Fighting the Pain

My junior recital is coming up in about a month.

In this recital I am going to play three solo works for unaccompanied viola and a string quartet with my current chamber group. That’s about an hour and ten minutes of playing in total which is what I can easily do in an orchestra concert, but solo playing is much different than ensemble playing. It takes way more focus because the music is more challenging. It’s a lot more physically challenging because you don’t get any chances to rest. Endurance, physical and mental, is one of the most important parts of being a musician, just like it’s important for an athlete. Both require practice in preparation for a performance. You can’t expect to do your best in the performance if you didn’t prepare yourself well enough. And since adrenaline is only present during a performance and not practice, it takes even more energy to keep the mind’s attention and the body in peak performing condition.

At this point, I definitely don’t have the endurance to play an hour and ten minutes of solo music. I am slowly trying to up my practice time every day, but my body is fighting back. I have dealt with overuse injuries since before my senior year of high school and I know that I am prone to getting injured. Every time I finish a run-through of a piece I have an aching feeling in my right wrist that doesn’t go away, and I can feel that my body is too exhausted to continue.

What am I supposed to do in this situation?

Because of my past experience with instrument-related pain, I know the basics of self-care when it comes to practicing. Warming up the body before playing, icing the muscles after, and doing arm and wrist strengthening exercises should be a part of one’s daily routine. Trips to the physical therapist include KT tape, finger splints, and ultrasounds to break up muscle tension. I know the drill, but after awhile when I start to feel better, I stop doing the exercises because I don’t see them as necessary anymore. I basically just get lazy.

Fresh from a trip to the physical therapist today, I am determined to get through the next month of recital preparation with a clean bill of health. I am going to incorporate exercise into my everyday life as well as practice finger strengthening exercises. I am going to work up my practice time until I am able to do 2 full run-throughs of my recital program in 1 practice session. I am going to ice my arms after I practice and wear KT tape every day. I am going to remind myself that I am an athlete and need to take care of my body as such. 

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