My siblings and I were raised on routines. Now, as an adult I have routines for everything; cleaning, dog walking, hair washing. You name it, I have a routine for it.
So, it should come as no surprise that I have a winter (and actually a summer) vocal health routine.
Hi, I'm Rebecca! And I truly love everything about the art, science, and teaching of singing. If you're looking to build an effective and healthier singing technique so that you can sing with more ease and confidence, then you're in the right place! Here's a few other blog posts you might also like to read:
How to relieve hay fever symptoms and keep singing
And of course, grab a copy of my ultimate vocal health starter guide where I'll share how to create a vocal health routine and reset your voice in 14-days!
The reason I like routines is that once they’re set up and running on automation, there’s little conscious thought. They tick away silently in the background whilst you get on with more important things. This should be the same for your vocal health.
Vocal health is something that we as singers (and other professions apply here too) need to manage daily BUT it doesn’t need to take up space on your to-do list or in your brain.
By the end of this blog, you’ll know my vocal health routine and see how I incorporate vocal health into every day with little effort.
1 | STAYING HYDRATION
Staying hydrated is my TOP priority. Hydration should be a year-round priority for all singers and professional voice users. BUT when the weather starts turning cold, the heating comes on you (and your voice) will start to notice a change.
I find having the heating on leaves your throat feeling dry, your voice a little hoarse and most importantly, when you’re even a little dehydrated this is the perfect breeding ground for colds and viruses.
I always found staying hydrated was more difficult when I’m was not in charge of the environment. For example, about 10-years ago I worked with two girls who during the cold December and January months insisted on wear boob-tubes with thin summer cardigans (eye-roll). They’d complain they were cold but refused to put on extra layers.
Instead, they chose to crank up the heat on the electric heater. I swear you could probably grow mushrooms in that room it was so hot. But it was two against one. I learnt to manage this two ways:
Firstly, by tracking my fluid intake, drinking lots of water and minimising the drinks I love but know they leave me feeling a little dehydrated; like a Costa Coffee Americano :(
To help me get started I used a Hydration Tracker to monitor my fluid intake. It was shocking to notice that I only drank 5-6 of the 8 recommended a day. No wonder I was dehydrated!
I tracked my intake for several years until I was confident that I was consistently achieving the 8 glasses a day without using a printable tracker.
The other way I do this, aaaannnd it might sound a bit strange is I place a bowl of water on my desk or working area. This just helps to replace moisture lost when the heating (or AC) is on high.
This sounds a little crazy but it really works. The more the water evaporates the more the environment is lacking moisture.
2 I ALWAYS WEAR A SCARF
During the winter months, I actually wear scarfs all the time. I never leave the house without my winter coat and scarf. Never!
AND indoors I either wear a lightweight scarf (I’m particularly partial to those bee scarves in Joules) or a merino neck tube (like those from Rohan). It depends on my outfit!
I do this to protect my instrument from the extreme temperature fluctuations when moving from the cold outdoors to a well-heated indoors.
It also helps keep the instrument warm between practices. I recommend this to all my midlife students. It’s quite a common complaint that warming the voice takes longer the older we get.
Wearing a scarf, indoors and outdoors, can save you a bit of time when warming up your voice. Try it!
3 | PERSONAL HYGIENE
Here in the UK, as part of their flu season campaign, the NHS has a catchphrase: “Catch it. Bin it. Kill it”. If you haven’t heard or seen this, let me break it down for you.
If you sneeze (especially if you’re in a public place) you’re to “catch it” in a tissue. And then immediately throw the tissue in the bin to prevent or limit the spread of germs.
Now, this should go without saying. BUT…
With the Corona Virus likely to be around for some time to come I’m going to be making a few changes and being a little more vigilant about my personal hygiene this year.
Normally I wash my hands or use sanitizer in public places. More so in winter than summer. This year, I’ll be:
Wearing a mask in public places. I carry a spare in my backpack just in case I drop it or forget it.
Sanitize my hands before and after entering any public space or using public transport.
Washing my hands immediately on returning home and handling post or deliveries.
I’m also having my weekly shop delivered to minimise exposure.
4 | EXERCISING
Exercising is a great way to boost your immune system.
If you’re anything like me, getting and staying motivated to exercise during the winter months is tough.
Over the years, I’ve tried so many things that I couldn’t even give you a list! What I do now, is I trade in my outdoor running routine which primarily focuses on developing lung capacity to a focus more on core strength-building exercises, like those in Pilates and Yoga.
If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, core strength is linked to posture and good posture is the foundation stone to a good and healthy vocal technique.
Changing up my workout routine and renewing my main focus helps me stay motivated. For me, like staying hydrated, exercising is a year-round vocal health priority for me.
I aim to exercise for 30-mins, 6 days per week. I prefer to do this in the morning so that it’s done, dusted and I can get on with my day.
5 | RESTING
I’m a big believer in taking breaks from practice and allowing yourself to rest your voice for at least one day each week.Because I am a singer and singing teacher I use my voice quite a lot.
I always warm-up before teaching and practice but when I’m not teaching (Sundays and Mondays) I rest. I often schedule periods of voice rest throughout the year and after intense periods of teaching or performing. During these ‘rest’ day or periods I also like to give myself and voice a little TLC. Like,
Taking a bath (steaming is great for the voice!)
Getting a massage
It took me a really long time to see that self-care was a really important part of vocal health. When you’re body and mind is relaxed and free from tension, the voice functions more efficiently.
Nowadays, self-care forms a big part of my Sunday routine – I told you, I have a routine for everything!
If you wanna know more about how I rest and reset my voice, you can download my Guide to Vocal Reset here.
And now you know my winter vocal health routine.
In my experience, the easiest way to build an effective routine is to add one thing at a time. Get comfortable with that before adding the next layer or step.
You’re be surprised how quickly you’ll build your vocal health routine that’s manageable and so you don’t even have to think about it.
Let me know in the comments below which will be your top priority this winter.