As a kid, I was never athletic. I couldn’t throw, catch or run, so I stuck with playing the piano. 🙂
However, after college, I started going to the gym a little bit, and soon, I was hooked on some classes and cardio machines. I had always wanted to get into running. It seemed like a easy way to be active and enjoy the outdoors. But, it was so, so hard!
Fortunately, I had a good running buddy that would force me to keep running, even when I said I hated it. Eventually, I got the hang of keeping a steady pace. Little by little, I would add time or distance onto my runs – 2 miles, then a 5k and eventually a 10k. By the time I ran my first 10k, running was starting to feel much more natural. On the day of my 10k race, I even ran 2 more miles just for fun. Before this, I never imagined that I could run 8 miles, feel good when it was over and think it was fun.
(Running my first half marathon with my sister. We’re the ones in the white shirts – she’s in front, I’m just behind her.)
So the next natural step was to sign up for a half marathon. Even though I had run 8 miles, 13.1 still seemed like an awfully long way to run. It turned out that I ended up really enjoying the process of training for a half marathon because I found so many parallels between running and playing music.
- An obvious parallel is the discipline required both in running and playing music. In order to be prepared to run a long distance or to play difficult music, you really have to make the time for it. Set a schedule and stick with it.
- After I ran my 10k + 2 more miles, I realized that, at that point, running was a mental activity. Of course I had to physically train my body, but once I had a solid base, adding miles was mostly a mental exercise. Playing music is similar. After a certain level of technical skill and knowledge, playing most music becomes a matter of training your brain how to approach the music.
- In running and music, you have to have a constant sense of forward motion. I had this interesting epiphany while working on a Beethoven Sonata during my half marathon training. I’m a pretty slow runner. Often on runs, especially longer runs, I notice my legs just don’t want to go. My body has the energy, but my legs feel like they’re dragging. I found that the more I thought about how slow I was going, the slower I would go. Instead, if I shifted my thinking towards the next landmark or pushing myself forward, I could maintain a steadier, (slightly) quicker pace. My Beethoven Sonata was having the exact same issue – I would get hung up on small tricky spots in the music and the tempo would drag. Using the same technique of pushing forward in the music, helped me to gain continuity and play more musically.
Here’s how think in forward motion:
I ended up running the half marathon, and then another one! (representing No Meat Athletes!)
After the second half marathon, I would have loved to continue running that much, but it is a huge time commitment. I had a really full studio (45+ students!), and soon we were in the midst of a move, then a pregnancy, rebuilding my studio, and of course now the Mini Music Maker is here.
Running long distances simply doesn’t have a place in my life right now. But, I’m completely ok with that. Having that strong foundation has made it so that I can easily enjoy running on much smaller levels. I’ve maintained my fitness just enough, that any time I feel like heading out with the jogging stroller, it’s no big deal to run a few miles, whether it’s been 3 days or 3 months since my last run.
And, that is one more parallel I have found to music. Although I play music at a professional level, I often hear students say, “I just want to be able to sit down and play for fun”. You know, like heading out for a 2-3 mile run every once in a while. In order to get to that place where you can play for fun, you have to put in the training first. Even when it is tough and tedious at the beginning, that hard work is paving the way to enjoying music for the rest of your life.