NZ Glen : BodyCombat fanatic

How fit is your… Voice?

Posted on: January 24, 2012

I almost always avoid “plugs” for other sites simply because I get several requests a week to promote various links and if I honoured all of them then this blog would look like an infomercial; however one popped into my inbox this week that made me look twice.

It is a link to a survey for group fitness instructors regarding care for their voice being conducted by Dr. Anna Rumbach, Division of Speech Pathology, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at The University of Queensland. Now not too long ago I would’ve shrugged this off with the response “huh?” but something happened to me a few months ago that made me sit up and take notice. Late last year I got a pretty nasty chest infection, mucus, phlegm, all that nasty stuff that I really don’t want to go into. As a result I took a few days off teaching, then when it “cleared” I jumped back into my usual routine full force. But for one significant difference; my voice had noticeably changed. It is now raspier, deeper and permanently ‘hoarse’. I figured it was a side-effect of the illness and it would clear. However here I am, probably six months later and it’s still the same. It’s almost as if at the age of 36 my voice “broke” again.

It’s not that big of a deal except I used to be able to sing… now I can’t hold a note to save myself (some would say I probably never could to be fair!) – my vocal range is significantly decreased and whenever I run into someone I haven’t seen for awhile their first reaction upon hearing me is “Oh no are you sick?” – well no. In fact I’m the fittest, fastest and strongest I’ve ever been in my life thanks to group fitness – just my voice sounds like I swallowed an entire box of sandpaper!

I know we use mics but it’s inherently part of the job to raise your voice. Let’s face it, at the peak of a muay thai track or peak of track 8 in BODYCOMBAT, the music is pounding and everyone is fatiguing, you can’t just suggest to a packed class of 60 people they delicately  “unleash” – you really have to sell it: “UNLEASH!!!” – now I’ve been doing this for four years I guess my voice is doing the same.

Anyway – although this survey is for Australian GFIs only, it really is food for thought. Does LMI need to start incorporating vocal training into our education sessions? My hoarsey semi-baritone new sound probably votes yes. Check it out: How fit is your Voice.

25 Responses to "How fit is your… Voice?"

If you’re a group fitness instructor and your voice has changed as a result do let me know – I’m sure Anna would love to hear from you too.

Thank you so much!:) I have a deep voice and it gets hoarse kind of easily. It’s been like that since I was a cheerleader in High School so any helpful advice would be greatly appreciated!:) Thank you so much!:) Jill:)

Very interesting – I’ve never really thought about ‘vocal training / coaching’ for fitness instructors, but I guess when you’re teaching a lot of classes each week it makes sense to look after your voice.
As you know I play in a band and do a bit of singing and I used to find if the band played 2 nights in a row (Fri / Sat), my voice would be shot on Sunday! I saw a vocal coach who said I was’t using my voice correctly and I was in effect ‘straining’ it every time I was singing. but I now know how to use my voice correctly and how to ‘warm-up’, so I don’t strain it all the time, so I guess learning to look after your voice would help fitness instructors too

Thanks Nick – yeah that’s the exact type of training I mean. I teach 10 classes a week, so I guess that’s probably about the same hour wise as two sets with your band? Maybe I need to do the same training you did… definitely worth thinking about – especially as in the UK there’s loads of gyms that don’t even use mics! I can’t imagine how tough that is…

You had a ‘horse’ voice? Were you going neigh neigh? I think you mean ‘hoarse’ ;0)

(sorry for being a smart arse!)

OMG thanks Rach! Doh! *fixed*

If the problem doesn’t go away, you can always see an ENT or speech therapist. Otherwise to keep your voice healthy here are some basic tips. Drink plenty of water. Avoid silly voices or noises—or sounds that are significantly higher or lower than your normal range. Use a mic or amplifier when possible to project. Use hand signals, clapping, whistles, bells, etc to get attention instead of shouting. Get volume through taking a deep breath with our diaphram.

All good advice – maybe except for the whistling. I HATE instructors that whistle at their participants – I’m not a dog! Cheers for your advice!🙂

I HATE instructors that whistle at their participants <– It's a peeve of mine too!

Yeah I’ve seen some very highly ranked instructors whistle and I’ve actually left a class once because of it. We’re all watching you, you have a mic- don’t freaken whistle at me!

Coming back from sickness I had similar problems with my voice (I felt fine, physically fit etc., and I’d always drink plenty of water, but I’d always lose my voice halfway through). I found a couple things helped me…
– keeping the room cool and the air circulated. Sometimes a hot/stuffy studio is unavoidable, but if you can go in early and crank the air-con and fans, this helps HEAPS! I suspect it’s because when you’re hot, your breathing gets heavier so your throat becomes dry and irritated
– a few small sips of pineapple juice before class (I got this tip from a singer’s blog – just a little bit will increase saliva and help lubricate your vocal chords)
– drinking lemon and ginger tea with honey afterwards. Not sure if there’s any science behind this, but it stopped my throat feeling scratchy.
I’m glad to say my voice has returned to normal since – I hope yours does too!

Cheers Jesse thanks for your suggestions I’ll give ’em a whirl!

Some excellent comments and suggestions for good vocal health here. I just wanted to thank you all for participating in my research and also give a huge shout out to Glen for taking the time to blog about it and spread the word!

I just wanted to dispel the myth that drinking will help lubricate the vocal cords. When we drink fluids it helps to hydrate the entire body, but it can take as long as 24 hours for the fluids to circulate and hydrate the body’s tissues. Therefore, it is still very important to remain well hydrated. However, drinking to “wet the cords” or lubricate them is not possible. Before the fluid reaches the vocal cords it actually get swallowed and sent into the oesophagus. The closest fluid gets to the vocal cords in a normal person is about 1 inch above the cords. When water does hit the cords a cough reflex is triggered to expel any material that may have entered or is about to enter our airway – it is the response that we associate with something “going down the wrong way”.

Another good way of hydrated the vocal cords is to inhale steam – visit the steam room for 5 minutes after teaching a class!

I have been asked by LMAP to write a newsroom article about voice care so I’ll make sure I let Glen know the link when it comes out. I’ll also pass along the results of the research as soon as they are analysed.
Feel free to ask any questions – a.rumbach@uq.edu.au
and keep discussing here! Make sure you tell all the Aussies you know to jump on the web and fill in the survey.

If you are concerned about your voice, please make sure you take the time to visit your GP to get a referral to an ENT. They will give you a vocal health check, diagnose any problems and send you to a speech pathologist for the appropriate treatment. We only have one voice so we need to protect it!

Thanks Anna that’s really interesting. I did visit the GP about my voice and she told me it was just hayfever and prescribed antihistamines. Unfortunately they did nothing😦 Perhaps I should visit a specialist. Thanks again for your research – it’s fascinating stuff and can’t wait to see the results!

Been teaching combat since release 34. I have lost my voice so many times, I can’t even count anymore. Seen the speech therapist and ENT doctors quite a couple times already. Till now, if i teach more than 5 combat classes a week, the voice will be gone. Teaching other classes however are ok for me though… you are right, whenever I get to my MT and power 3 tracks, I would be screaming on the top of my lungs while I am a bit out of breath.

Really interesting topic – I have been having huge issues here in London with my vocal chords….due to vocal abuse most likely (have an appointment with an ENT shortly). Over the past year my voice has been sounding worse and worse and it’s definately due to the teaching. I had to have total vocal rest for 5 days a few weeks ago – terrible! I’m really dissappointed way back on my module training that this wasn’t covered (amongst other things). I now try and warn new instructors about this and the link above is really helpful to send on. I will say that sitting in the steam room after every class you teach works miracles and since I have been doing this religiously, my vocal chords are much stronger. I also teach slightly differently now and am more aware of how much I talk – you can really do big and intense through body language and eye gaze instead of shouting (our studios here are not as big as LM Aklnd).

Hope you get this sorted Glen – and that you’re reading this in the steam room!

Hey Guys, Im hearing that one of our most cherished combat instructors Hernan, has been struck by a truck on Friday in Newton, Auckland. He didnt survive.
There was plenty of chatter through Les mills Saturday morning, and it sounds real, as the event was on the news, I just wish it wasn’t true.
This means its a huge blow for his family, many friends and many people who attended his classes.
My wishes goes out to all his loved ones. He wil be greatly missed.
Peace my brother.

I had to teach in a small gym for 3 weeks with no mic as it was “away” for repair. Unfortunately I taught 4 classes there/wk so the strain added up. Worse, it was “launch” time (which means a LOT more talking as participants don’t have the benefit of knowing the moves). My voice took a real beating and I was sounding very bad towards the end of the class. It wasn’t until I gave the owner an ultimatum of “get the working mic back here next week or I quit” that we got a working mic again. I think it would be a wonderful thing to have vocal education. But I also think it would be a great thing for new instructors to have education on the proper use of the “Aeromic” (aka: when something says “Do not Bend” – don’t bend the flipping thing!!), and maybe some ‘troubleshooting’ in regards to it as well wouldn’t go astray! Good luck Anna, I’ve filled out your survey, will be interested to know the outcome (and stats of the instructors with vocal issues).

I think voice training should be an essential part of module training. Most new instructors come in without understanding how to speak effectively over loud music, and in general, I hear them try to speak higher, which not only lessens the carry of their voice but increases the likelihood of damaging their voice. I had to learn, through voice therapy and trial and error, to actually drop my voice.

I was eventually discharged from voice therapy with the advice to come back when I’d finished teaching, at which point they would try to patch my voice up.

This problem (of speaking higher) is prevalent when USING a mic, and we all know mics are the most unreliable piece of equipment in the studio and we’ll have countless hours teaching without one through our careers.

When I’m working with new instructors, I always talk to them about voice.

I used to be a high soprano. Now I can’t really even karaoke.

Wow. Really interesting! My bestie who recently trained in combat is a speech Diagnostic therapist or voice teacher and has helped me on a HUGE way since I started teaching wrt using my voice effectively. She’s shown me how to breathe, where the sounds should come from and words that could “hurt” your voice. Haha apparently shouting “hey!” is a no no. Instead a “kiahhh!” is better as an “h” is an open sound. Not something I thought too much about before but certainly cognizant now🙂

I have just a year teaching bodyjam and my voice is completely different. It is a little bit raspy and I’m frecquently sick…😦 It would be a great idea to incorporate voice education in our process to become instructors

REALLY INTERESTING!!! I’VE BEEN TEACHING FOR 12 YEARS NOW AND IT SEEMS THAT MY VOICE DOESN;T HAVE ANY MORE STRENGTHS. YESTERDAY WENT TO THE DOCTOR WHO SUGGESTED SURGERY. AFTER READING ALL YOUR COMMENTS I WILL TRY SPEECH THERAPY FIRST. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!

Hi, I have been teaching bodypump, bodystep and outdoor bootcamps for 6 years and I constantly sound raspy and hoarse, everyone asks if I am sick or if I am a smoker!!! YUK!! if I don’t teach for a week it will get a little better but as I teach 14 classes a week there is just no resting it, I know I must not be using my voice properly but am wondering how to focus on breathing through the diaphram etc whilst also lifting heavy weights or jumping up steps!!

Hi… so glad I found this. I’m really worried about my voice i’m constantly husky and raspy and can only speak in a deep voice now. It scares me, I hadn’t even thought i’d be damaging my voice. I teach boxercise classes and can’t help but get enthusiastic and encourage my class to get the best out of them. But I have to do it loud, its a big hall… and the mic in there sounds terrible! I’ve been this way for about 7 months now, and sometimes now after classes my throat hurts too. Have I permantly damaged it then? I was just hoping it’d strengthen up and disappear. People always ask if i’m well now as well. Yes i’m fit as a fiddle! Will I loose my voice completely if I continue? I don’t want to quit my classes I love them. I definately need all the tips and advice possible.

Thanks… from very worried fitness instructor.

Charlotte mine seems to have stabilised now – and I’m teaching more than ever. It’s definitely raspy after class but calms down by morning. In 2 weeks I kick my class schedule up to about 20 per week so it will be interesting to see what happens then!

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