Updated: Feb 13, 2019
As a musician and a runner, I am often amazed about how much overlap there can be. After I read the book, Chi Running, the next week while teaching clarinet lessons, I continually applied the principles to my students. Right now, I am reading Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor and this time I am applying the principles to my own life as a musician.
As a musician, I am a "small muscle" athlete. So there is a lot of application and transfer between the two activities. One of my favorite things that I have taken from my musical training and applied to running is constructive rest.
I learned about constructive rest while taking Alexander Technique lessons. Alexander Technique was developed by Frederick Matthias Alexander in the 1890s. As an orator, he struggled with gasping for air and eventually suffered from total voice loss. The doctors were unable to help him, so he started the process of self examination. By orating in front of a mirror, he discovered that he while orating he would immediately hold tension in his body, especially his neck. By learning to release his neck, he was able to take fuller breaths. As he continued studying himself, he developed a method for effective movement that has proven effective for musicians, actors, and others in the years since.
Most people who practice Alexander Technique take lessons with a teacher, as it is a method of movement education. In this environment, the teacher often does hands on work to show the student about their body usage and guide them to balance and an effective body usage. However, a few exercises can be practiced independently, including constructive rest.
Constructive rest, or the “lie-down” is done when the student lies on a sturdy surface, with a book under their head for support, and their knees bent and feet flat on the floor. This process facilitates muscular release and allows gravity to work on the body balancing and spinal alignment. This is great for musicians, runners, and nearly all humans. Done every day for 15-20 minutes, you should start feeling a difference in your body usage. Relax, enjoy just being (rather than doing), and see what gravity can do for you! Once again, this strategy always alleviates my running niggles.
As an added benefit, this way of lying can actually be refreshing. If you're feeling tired in the middle of the day, give it a shot, see if a few minutes will put a bit of pep back in your step!