3 Tips for Vocal Health and Longevity
Group fitness instructors know that leading a room of members and being a part of their day is a great privilege, not to mention, a lot of fun! We build community before, during and after classes, getting to know members and their goals along with their life’s highs and lows. The group fitness studio and members who fill it are the cheerleaders and beating heart of the facility’s community. Regardless of format taught, we work towards ensuring a safe, fun and hospitable environment for us and for members…and one that is sold out with a waitlist, of course!
One way we create these memorable classes is by how we coach, rather than what we coach.
The exceptional writer Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Have you ever considered that it is not what we say, but how we say it that is memorable for our members? If you’re thinking your individual style as a coach or the format taught does not need engagement and entertainment – think again! If you’re thinking that using your voice to create a memorable experience is only for those who have gone to theater school – think again!
Here’s one big tip to think about your voice performance when you teach:
Is your voice matching the intensity of what you’re asking the room to do?
We don’t mean “are you shouting into the mic during HIIT intervals,” as mic-shouting is a hard pass; career longevity is in and potentially career-killing phonotrauma from shouting is out!
Instead, during a vigorous section of the workout, are you matching that intensity with your voice?
During an active recovery section of the workout, are you matching that very different intensity with your voice?
Even if you use music as pure ambiance in class, you wouldn’t play Enya during builds to anaerobic work, just as you likely wouldn’t start playing the coolest new club banger hit during the cool-down.
It is the same idea with your voice.
You don’t need to be a performer to use simple, thoughtful speaking techniques to pack your classes as an engaging enterTRAINer. Group fitness instructors already play multiple roles, including coach and motivator. We’d like to add another role that you may not have considered – you are also a vocal athlete.
Vocal athlete refers to those who use their voice in particularly demanding ways, like singers, teachers or fitness professionals. You’re coordinating physical activity and speaking simultaneously as you teach. You’re engaging in community-building conversation before and after classes. You’re teaching multiple classes per week or day, often back-to-back. You may also be leaders at your studio or presenting at conferences. Your voice is essential for your job!
Vocal athletes are most successful in cultivating a long, healthy career when they treat their voice with the same care as the rest of the body.
Here are some of our favorite tips for vocal health and longevity:
1. Warm up and cool down your voice, just as you would your body. We know that warming up primes us for tough physical work and cooling down helps aid recovery. The same is true for your voice.
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Obvious benefit! Hydration specifically helps vocal folds vibrate with ease to prevent injury. Maximize by drinking water throughout the day and using a humidifier or nebulizer when you need extra hydration for your vocal folds.
3. Our last tip is a big one – rest your voice when it needs rest. Fatigue and strain are our bodies’ way of telling us it’s time to take a break. Ignoring these signals can lead to injury and, you guessed it, voice injury, too. Start by resting 10-15 minutes for every hour of speaking.
These are just a few general voice care tips that can have excellent benefits in preventing injury and strengthening overall performance of vocal athletes; however, injuries happen. If you experience pain or you notice a change in your voice that is sudden and/or lasts longer than two weeks, please seek medical help. Early intervention for vocal injury is crucial for healthy recovery and prevention of further damage.
PEP For FitPros is a continuing education course, helping fitness instructors stay in business for years to come by offering solutions for vocal health and performance. If you’d like more information on what we’ve shared, please visit www.pepforfitpros.com for free resources.
Noël Nocciolo, seasoned instructor and successful industry consultant, travels the world creating boutique indoor cycling programs & advising studio owners. Noël developed a passion for helping instructors focus on vocal performance after hearing voice damage worldwide. Leveraging her performing background, 15 creative years in NYC and extensive resume, she provides simple education and tangible tools that significantly improve an instructor’s class.
Ashley FitzSimmons-Olsen, M.S., CCC-SLP worked professionally as a performer and taught theater and dance, and is now a licensed, certified speech-language pathologist, having worked in a variety of settings as a speech-language pathologist treating communication disorders across the lifespan.