Monday, May 31, 2010

Recovering From My Foolish Marathon

Well, I told you yesterday that I overdid it a bit with my 24 Italian Aria Marathon.  I did do it on impulse.  It felt so good to be going through the songs that I just sang and sang through them.

It was a lot of singing -- way too much -- and  I did have a blast.

But ... today I can feel a slight vocal strain.  And I must rest now.  My speaking voice feels the strain, so I'm even talking as little as possible.  This is sad because I would really like to sing some more today -- as well as talk -- and did try to sing a little -- and talk a little --  but deep down inside the warning voice was saying, "Stop singing (and talking!) and rest!"

I am heeding that voice.  Especially since tomorrow I have a voice lesson.  Based on the way it feels, I am sure it will be recovered by tomorrow.

I do not regret trying out a little marathon like that on impulse.  Once in a while you have to let loose and have a little fun.

What I did is not unlike what a casual and careful runner might do.  Take a runner who has been training intelligently and with respect for his/her body.  The runner has built a foundation and then has been in the process of gradually increasing his mileage and challenges, such as speed-work and hills.

All of a sudden, one day, the runner is outside, feels great; it's a beautiful day and  the runner decides to throw all care to the wind and just run and run and have a great time and ends up running miles and miles over her limit.

Well, the next day she might pay for it, but as long as she is not injured, she should be all right.

Oddly enough, on this day of silence, I have come across an article on about running and recovery (Breaking It Down: Physiology, Running, and Recovery)

I'm reading about the degeneration-regeneration cycle of muscles, and how after they are stressed, there is a breakdown. The article explains:
"Muscles are among the most metabolically active tissues in our body. They are always trying to tailor their structural and functional properties to the level and type of use they experience. However, when the amount of use or level of stress on a muscle is too great, the fibers that make up the muscle are damaged. When this happens, the cells that make up muscle fibers degenerate and are replaced by new muscle cells."
I think that yesterday, when I sang so much in my middle voice all those arias, I may have stressed the vocal muscles to the point of a little damage.  I am imagining right now as I sit typing this blog post, that the degenerated vocal muscles are being replaced with new cells.

The article speaks of a "proliferative" phase of the degeneration-regeneration cycle.  These little muscle satellite cells line up and get ready to become new muscle-fiber proteins.  Ooh, I can picture that happening right now, or at least I hope that is what is happening. (I pray that is what is happening!)

The thing is that the kind of trauma needed to stimulate this growth is not a great deal of trauma when it comes to small, delicate vocal muscles.  To load them the right kind of way would merely take small amounts of practicing of music that is difficult each day.  The amount of this "trauma" might increase a bit over time, but I have a feeling that most opera singers, even, would not have recommended beating up my vocal cords to the extent that I did yesterday, and for so long as I did yesterday. One does not need to traumatize the muscles that much in order to get some kind of healthy growth.

However, I know from past experience and other foolish moments of my life that once these muscles have proliferated again, I'm going to feel some benefits -- just as long as I don't stress them additionally while they are healing, and give them the time and rest they need.  I almost didn't do that because I wanted to do some more singing this morning.  But I did stop myself.

The article goes on to say:
"The benefits of this complex process are numerous. When looking at muscle-cell regrowth in sedentary muscles, the muscle fibers seem to regenerate in a random orientation and remain relatively immature.

However, if the muscle fibers are cyclically exposed to various loads of stress and tension, they become well aligned, take up greater amounts of amino acids and synthesize more proteins. Other physiological benefits to training include an increase in intracellular mitochondria (the powerhouses of the cell), the number of capillaries, total blood flow and total oxygen-consumption capacity, leading to a profound rise in muscle metabolic activity. These increases yield a more well-developed and fatigue-resistant muscle."
A "fatigue-resistant muscle!"  That would mean that I could sing more often and for longer in the future.  More of my favorite activity!

But the article warns:
"Although muscle breakdown is needed in order to improve overall muscle fitness, it is important to remember that too much muscle trauma can have a negative effect, especially early in your training program."
So, in the long run, consistent, cyclical, variable practice sessions done in the right amount are what really builds the muscles and overloading them to the degree I did yesterday is not really the way to go!

Luckily, today is a holiday and my husband grilled some grass-fed beef burgers, which we had on 100% whole wheat buns.  This is a very good thing to eat while the muscles are repairing themselves, because, as the article recommends for the recovery period:
"Mix Carbs and Protein: Studies show that the addition of protein to a carbohydrate-rich recovery supplement enhances insulin release in the blood, leading to an increased carbohydrate uptake by your muscle cells and a subsequent increase in glycogen manufacturing." 
So, with good nutrition, lots of water, and some rest today, I should be good to go tomorrow for my lesson!  And in the meantime, hope I learned a lesson and will be more prudent next time I feel like getting carried away.

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