Get Active by Megan Wright

Get Active! by Megan Wright

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Being a freshman music major has brought about major life adjustments. Not only am I practicing and performing more than usual, I live in a completely new environment.  Factors of change include my sleep schedule, diet, new friends, having a roommate, doing all my own chores and errands. . . . This is quite a lot of change thrown at me all at once. It’s vital that I manage this new lifestyle in a healthy manner, and to do so, I need to have my one most important tool in check: the body. Physical activity is the best way to ensure the body is healthy and functioning properly. Being active relieves stress, energizes the body, boosts morale, and can also make you a better musician.

After a day in the life of a violist, the body may have a sense of being unbalanced. This, in theory, is not ideal, but every now and then we all slip up in proper posture and alignment. After a long day of practicing and rehearsals, working out balances me and brings me back to center. Working out allows me to target muscle groups not used throughout the day when I practice. It’s important that the entire body receives use, that every muscle group is consistently activated. Think about athletes. If tennis players spend all their time only working out arms to strengthen their swing, the rest of the body is left unused and off balance. As a result, his or her overall game will suffer. If we violists spend all our time using mostly the upper body in our playing and do nothing to activate other muscle groups, a serious sense of disequilibrium will occur. Ideal playing also activates the core and hips, which reallocates energy used for playing to other muscle groups besides the upper body. Working out will strengthen these other muscle groups and make your playing more powerful and wholesome.

A typical workout consists of a cardiovascular element of exercise and a strength training session. My own workout routine includes these activities:

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Adaptive Motion Trainer Machine

  • Twenty minutes of cardio on the adaptive motion trainer machine (known as AMT. The AMT and elliptical machines are easy on the joints);
  • A short five-minute high intensity interval session on a treadmill;
  • Usually a five minute cool down on the rowing machine. Rowing is a great cardio workout. It is low impact and works several major muscle groups, such as core, legs, upper back/shoulders, arms, and hips. After a long day of playing, rowing stretches and rebalances the back, shoulder, and arm muscles used when practicing;
  • Core exercises on the roman chair, hyperextension benches, and captain’s chair
  • Leg work including squats, lunges, and a few leg-weight machines;
  • Arms with free weights. A quick note on weight lifting: lift in moderation! It’s so easy to overdo it and injure yourself with weights! Moderation is key!!! This applies to all weight machines and free weights!;
  • Mat work, including planks and side planks, leg lifts, and cross body sit-ups.

Then comes the best and most important part: stretching!

A key element of musician wellness is stretching. In the past, I often found myself overstretching certain areas (and not with proper technique), particularly my forearms. Forearms and fingers are especially sensitive. Stretching slowly and with proper technique is key. If you’re short on time, one of the best stretches a violist can do is simply bending over and just hanging limply. Here is a link for more information about a variety of stretches:


Doing exercise that you find enjoyable is key to getting yourself motivated to workout. If doing a typical gym workout is not your thing, get creative! I’ve been going to a Zumba class once or twice per week this semester and have thoroughly enjoyed it! There are plenty of “fun” exercise options. Just keep in mind that activities such as basketball, volleyball, or football may not be the safest for fingers and arms. Here are a few fun, musician-friendly ways to get active:

tai chi


hula hooping

cardio kickboxing




yoga (very beneficial, just watch out for poses that put pressure on wrists)

Knowing your own body and physical limits is of the utmost importance to being a good musician. Listen to what your body is telling you when you’re playing as well as working out. If you need to stop what you’re doing, or cut back, do it. “The body is your instrument” as they say. Just as you do things such as wiping off strings after playing, and getting bow re-hairs to care for your viola and bow, keeping the body active and healthy is vital to good musicianship. The time you spend working out will be well worth it. Take good care of yourself; you only have one body.

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