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.

us-car-throatcomfort-201923-3dfront-withglow-700x875

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.

file_297_11

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.

mast-alkalol-bottle-with-nasal-cup

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.

2016-08-newlabel-16-org

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.

599f6a9c-81f1-477d-b777-74f08258b52a_1-35c197fb5120daf11b9cb8210a0613b6

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?

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#TBT: Singers Make Great Runners

In honor of Mary Poppins opening tomorrow, I thought it would be fun to recycle this post from last year about why singers make great runners. It’s still all true, and it’s a big part of why I’m not totally dying this week. Enjoy!

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.

hipsterariel

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:

Bird

…this ridiculous wig:

Beauty

…a full-on BDSM outfit:

Rocky

…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?

Chess the Musical Sneak Peek

Ok guys, if you’re at all interested in hearing me sing and do my thing, you can click the link below for several sneak peek videos that were shot during our live news segments yesterday morning. Please keep in mind that it’s early and I’m exhausted and nervous as all get out–I promise it sounds better live 😉

If you don’t want to watch all of the videos (which I won’t blame you for because there are a lot), I’m the one wearing the shiny purple shirt, so you can just pick those two!

http://www.mychamplainvalley.com/news/chess-the-musical-in-stowe

Thinking Out Loud – Chasing My Passions

Thinking-Out-Loud

Linking up with Amanda from Running with Spoons again this Thursday, to continue my series of non-running related posts.

Last Thursday, I wrote a lot about stuff not at all related to running. My post was all about singing, and staying vocally healthy. As I teased last week, the careful consideration that I have been bringing to my theater activities has got some wheels turning about chasing my passions.

I gave up the dream of performing for a living a long time ago; I’m not courageous enough to deal with the constant rejection, and I like having a steady paycheck. But performing is still something I’m incredibly passionate about, and would like to do more of, on a more professional scale. Newsflash: I don’t get paid for any of the shows I do right now (although I have been in the past); they’ve all been purely volunteer-based, which is great, but I think I’m capable of more. Just like with running, I’d like to push myself outside my comfort zone and see where it gets me. I want to dedicate more of my time and money to things like voice lessons, dance lessons, and acting classes.

Vermont may be small, but there are some great professional theater companies that I’ve always wanted to work with, but have been too chicken to try. Even though I’ve been doing this since I was 9 years old, I’m straight up terrified of auditioning. I get nervous and stressed out and I’m an emotional wreck. I’m scared of failing, so I won’t try. And that’s crap. I’m tired of not doing what I want to do because fear of failure is holding me back.

I think if Chess goes well, it’s going to give a lot of local theater people a chance to see me in a new way. I’ve never had a leading role in a show in this area, and I’m hopeful that this increased exposure will lead to more connections and opportunities.

A lot of these feelings about pushing beyond my comfort zone and chasing my passion can also be applied to my running/fitness and long-term career goals, but that’s a post for next Thursday 😉

Are you chasing a passion that’s not related to running?

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?