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Are You A Vocal Athlete?

Written by: Katarina Hornakova, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Everyone knows who athletes are. An athlete is a person who trains or competes in a sport that involves physical activity, strength, speed or endurance. But most people don’t know who a vocal athlete is. A vocal athlete is a person who places high demands on their voice in a very similar way as sport athletes place demands on their bodies. People who use their voices extensively are athletes of the voice. Voicing is their sport. Singing for a gig, recording voiceover sessions for several hours, narrating a chapter of a book, speaking to a group of people is physically as demanding and intense on your voice and body as any sport activity. They are physical tasks that require strength, agility, and stamina.

And if you think that vocal athletes are only singers or actors, you are wrong. Anybody who uses their voice for work or even just for fun are considered professional voice users. If you are a teacher, preacher, lecturer, voice actor, audiobook narrator, public speaker, salesperson, call centre operator, customer service representative, fitness instructor, drill instructor, a lawyer in the court, doctor, politician on tour, but also a busy parent, amateur choir singer, person who operates voice recognition software and more, you are a vocal athlete.


Act As a Vocal Athlete!


Let’s look at a day in the life of an athlete. An athlete understands the foundation of their well-being and physical potential, and their everyday life activities reflect that. Therefore, they adopt a set of habits and attitudes to keep their body in good health and optimize their performance so that they can train, compete and win! Every single day, they eat a well balanced diet or diet that covers their nutritional needs. They get enough sleep, and rest their muscles strategically. They keep on improving their technique and they train every day! They have a team of people who guide them, motivate them or even help them when injured.


What does a day in the life of a vocal athlete look like? Probably very different for most vocal athletes. I would dare to say that most of them don’t even know their vocal instrument very well. Most of them take their voice care for granted. Do they drink enough fluids or eat foods that promote vocal health? Do they warm up their muscles before a big vocal task? Do they get enough rest so that their vocal folds can regenerate? The answers to these questions are most likely no.


We treat sports athletes differently than we treat vocal athletes. And it starts in school. Young sports athletes have coaches, they have regular practices, they learn about their sport and their body. They are taught how to take care of their muscles, they are told when to rest, what to eat and how to train. When things go wrong and injury occurs, young athletes get the help they need.


What support do we give to young kids who want to perform, sing, debate or speak publicly? They are often exposed to judgment and criticism instead of care. They are often pushed to perform more or better without knowing all the hows. If they don’t perform to high standards, they may quickly be replaced by one of many talents lining up behind them. These vocal athletes are not taught to care for their voices, exercise vocal hygiene or take much needed breaks to restore their body and voice back to baseline.


And this destructive attitude continues into later years. Therefore, I am calling for a change in attitude. And it starts with your own voice. Adopt an athlete’s attitude. Adopt the perspective of a voice professional who trains, competes and wins with their voice.


What can you do for your own voice?


Know your vocal instrument. Know that your voice has muscles that need exercise and rest, but also know that there is a mucosa or the lining of the vocal folds that need moisture, rest and vibrations to function well.


Vocal muscles as well as other muscles in the body need to be warmed up before extensive voice use. Warm ups improve blood flow to the muscles and joints. Good warm ups wake up all of the components of voice, including breathing, vocal folds, resonance spaces and your mind.


Fatigued muscles need rest and time to get back to their baseline. Weak muscles that tire often need to be strengthened and conditioned to last. A regular program with various voice exercises can prevent fatigue and injury.


Optimal technique is also important. Knowing how to use your voice in loud environments, how to speak to a large group of people, how to call out in a healthy way prevents vocal injuries and improves voice longevity.


Your voice likes hydration. Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day, not just before the vocal task is the absolute minimum you can do for your voice. Your voice also likes vocal naps. Your voice can function for a long time, if you strategically plan voice breaks and periods of rest.


And finally, if a vocal problem occurs, it is important to know what to do. Improved hydration, rest and some gentle restorative exercises are the first aid for swollen vocal folds. Having a team of people who you can turn to in these situations is highly recommended, especially if you depend on your voice for work. Create your own team of people who can support you and your voice.


If you are a vocal athlete, behave like an athlete!


Follow Katarina on her Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and visit her website for more info.


 

Katarina Hornakova, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Katarina Hornakova is a licensed speech-language pathologist, vocal health coach, and educator with 20+ years of experience working with diverse groups of people from all corners of the world, including speakers, singers, musicians, teachers, presenters, voice-over actors, entrepreneurs, yoga instructors, health educators, and others. She has published several books and articles on speech, language, and voice disorders. Katarina is most passionate about helping people who experience vocal tension, strain, or even pain when speaking find more vocal ease and confidence to share their message with the people around them. Her mission is to give voice to those who have lost it. She continues to develop her deep fascination with the human voice through the Estill Voice System model, which formed her belief that “every voice is beautiful”. Katarina has helped hundreds of people discover their true vocal potential. She is a curious life-long learner herself who loves to meet new people, cook, and travel.

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