

True Citrus Review

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I’ve already recommended these products to a few of my runner friends out there who struggle with hydration.  Some people just don’t like to drink plain water, and some times we just want something a little more interesting.  Adding a squeeze of fresh fruit juice to your water can help make it more appealing, but sometimes (like at work or on-the-go), fresh fruit simply isn’t practical.  The packets are sturdy and shelf stable, so you can just throw a few in your purse or keep a box in your snack drawer at work (everyone has one of those right?  It’s not just me?).

Personally, I hatehatehate the flavor of the artificial sweeteners used in products like Crystal Light, which is one of the reasons I like True Citrus so much–the TrueLemon, TrueLime, and TrueOrange crystals ACTUALLY taste like you just squeezed some fresh fruit juice into your water.  There’s no added sweetness, and no weird aftertaste.  Just fruity goodness.

Also, the crystals dissolve easily, so you don’t end up with any grainy or powdery stuff floating around in your water.

True Lemonade Review

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As I stated above, until this giveaway opportunity, I’d never tried the True Lemonade products.  I was interested, but nervous, because like I already said, I dislike the taste of artificial sweeteners.

Personally, I think both the True Lemonade and True Black Cherry Limeade were too sweet when mixed according to package instructions.  And even though the sweetener is Stevia and not Splenda or Aspartame, it still has a bit of that “artificial” flavor.  That being said, when I diluted the powder (I used 22 oz water instead of the recommended 16), it was perfect.  Not too sweet, very refreshing, and no more “fake” taste.  I preferred the True Lemonade to the True Black Cherry Limeade personally, but both were tasty, and MUCH better than Crystal Light.  And since the True Lemonade/True Limeade products are all natural, they are much better for you than Crystal Light too.

Now, for the giveaway…

There are 4 different flavors, so the winners will get to have their preference in the order they’re chosen.  Good luck, and I hope you like True Citrus as much as I do!  All you need to do is leave a comment below telling me what your favorite water addition is.  Winners will be selected using a random number generator.  The giveaway is open until 08/22/14 at midnight, EST.

If you aren’t a winner but still want to try True Citrus, you can buy through the website, or use their store locator gizmo–there are 3 Hannaford supermarkets within a 5 mile radius of my apartment that carry it!

Disclaimer:  This is not a sponsored post.  I asked the company for some samples to give away to accompany my review of the products.  I was not compensated in any way for writing this post, and all opinions are my own.