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Practice like you Train

The Sensible Flutist: Practice like you Train

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Practice like you Train

I had a perhaps not so novel idea today. Why should we practice the same things every day? Instead, why shouldn't we have a larger purpose for every single practice session and take some ideas from runners?

I'm a lapsed runner of sorts. I still run regularly, but I haven't trained since I was an overly enthusiastic newbie two years ago. I'm in a rut. In this rut I let my subscription to Runner's World expire, too.

I resubscribed in a hope to get some kind of motivational tip that would spur me back into a crazed training phase. I've been reading a few pages here and there and I read today about how and why you should have a purpose before you even begin running. Without a purpose, it's too easy to get bound up in time contraints, the weather, or any of the million other reasons we usually fail to do what we say we're going to do.

Yeah, we should have a purpose when we practice. That part is pretty obvious. But have we related our purpose to longer term goals in a meaningful way?

I run about 3 to 4 times a week. One day consists of a long run, which serves to build up endurance and help strengthen the legs and I do speedwork once a week to get faster. The remaining 2 days are easy runs, where I'm letting the work of the harder two workouts settle in.

I hate doing the same thing every day, so I'm not one for making up a routine. Instead, I tend to go with the flow which sometimes sets me up for failure. Translating my running workouts into my flute workouts might help me reach my goals faster. So here's a quick sketch of how my different training runs relate to my practice sessions:

The Long Run - A longer than average practice session that gives you adequate time to cover all the areas of your playing that need consistent attention. It's also the time to just enjoy the feeling of being able to play your instrument and not have to watch the clock.

Speedwork - Technical practice. Want to bump up your scales a couple notches on the metronome? Treat this "workout" as speedwork and limit to one or two days a week.

The Recovery Run - Focused, slow practice. Practice what you need to, but let your body assimilate the changes you're making in your playing. Enjoy the recovery.

The Social Run - Jam session!

The Whatever Run - Play what you want without pressure. Use it as opportunity to explore different areas of your awareness. Or don't.

I'm going to play around with this idea, and create a weekly practice plan that engages all these elements. I'll let you know how it turns out.

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At August 10, 2011 at 11:06 AM , Blogger Erica Ann Sipes said...

I'm looking forward to hearing how your experimentation goes with these ideas, Alexis. Very, very clever and it all makes sense to me. I have to say that "The Social Run" option sounds the most appealing to me :-)

Happy running, um, I mean practicing!


At August 10, 2011 at 12:47 PM , Anonymous Monica Shriver said...

As a musician who can't focus on the same thing day after day (I get so bored) I have been creating practice routines similar to this for a long time. Right now I'm really big on setting goals, but also finding ways to enjoy practicing the harder stuff, especially since I have more time to practice right now. Good luck! Keep us posted!

By the way - love The Social Run! So many people forget about that part of practicing!

At August 10, 2011 at 12:50 PM , Blogger Zorbs said...

I thought hill repeats were weird until my running partner, also a piano teacher, compared them to practicing technique. It's not like a performance, but you have do them in order to make your performance good.

At August 10, 2011 at 9:11 PM , Anonymous Bill Plake said...

When you run, or otherwise train athletically, your body has a way of letting you know rather immediately about your training. Do 2 or 3 speed work sessions in a row, or run nothing but long endurance runs, and you're probably headed for injury or burnout or both. And even though we tend not to feel these things with the same intensity or urgency when we practice music, I think the principle is exactly the same. I love how you've broken your practice "training days" down. I especially like the recovery run, which is what I do at least twice per week in my own practice. It works very well for me, giving me not only a chance to rest, but also, a chance to absorb and process. Thanks for this. I think you're onto something really helpful here.

At September 22, 2011 at 10:38 AM , Anonymous David Barton said...

Will be really interested to hear how this goes - it's a very interesting idea to compare it with sports training.


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