Swimming helps me sing!

I have recently started swimming to keep fit and relax.  I’m not training seriously but I am trying to push myself gently.  When I started I was keeping my head above the water, which is clearly silly because you end up with neck ache!!  So I decided to invest in some goggles and a swim cap and push myself to swim under water.  Still only breaststroke though! If I try front-crawl I start choking!!!

I noticed that on mornings where I went swimming I was much more relaxed when singing.  I thought it was just a feel good factor but now I think I’m subconsciously improving my singing technique while swimming!!

Before Christmas I bought a brilliant new book by Jenevora Williams called Teaching Singing to Children and Young Adults.  I started reading her section on de-constriction.  Now this is something I have trouble with myself.  When I get stressed or anxious I immediately start constricting my larynx.  This is not a good idea.  One of Jenevora’s exercises is singing with puffed out cheeks.  She recommends this to deconstrict the larynx.  I made a mental note to start doing that myself and with my students.

But back to swimming.  The other day I was at the pool and realised that every time I went under the water I not only made a humming noise (I hope no one else can hear me!!) but I also breathe out by puffing out my cheeks!  Could this be the real reason why I sing better after swimming.

You’ll probably all tell me now that that’s incorrect swimming technique!  But never mind, it’s certainly helping me sing better, and keep fit at the same time!

What do you think?

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7 thoughts on “Swimming helps me sing!

  1. Jenevora Williams February 11, 2013 at 9:36 am Reply

    Hi Helen

    Firstly, I’m so glad that you like my book. I have to own up here and say that the ‘puffy cheeks’ exercise was originally an idea from Janice Chapman. I took it and did some research to show that it does measurably reduce laryngeal constriction.

    So – back to swimming. I swim myself as part of my attempts at triathlons. It is a great exercise for singers as it uses and stretches the muscles of the torso and shoulders. Research from Alan Watson in Cardiff has shown that the latissimus dorsi are used both at the beginning and at the end of a long sung phrase. Guess what – these are the primary muscles used in swimming!

    Swimmers do advocate humming underwater: like blowing bubbles, it encourages you to keep moving the air (getting rid of carbon dioxide) and not to hold on to your breath (constricting the larynx). So – keep humming and do make sure that your neck is soft as you swim.

    I’ve been developing the ‘puffy cheeks’ exercise into a ‘popping bubbles’ one for onset. Do a soft ‘b-ah’ with puffy cheeks before you pop the ‘b’. The explosion of the ‘b’ should be like popping a soap bubble, very gentle and soft. You’ll find that the sound that follows (try a pitch glide on the vowel) will be clear and easy. It’s another way to reduce breathiness in young voices. Could you try it out and let me know how you get on?

    Best wishes
    Jenevora

    • Helen Russell February 13, 2013 at 1:27 pm Reply

      Hi Jenevora,

      Thanks for your comment. It’s good to know that swimming has a positive influence on my voice. I can feel twice as pleased with myself afterwards now!

      I will definitely try your popping bubbles idea with my students tomorrow. I have a number of adolescent girls who are rather breathy. Thanks for the tip.

      Helen

  2. emomz February 11, 2013 at 10:09 am Reply

    Jenevora beat me to it, but I swim too, and all the actions you describe are pretty good for swimming. Gentle physical activity of any kind should be good for singing as it warms the whole body up and relaxes the muscles. Yoga has a similar effect.

    Swimming is also really good for lung health, which might also be why it helps your singing. I’m asthmatic, and the regular breathing required for swimming along with the damp conditions helps my lungs etc stay relaxed and not swell up. You also have to use the elastic recoil breathing when you breath in so that you can fill your lungs quickly.

    I advocate physical exercise to all my students as it helps lung function, muscle strength and control, and improves sleep and cognative functions.

    • Helen Russell February 13, 2013 at 1:29 pm Reply

      Thanks for your comment emomz.

      Sleeping! Another well needed benefit of swimming! If only the chlorine didn’t make my hair smell 😀

  3. Helen Russell December 1, 2013 at 10:09 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Express Yourself Pop Choir and Show Tunes Choir in Worcester and commented:

    Here is an article about the benefits on swimming for the singing voice. I wrote this earlier in the year for my teaching blog.

  4. Belles December 13, 2013 at 11:45 am Reply

    How wonderful to find others talking about the puffy out cheek exercise! My students love it. We do it sliding up the arpeggio, opening onto the ‘baa’ sound at the top and sliding down again. As well as deconstructing the larynx, I think it also makes the support work automatically without the student having to make a conscious effort. All good stuff.

    Interesting about how swimming helps ….

    Great blog Helen!

    • Helen Russell December 18, 2013 at 10:38 am Reply

      Thanks for your comment Belles. You’ve reminded me I need to get back on track with my swimming! New Year’s resolution perhaps!

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