post-cleanse and then some

Sitting in the sauna has become my favorite workout.  Seriously, I sweat more than I do exercising outside in San Francisco and it only takes 15 minutes.  Sauna followed by a cold plunge (or shower) is one of the few habits I’m keeping from the cleanse I did at the beginning of the month.  Most everything gradually went out window, but there are a few tidbits that work well for me in “normal life”.  Firstly, I realized that week just how much I ate out of habit instead of hunger and I’m now eating much smaller portions.  I’m trying to stay aware of how much and when I eat, and pay attention to each bite.  At home this is easy; out or at work less easy but still do-able.  I’m also trying to keep the 12 hour window between dinner and breakfast so my stomach has time to fully digest then rest.  This can be a challenge because eating dinner before 8 or 9 is unusual for us because it’s often late by the time we’re home making dinner or out with friends.  However, I’m not as hungry first thing in the morning as I used to be since I still begin every morning with a short yoga sequence and drink plenty of water before I take my barley green.  Breakfast happens eventually.  I’ve eliminated bread in the morning and mostly enjoy yogurt with chia seeds, fruit, eggs or a Japanese style breakfast with rice, fish and veggies.  My workouts have not gotten back to the level they were at before I began the cleanse, partly from lack of time but mostly because my back is feeling pretty good and I know that jumping back into things won’t be helpful.  My new yoga studio offers a great variety of classes and I’m finding more flexibility and fluidity in my back each day.  Last Friday I even sat through a double rehearsal day free of pain.  That was a massive milestone, which had as much to do with all of my new habits as a new hyper-awareness when I play.  I realized finally that each time I took a breath and lifted my right arm, I was readying myself to play by tensing my left lower back and glute.  Not helpful.  In just over a week back to work I’ve trained myself to automatically check in with those muscles before each new start and I’m getting wonderful results!

In the non-Wagnerian workout department, I’m gradually adding physical training back into my daily regime.  I’m keeping it short and sweet (12 laps in the pool, 2 minute running intervals, 15 minutes of stairs, etc).  I’ve become totally addicted to biking to work and the climb out of the Presidio after a long day is a fun way to sweat out any remaining tension from the last black-note passage.  I’m sad to have given up the June half-ironman I was hoping to do and the next race on August 7th is not looking promising either, but keeping my body healthy and playing (most of) the correct notes in Wagner is a bigger priority this summer.  There will be time for racing later!

training for wagner

On Monday I decided that I needed to begin treating my preparation for this summer’s Ring Cycle as I would any other endurance event.  Each practice session would have a specific goal and I would begin and end with stretching.  Each day I would do my “drills”.  My final goal is to be able to sit through rehearsals and play performances without hurting (and, of course, hitting the correct notes).   Wagner stands out for me because even thought I love it, it’s really strenuous and lasts a long time.  Hmmm… sounds like a triathlon.
Let’s compare:  Timings for the operas are approximately  2:35, 4:30, 4:50, 5:15 =  just over 17 hours total.  My ironman took me 14:20- less than the Ring Cycle but my race was all in one day with no breaks and the operas will be on separate days with intermissions.  I can get through both races and operas, but not without proper training.  My first off-season from the opera I joined Team in Training and barely touched my violin for several months.  I had never in my life put my violin down for such a long time and when I picked it up again and dove back into 7 hour-a-day rehearsals, I paid for it.  Everything hurt and my technique had suffered.  I should have known better; I would never decide, after sitting on the couch for 6 months, to go do a half ironman!

I’ve taken the past several days off from outdoor workouts, as I sort through the latest back pain.  Foam roll-outs help relieve the discomfort and my acupuncture appointment this week really helped.  I continue to explore different bodywork options and as I play my violin, I’m being really conscious of position and posture.  I take frequent “shake-out” breaks and dance around my tiny practice room  to loosen up (a challenge, as it’s currently my laundry drying room also!).   Good times….