Active Rest Day Ideas for Summer

Woman exploring calm tropical bay with limestone mountains by kaThe sun is shining, the birds are chirping, kids are out of school, and the humidity occasionally becomes unbearable — yep, that means it’s officially summer! Many love the summer for its beautiful weather and happy vibes, but I love it most for the variety of fun activities available for active rest days. Not sure what an active rest day is? Let me elaborate.

Rest days are the (very necessary) day or days of the week where you take it easy and let your body recover. Contrary to popular believe, hitting the gym every single day is not a fantastic display of dedication; it’s a fantastic way to sabotage your own progress. Rest is key to any and every individual’s fitness routine because in order for your muscles to become stronger, they must have the time to repair and recover.

Friends doing yoga together with their teacher at the beachThis concept is especially notable in strength training; has anyone ever advised you to either A) avoid working out the same muscle group on consecutive days, or B) avoid strength training muscles that are still sore from a previous workout? That advise is definitely worth taking! If you work the same muscle group, such as the pectoralis muscles in your chest (ahem: men) or the various muscles in your legs (ahem: ladies) over and over again without giving them a break, they will never recover and grow stronger. By working a muscle group that has not fully recovered, you’re essentially undoing your previous workout, as your body has to start from square 1 in recovery again.

With this in mind, rest days are obviously crucially important in a well-balanced exercise routine. However, that doesn’t mean you have to–or should–spend an entire day lying in bed, binge-watching Netflix (although we aren’t judging you if you do every so often). Active recovery, as opposed to passive recovery (a complete break from exercise), may help prime your body’s metabolic pathways of recovery. Additionally, active rest days may help brighten one’s mood and help with healthy diet adherence.

Back StretchingBefore you choose an active rest day activity, take your current fitness level into mind. For example, a marathon runner may find a light, 2-mile jog to be the perfect form of active rest, while the same activity would be a full workout to a new exerciser. As a general rule, exercise qualifies as active recovery if you feel better after exercising compared to before you started, so you should listen to your own body when determining what will be the perfect active rest activity for you. Keep in mind that active rest typically involves performing light exercises (often swimming or cycling) that stimulate the recovery process without imposing undue stress on the injured body part.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite activities for active rest days — enjoy, operathletes!


Young Man Traveler with backpack relaxing outdoor1. TAKE A HIKE

Grab your bug spray, SPF, and water bottle, Google some excellent (and safe) hiking trails near you, and enjoy a hike on a beautiful day! Bring a couple of friends for a fun adventure and a little added safety. Don’t forget to research each trail and remind yourself of nature-related safety precautions and procedures before you take your trip. Perhaps you could do a little Geocaching while you’re at it as well?

2. GO FOR A BIKE RIDE

Bike riding is a fantastic rest day activity for both urban and suburban folk, and everyone in between. Enjoy a ride through the city, down a boardwalk, alongside of a river, or wherever the wind takes you. Don’t forget your helmet & a water bottle!

3. GO KAYAKING / CANOEING

Yoga Class, Group of People Relaxing and Doing Yoga. Child's PosSoak up the sun and enjoy Mother Nature by taking a trip down your local river or on a nearby lake. Although they don’t look ‘cool,’ keep your life vests on, folks 😉

4. TAKE A YOGA CLASS

Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Hatha, Iyengar, Bikram… With so many different denominations of Yoga and a large repertoire of poses, the possibilities for practicing Yoga are truly limitless! Bonus: Yoga breathing technique utilizes diaphragmatic breathing, making it a particularly excellent choice for singers.

5. STRETCH IT OUT

Have you read our recent article on stretching? Grab a yoga mat or a blanket, play some soothing music, and enjoy a good full-body stretch session.

Sup Beautiful Girl Yoga Meditation056. TAKE A PADDLE BOARDING CLASS

Paddle boarding seems to be on the rise lately, for good reason! Obviously you can simply paddle board and enjoy the scenery wherever you are, but there’s been a recent influx of Yoga and Pilates classes on paddle boards. Sounds like a little slice of Heaven to us!

7. ENJOY A SWIM

Swim a few laps, do a few tricks in the deep end of your local pool, or just lie back and enjoy a good float. Any of the above sound like an active rest day well-spent to us!

8. GO ROCK CLIMBING

Young woman practicing rock-climbing on a rock wall indoorsArguably one of my favorite ways to spend an active rest day: indoor rock climbing. Before you go climb away, remember that you should always climb in a safe and supervised environment with well-trained and educated staff. Most indoor rock climbing gyms offer beginners classes and equipment rentals at a low cost. Always do your research before visiting a climbing gym so you can find the best–and safest–option for you!

9. VISIT AN INDOOR TRAMPOLINE PARK

Definitely my favorite way to spend an active rest day: at an indoor trampoline park. Embrace your inner child and jump away! Be sure to educate yourself on safe jumping techniques before rushing into your local trampoline park. Note that these places are usually swarming with small children, so bringing an adult friend with you is usually a must. You can also keep an eye out for adult-only jumping events at your local indoor trampoline park, to avoid crushing a small child in the process! (Don’t worry regardless, as everyone has to sign a waiver before they jump 😉 )


With love,
Kendra Signature with Photo

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The Busy Singer’s Secret Weapon: Meal Prep

MEALPREP2Think of your body as a car: without the proper fuel, it’s just not going to run properly, no matter how well you maintain it otherwise. Exercise is a crucial part of maintaining your instrument, but no matter how hard you hit the gym, you won’t be able to go far without a healthy meal plan. As a busy singer, a trip to the drive-through may seem like the easiest (or only) option you have between professional and personal obligations, but that’s where you’re wrong. Let me introduce you to your new best friend: meal prep.

What is meal prepMeal prep is when you devote an hour or two to preparing meals for the entire upcoming week, so you can stay on track with your healthy diet and bypass the drive-through during even the busiest of weeks. Meal prep can actually save you time and money in the long haul, as you can cut out trips to a fast food joint altogether. Many body builders use meal prep to carefully monitor what they put into their bodies, and to help avoid temptation mid-week. Singers and other health-conscious folk can also reap the benefits of meal prep in their busy lives, as it’s a reliable, economical, and efficient way to ensure healthy eating.

Remember: your whole body is your instrument. You may not have to obsess over macronutrients like body builders do, but you should be a bit obsessive over the quality of what you’re putting into your instrument. Singers are so used to taking care of their respiratory system, larynx, and immune system, but total health is of the utmost importance for long-term success.

Without any further ado, here are my top five tips for beginning a meal prep regimen! These tips are great for both those just beginning their meal prep journey and those who are already veterans. Enjoy!


MEALPREP11. START SMALL

Currently, I prep a total of 36 meals each week, which gives me 6 meals per day for 6 days. Obviously, this is a little extreme, and I certainly did not begin preparing 36 meals per week. Start with a small prep, such as preparing 6 meals (1 meal per day for 6 days), and work your way up. Do you often skip breakfast because you’re rushing out of the house? Prep some overnight oats or pre-package the fruits, veggies, and protein you need to whip up a quick breakfast smoothie! Struggling to stay away from the local fast-food joint at lunch? Sit down and cook a healthy (yet delicious) lunch fit for royalty. My personal favorite is lean steak and broccoli over a bed of brown rice!

2. PLAN YOUR MEAL PREP AHEAD OF TIME

Ideally, you should block out a 1-3 hour window of time on the same day every week for your meal prep. The most common day of the week for meal prep is Sunday — it’s so popular that it has its own hashtag, #MealPrepSunday! Make this chunk of time sacred: nobody and nothing should overthrow your meal prep time. I do everything I can to avoid messing with my designated Sunday meal prep time slot, but because the life of a singer can be unpredictable, I always have a backup time in mind for meal prep. If there’s a totally unavoidable obstacle between me and my meal prep (such as a Sunday matinee performance), I have Monday morning as a backup time slot for my meal prep adventures!

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 9.48.16 PM3. INVEST IN QUALITY TUPPERWARE

Look for microwave-safe, freezer-safe, BPA-free containers. Good containers don’t have to be expensive–in fact, the other day I spent $1.50 for a container of six small, quality tupperware containers! However, you will likely have to go out of your way to find quality, economically priced containers. Don’t forget to pick up a variety of sizes while you’re at it; although it may seem like larger tupperware containers would be the most valuable for meal prep, you’d be amazed at how often I use my smaller containers.

4. COOK WITH FOODS YOU ENJOY

If you hate bell peppers, then these taco-style turkey-stuffed bell peppers topped with fat-free mozzarella won’t be right for you. Many people struggle–or outright fail–at meal prepping because they try to force themselves to eat something they know they hate. If you prepare a meal you know you aren’t going to enjoy come meal time, you’re likely going to toss it and stop by the drive-through. Start with your favorite lean protein and fruit or veggie, and branch out from there. I always try to cook with one new food item per week to keep variety in my diet, but that said, I always use it in a small way to make sure I’m going to enjoy it before I incorporate it into 6 meals for the week.

5. STRIVE FOR A BALANCE OF PROTEIN, CARBS, AND HEALTHY FAT

A well-balanced meal will include a healthy dose of lean protein, a carbohydrate, and a healthy fat. With this as your guideline, you can make anything from a turkey burger with a side of sautéed broccoli, or pork loin served with an apple and peanut butter, or a small salad topped with grilled chicken, baby tomatoes, and olive oil! As you can see, the possibilities are truly endless. If you want more specific nutritional guidance, definitely contact our amazing expert panelist, Jennifer Fleischer, who is a certified nutritionist.

6. LEARN TO LOVE YOUR FREEZER

MEALPREP3You’d be truly amazed at what you can pop in the freezer. Typically, I cook 6 servings of the same meal, and give myself 6 different meals per day. Of the 6 servings of the same meal, I put three in the refrigerator, and pop the remaining three in the freezer. Note: I only do this for meals that are cooked (for uncooked meals, I just prep three at a time, which means that when I run out, I have to spend about 20 minutes or less putting together another three uncooked meals for the next three days). I’ve frozen and reheated everything from rice with beef stir fry, to stuffed bell or pablano peppers, to gluten-free noodles topped with grilled chicken, and more. Just be sure to allow your meals to defrost IN THE REFRIGERATOR 1-2 days before you plan on consuming them. Pre-cooked meals don’t always fair so well when defrosted out in open air or in the microwave.

7. USE YOUR RESOURCES!

The internet is an absolutely invaluable resource for #foodspiration! You can find everything from step-by-step guides on how to meal prep, to fun and creative recipes that will always keep your diet exciting and fresh. My all-time favorite YouTuber for #healthyfoodporn is Fit Men Cook (see video below), because he has some of the most creative, healthy recipes I’ve ever seen, and he covers nearly every topic under the sun regarding meal prep. You can also check out Jen Heward (AKA HunnyBunsFit) and Heidi Somers (AKA Buff Bunny), as both ladies occasionally post their grocery shopping hauls and favorite meal prep recipes. And of course, don’t forget to follow OPERATHLETIC on Instagram for your weekly dose of #fitspiration and #healthyfoodporn!


With love,
Kendra Signature with Photo

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Stretching 101

One of the most important components of a healthy and well-balanced exercise regimen is systematically overlooked by the vast majority of exercisers: stretching. Not only can stretching prevent injuries that could keep you out of the gym for weeks or months on end, but it also helps correct poor posture by lengthening tight, shortened muscles, and increases blood and nutrient flow to muscles which can help prevent muscle soreness.

Singers who do not regularly stretch after their workouts are often (unintentionally) promoting postural imbalances that could hinder deep and free breathing, among other consequences. Stretching is clearly important for the general public, but for singers, it becomes an even more crucial part of their exercise regimen.

So, when should you stretch? Frankly, the exercise science community is a bit divided on this topic, but those who are in favor of stretching post-workout seem to be winning. Obviously, before beginning a workout, one should properly warm up their body through practice moves and dynamic stretching (another topic for another day), but scientists are finding that full-blown, static stretching session before your workout may actually hinder athletic performance and promote injury.

Attractive female athlete stretching on yoga mat in gym.Young anThat said, arguably the best answer for singers wondering when they should stretch is listen to your body. If the muscles you plan on using in a workout are feeling super tight, then I say go ahead and stretch them out, and/or use a foam roller to iron out the tension (again, another topic for another day). If the muscles you’re planning on working are sore from a previous workout, wait until they have properly repaired themselves and the soreness is gone before you work them again. Instead, work another muscle group that day and get your stretching in!

Now that we’ve covered stretching basics, here are some of my favorite stretches for virtually all of the major muscles in the body. I teach a one-hour class with these stretches; in the class, we hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds, and repeat each stretch two times. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that healthy adults stretch 2-3 days per week, and hold each stretch for 15-60 seconds for 2-4 repetitions. Throughout your stretching session, use your fantastic singer breath to help fuel your efforts by imagining that you’re breathing into the area of tension (ie, the muscles your stretching) and exhaling that tension out of your body. Every exhalation should help you get a little deeper into the stretch.


Warm-up

Warm-up move: Start with this light warmup. Inhale while bringing your hands overhead, and exhale while you bring your hands back to the starting position. I usually repeat this motion 5-10 times to warm up the body a bit.

Stretches: Biceps
Bicep stretch

Front of upper arm (Bicep) stretchWith your palms facing the back wall, point your thumbs down and reach back behind you. You will feel this stretch in your biceps, which are notoriously difficult to stretch. Be sure to actively reach behind you for the duration of the stretch; if you stop feeling the slight pull in your biceps, reach back further.

Tricep Stretch
Tricep stretch

Back of upper arm (Tricep) stretch: Stretch your triceps by bringing one arm behind your head, and pull that elbow toward your head with the opposite hand.

Chest (Pectoralis Major) Stretch
Pectoralis stretch

Chest (Pectoralis) stretch: Interlace your fingers behind your rear-end and reach down and back with your hands. For a further stretch, utilize costal breathing by directing your breath into your upper chest (as opposed to diaphragmatic breathing, where you inhale and allow your belly to move).

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Trapezius & Rhomboid stretch

Upper Back (Trapezius, Rhomboid) stretch: Interlace your fingers in front of you and reach forward with your hands. Allow your shoulders to roll forward and maintain extended elbows throughout the stretch.

Neck stretch
Scalene stretch

Neck (Scalene) stretch: Place one hand on your head and gently apply downward pressure. Reach down and out with your other hand. Do not be aggressive with this stretch; perform this stretch lightly and consistently.

Shoulder (Deltoid) stretch
Deltoid stretch

Shoulder (Deltoid) stretch: Take one hand and place it on your opposite side. Make a “chicken wing” with the other arm, and lean your head toward the “chicken wing.” This stretch will also stretch your neck (sternocleidomastoid) a bit.

Middle/Lower Back (Middle/Lower Trapezius, Erector Spinae) stretch
Middle/Lower Trapezius & Erector Spinae stretch

Middle/Lower Back (Middle/Lower Trapezius, Erector Spinae) stretch: Bring your hands behind your thighs and arch your back up toward the sky. Be sure not to let your hands slip apart!

Calf (Gastrocnemius) stretch
Gastrocnemius stretch

Calf (Gastrocnemius) stretch: Separate legs to a wide V stance and bend the front knee, while keeping the back leg straight. Point both feet in the direction to which you’re facing. This will stretch the major muscle in the calf, the gastrocnemius, in the back of the lower leg. If you need a lighter stretch, bring your back leg forward a bit to make a narrower V; if you need a deeper stretch, bring the back leg back farther to make a wider V.

Deep calf stretch
Soleus stretch

Deep Calf (Soleus) stretch: From the previous position, bring the back leg forward to make a narrow V and bend both knees slightly. This will stretch the flat muscle underneath the gastrocnemius in the calf, called the soleus. You will feel this stretch originate at the Achilles tendon on the back of the rear foot and extend up the back of the leg. Feel free to adjust until you find the ‘sweet spot.’

Hip Stretch
Adductor & Glute stretch

Hip (Adductor, Glute) stretch: Starting with your legs wider than shoulder width apart, squat down and place your elbows on your inner thighs (note: be sure that your elbows are not placed on your knees, but rather, are on the meaty part of your inner thigh). Press out with your elbows to get a powerful and challenging stretch!

Standing Hamstring Stretch
Standing Hamstring stretch

Standing Back of Thigh (Hamstring) stretch: This is a three phase stretch. Starting with your legs in a wide V, hinge at the hips and reach for the ground. Be sure to keep your legs straight, as bending your knees will cause you to lose the hamstring stretch. Hold, then heel-toe your feet closer together to make a narrower V, and reach down and hold once more. Finally, heel-toe your feet all the way together and reach down toward your toes.

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Seated Hamstring stretch

Seated Back of Thigh (Hamstring) stretch, pt. 1: Like the previous stretch, you can perform this sequence in three phases: narrow V, wider V, and widest V. To get a nice side stretch, reach one hand overhead and grab your foot with the other arm. Then fold over the leg and reach your forehead toward your big toe. Repeat on the other side, and repeat both sides in all three positions.

Back of Thigh (Hamstring) stretch
Seated Hamstring stretch

Seated Back of Thigh (Hamstring) stretch, pt. 2: From the previous position, reach your hands forward and aim to get your forehead toward the ground. Don’t forget to use every exhale to get you even a centimeter deeper into the stretch! Perform this stretch in all three phases of the previous stretch (narrow V, wider V, widest V).

Cat-Camel Motion
Cat-Camel Motion

Cat-Camel Motion: Notice that I didn’t call this one a stretch. The goal here is not to see who can arch their back farther in either direction. Instead, this motion is intended to help relieve lower back pain. Many of my group fitness clients suffer with lower back pain on a regular basis, so I always throw this one into my stretch classes. Slowly arch your back between the two positions, and aim to make the motion between the two positions as fluid as possible.

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 11.14.13 PM
Variations on Child Pose

Variations on Child Pose (Lower Back, Latissimus Dorsi, Posterior Deltoid, Teres m.m., Side Obliques): Start in the seated position with knees together, then bend over and reach forward. Utilize diaphragmatic breathing to get a powerful lower back stretch; since your belly is on your legs and thus can’t move very much, you will have to release into your lower back to take in a deep breath. Amazing how we can use the singer’s breath to enhance a stretch! Hold, then walk hands to one side while keeping the lower body stable to get a powerful side stretch. Repeat on opposite side.

DSCN3408
‘Cobra’ stretch

‘Cobra’ stretch (Abdominal wall): Start lying down, and place your hands flat on the ground below your shoulders. Press up and extend your arms to stretch your abdominal wall. For an further stretch, utilize diaphragmatic breathing in this position. If this stretch is too intense, feel free to bend your elbows.

Front of Thigh (Hip Flexor) stretch
Hip Flexor stretch

Front of Thigh (Hip Flexor) stretch: Begin with one leg in front of you at a 90° angle, back leg on the ground behind you. In this lunge position, lean toward your front knee. If this feels good, come up to a full lunge by bringing the back knee off the floor. Be sure to keep that back leg straight! In either position, squeeze your glutes for a further hip flexor stretch.

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 11.01.33 PM
Single Hamstring stretch

Single Back of Thigh (Hamstring) stretch: Starting with one leg extended in front of you and the opposite knee on the ground, lean back toward your back heel to get a powerful single leg hamstring stretch in the extended leg.

Single Back of Thigh (Hamstring) stretch
‘Pigeon’ stretch

‘Pigeon’ stretch (Hip Flexor, Glute, Piriformis): This is probably my favorite stretch of all time! Start by bringing one leg across your body; your lower leg should be perpendicular to the rest of your body. You can either stay up on your hands, come down to your forearms, or reach your hands out in front of you.

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 10.46.34 PM
Seated ‘Figure 4’ stretch

Seated ‘Figure 4’ stretch (Glute, Piriformis): Starting in the seated position with both legs out straight, cross one leg over the other and wrap the opposite arm across that knee. Lightly reach behind with your other arm to get a powerful glute stretch.

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Lying ‘Figure 4’ stretch

Lying ‘Figure 4’ stretch (Glute, Piriformis): The lying Figure 4 stretch is merely a variation on the previous stretch. Start lying flat on your back, and bring one ankle to the opposite knee.  Wrap your hands below that same knee and pull back on your thigh, bringing your legs off of the floor.

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Adductor stretch

Inner Thigh (Adductor) stretch: Start in the seated position with your feet together. Inhale, then fold over as you exhale. Aim to get your head as close to your feet as possible.

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Quadricep stretch

Front of leg (Quadricep) stretch: Lie on one side and grab the ankle of the top leg. Pull your heel towards your butt and hold.

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Latissimus Dorsi, Oblique stretch

Lying Trunk Twist (Latissimus Dorsi, Oblique) stretch: Lie flat on your back with your hands out to either side of you and your legs up, knees in a 90° angle. Rotate your legs to one side of your body. Try to keep your knees together (as opposed to letting the top knee sink backwards) and try to keep both shoulders on the floor, or as close to the floor as you can get them. Hold, then rotate knees to the other side.


With love,
Kendra Signature with Photo

Thank you Dr. Julian Rivera for your contributions, and shout out to MultiSport Fitness for allowing OPERATHLETIC to use their beautiful facility for photos.
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Nicole Cabell is #OPERATHLETIC

Photo by Devon Cass
Photo by Devon Cass

Nicole Cabell is an awe-inspiring operatic soprano with a golden, rich, and powerful voice. On top of her prolific opera career, she has also worked hard to become a strong operathlete. From weight lifting to practicing yoga, to performing many of the soprano repertoire’s most coveted roles, Ms. Cabell is an extremely well-rounded role model for performers both young and old. We are absolutely thrilled to share her interview with OPERATHLETIC.

Ms. Cabell is sought-after for a myriad of dream roles including Mimì, Violetta, Pamina, Juliette and more at some of the world’s leading opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Royal Opera House, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Michigan Opera Theatre, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Cincinnati Opera, and more.  She is the 2005 Winner of the BBC Singer of the World Competition, and has recorded with Decca, Delos and Opera Rara, among others. To learn more about Nicole Cabell, visit her website at http://nicole-cabell.com/.

We are honored and excited to share our interview with this fantastic soprano. Both her astounding opera career and inspiring fitness journey prove that hard work goes a long way. Thank you so much, Ms. Cabell, for sharing your wisdom with OPERATHLETIC!

Michigan Opera Theater - La Traviata
Michigan Opera Theater – La Traviata

Q: When did you begin your fitness journey? What inspired you to start?

A: I’d say I’ve always been active on a moderate level, but started going to the gym when I was in college. Yoga came later, and while I’ve been studying for about five years, I still feel like a beginner! It’s definitely the most challenging exercise I’ve ever done. In my case, simply wanting to feel better and have more energy inspired me to start, but in the case of yoga, the mind-body element of the exercise has become the most important aspect.

Q: How would you describe your weekly exercise routine?

A: I believe in moderation. I don’t often do heavy workouts without a day in-between to rest unless I’m concentrating on weights, and in that case I’ll alternate lower and upper body. I’ll try to make sure to do yoga on any day I’m not doing a heavy workout, as I can adjust and do a rather light yoga routine, but there are days when yoga kills me, and in those cases, I will not do weights on those days.

Q: Do you believe that your health & fitness journey has had a positive influence on your operatic career? How so?

A: Opera is becoming more visually oriented, so yes, it has helped me to stay in shape. However, just feeling better and having more energy has been the most beneficial to me, and that energy translates to the stage, I believe.

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The Marriage of Figaro
Cincinnati Opera – Le Nozze di Figaro

Q: What advice would you give to a performer who is just beginning their health & fitness journey?

A: Don’t try to be superwoman or superman. Start small, and definitely with an exercise you enjoy. If you hate going to the gym, you probably will never sustain that workout long term. Find something that speaks to your passions and interests, be it hiking, tennis, yoga, etc. and do that. Also, go easy on yourself if you don’t get the results you are looking for for a while (or ever). Genetically it is very hard to change our body type. Concentrate on simply feeling better and getting better numbers in regard to cholesterol and blood pressure, etc..

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Q: How do you stay healthy and avoid illness on the road?

A: I will always wear a face mask on an international flight, as more than a couple hours in a plane can leave you ripe for getting sick. In fact, always bring one, just in case you are seated next to someone with a cough or sneeze. Always get as much sleep as possible, and try to stay warm in cold environments. Stress is key, so I concentrate on stress-relieving activities like meditation and yoga. If I start eating bad foods and sugars, my immune system weakens, and of course that leaves me more vulnerable for getting sick.

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Santa Fe Opera – Les Pecheurs des Perles

Q: Do you follow a specific diet or nutritional plan?

A: Again, the theme here is moderation. Eating clean is key, so I don’t try to eliminate all carbs or sugars. Rather, I make sure to not eat too much of any one thing. My best friend is protein, and I never go a day without loading up on it. For a singer, this is key for endurance and energy. My weakness is salty carbs like buttered bread and potato chips, so I’ll make sure not to keep those around too often. I’m fortunate that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and I very rarely drink soda or fruit juice.

Q: What is your favorite mode of exercise (running, cycling, weightlifting, yoga, etc.)?

A: My favorite mode of exercise is hiking, but it’s hard to do that when I’m traveling, especially in winter. So I vacillate between yoga and weights. If I have access to a gym I will do weights regularly, but if it’s the dead of winter, with no access to hiking or a gym, I know yoga is always reliable.

Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 10.57.18 AMQ: How do you find the balance between leading a healthy lifestyle and keeping up with your performance career?

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New Orleans Opera – Roméo et Juliette

A: It’s not always easy, as you can see from my previous answers. It’s very tough to eat right on the road, as access to a kitchen is not always guaranteed.  For instance, when I was in Geneva, it was tough to come by affordable meat, so filling up on protein was difficult. However, it was easier to buy fruits and vegetables. It’s a trade off. It’s easier to have access to a gym, a reliable kitchen and grocery market, of course, if you lead a “normal” life. However, it just takes using your brain and making healthy choices whenever possible.


Q: 
How did you discover your passion for singing?

A: It was a bit of an accident. I decided I didn’t want to continue playing the flute once I entered high school, as that meant joining the marching band, and I wanted a more musically focused performing opportunity. So, on a whim I joined the chamber choir at my school, and within a year, after singing in a couple of musicals, I began studying opera. It was very fast and a bit of a stroke of luck to discover I had an operatic singing voice.

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Q: What is your advice for those trying to pursue a career in opera?

A: Really love the art and know yourself. Are you ok being alone? Do you want a big family and a traditional life or do you want to live on the edge and do something unpredictable? Are you ok with working at small companies or do you have to sing at major opera houses to be happy (it’s rare to have a major career)? Do you feel your calling is worth the sacrifices you have to make to do this? Just ask yourself these questions and if you simply HAVE to sing, then go for it 100%. Any less will probably put you out of the game.

Michigan Opera Theater - La Traviata
Michigan Opera Theater – La Traviata

With love,
Kendra Signature with Photo

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Beachbody: A Singer’s Story and Reviews

OPERATHLETIC is thrilled to have Ellen Broen, Beachbody coach & founder of OPERAfit, contribute to the blog! For this article, we asked her to rank her top 5 choices for Beachbody programs for the busy traveling singer — and as an active singer who is constantly on the road herself, she has some fantastic input on this subject! Thank you, Ellen, for being a part of OPERATHLETIC!  [Disclaimer: OPERATHLETIC does not endorse / sell any weight loss products]

With love,
Kendra Signature with Photo

 

 


beach body

At a certain point in my singing career, as many of you have probably also experienced, the stress of it all really got to me. As an avid emotional eater, acid reflux sufferer, and gym unenthusiast, I struggled with my weight and feeling good in my skin and body. To combat my overeating, I thought my solution was plunking myself on a treadmill until my calorie counter ticked away enough calories on My Fitness Pal for me to feel less guilty about it. To wipe out the reflux and ensuing swelling of my vocal folds, I look medications and over-­the-­counters to “handle it.” Almost every singer I knew was on Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium, or something next­level like me, so I thought it was just a new normal for my life.

Enter: Beachbody®. I know, the name is not appealing to me either. I am well aware that all you need to have a “beach body” is to take your body to the beach. I agree! BUT, stay with me here. It starts out as one of those stereotypical stories where I saw a friend of mine had used one of those at­-home fitness programs and posted her before/after photos. It was pretty remarkable what she’d accomplished, and hell! I wanted that too! So I signed up for one of the programs and gave it a go – after all, I’d tried going to the gym, seeing a personal trainer, seeing a nutritionist, dieting, acai berry cleanses, fiber hunger­-suppressant pills, and all that’s in between… So why not try one of those programs!?

Ellen Broen Before & After
Ellen Broen Before & After

I am not exaggerating when I say that program unlocked a whole new world of understanding, empowerment, and confidence. Yes, through an at-­home fitness program. But it’s NOT just a fitness program, y’all! It gave me the ticket to a whole new lifestyle, where I understood how to eat to feel my absolute best, how to exercise consistently (even if I’m on the road for a program or gig), and how to not give up when it gets hard.

Here’s the deal with Beachbody. There’s really nothing WRONG with the products, it’s just that advertisements and marketing, critics and culture, and even our own negative self-­talk tell us over and over again that we need to lose weight to look a certain way, get a certain part, “be better.” So I totally feel you on the revulsion towards “weight loss products.”

And I hate to be that person (and also sort of love it), but I will be. This is different.

When I experienced that “whole new world” Aladdin moment in my own life with one of these products, something clicked and I just wanted MORE! So I tried other programs by Beachbody, kept drinking their superfoods shake called “Shakeology,” held myself accountable with friends in a community where we helped each other not give up, and over time I had changed three things:

1. MY MINDSET.

When I really experienced what power I got from being strong and active while eating foods that fueled that lifestyle, I started feeling more powerful and positive towards my singing career. I felt more grounded and connected than I ever had. I felt confident in my body on stage and off. I applied the discipline I was using for my workouts to my practicing schedule. I dropped my judgment and jealousy of other people who seemed to “have it together,” and instead I was happy for them and exuding my own happiness with myself.

2. MY HEALTH.

I am not alone when I say this (and some of you may not believe me), Shakeology’s superfoods changed my life. After a couple months of drinking this shake that was made of fruits, vegetables, plant­-based proteins you don’t encounter in most American stores, and packed a punch of 23 vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, adaptogenic herbs (lowers your stress levels), probiotics, and fiber – without ANYTHING artificial – I really did notice an immediate difference in my mental acuity, productivity, energy levels, digestive comfort, and overall vibrancy and mood. It inspired me to ask questions to my doctors and nutritionist about the ingredients, and took me down the path to finding healing for my reflux through my nutrition and these superfoods. I now take NO medications and feel better than I ever have. My reflux is gone because I learned how to change the SOURCE of the problem, and not just suppress the symptoms.

3.  MY ACCOUNTABILITY.

Don’t be fooled — I’m no super human with the fortitude to stay committed to this stuff all on my own. The key to my success was 100% the people I did my program with through my online community. We shared our struggles on the hard days, and the successes on the kick­ass days, and it made the whole process FUN! We read books together to guide our inner transformation as well as our outer, and we posted our accountability posts every night. Every morning I woke up to comments and likes on my posts from other people who had experienced the same thing as me, who asked me for my recipe or offered another they had found, who were my cheerleaders when I totally fell off the wagon and wanted to hide my “failure.” How could I give up when my team wanted me to succeed even more than ME??

So, to me, Beachbody gave me more than some workouts from home and a shake. It gave me control, community, healing, energy, and knowledge. I now am a coach for my own team of other musicians who come at this from the same place I did, and I named it OPERAfit–because you know what? We ARE.

Now, for the meat and potatoes of what you’re looking for. What programs do I recommend for my fellow singers; and how can you look them up, down, and sideways to decide if they’re something you want to try?

Here you go!


1. 21 DAY FIX

This is the program that changed it all for me. You get a no­brainer, simple system to balance out your nutrition through some nifty color­-coded containers. You get the superfoods for 1­ month to try out (I HIGHLY recommend chocolate [no joke, it’s like a Wendy’s Frosty] or cafe latte). You get a different workout for each day that is 30 minutes, warm up to cool down, and offers modifications for everything so ANY fitness level can get a really awesome workout. With workouts from upper/lower body, to cardio, to Pilates, to yoga, so it keeps things interesting. And you get our OPERAfit team through that link. ​*minimal equipment necessary* Click here to order and join Team OPERAfit!

2. PiYo

This is one I do when I am at a YAP or stressed during a performance week. It’s a combination of Pilates and yoga, so you get the low­impact strength­building of Pilates with the stretching and breath focus of yoga. Again, you get the superfoods and our OPERAfit team, but there is a different nutrition plan. If you want to mix the 21 day fix portion containers and this program, email me and I can show you how to add it on. *​no equipment necessary*  Click here to order and join Team OPERAfit!

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3. CIZE

This one is fun! If you hate working out, this one is ALL hip­hop dance routines set to top 40 songs. Again, a great one when you’re stressed and just want to funwind (lol, just made that up) or pump up your jams! Also doesn’t come with a great nutrition program, so shoot me an email for how to add on the containers. *​no equipment necessary*  Click here to order and join Team OPERAfit!

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4. HAMMER AND CHISEL

Brand new program made by a combination of the trainer from 21 day fix and her style of workouts (the “chisel”), plus a body builder male trainer (the “hammer”). This is a lifting, low­cardio program, so if you’re an intermediate or advanced gym­goer, this might be something to try! It comes with the 21 day fix nutrition/portion container thing, but has different plans for different goals. You can follow it to lose weight, maintain and tone, or bulk up (lookin at you, guys!). *​hand weights + exercise ball necessary*  Click here to order and join Team OPERAfit!

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5. INSANITY MAX:30

This is a hardie, but a goodie. For those of you familiar with the original Insanity program, it’s the same trainer. This one is just 30 minutes, start to finish, and an intense cardio/calisthenics workout. If I don’t have any equipment with me, and I really want a great sweaty workout, this is gold. A little pricier and doesn’t include the portion containers (email me!), but gives you a 60­-day calendar of TONS of different workouts, and it’s really the best cardio workout I’ve ever done. *​no equipment necessary*  Click here to order and join Team OPERAfit!

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So there you have it! If you have more questions about these programs or the OPERAfit community, email me at OPERAfit.EllenBroen@gmail.com.  Click our logo below to support us on Facebook or to message me!

OPERATION Fitness


Craft your strength… Strengthen your craft!
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