Healthy Narration Habits
What is #BoothHealth? I use my 15 years of experience as a medical myofascial therapist to educate fellow narrators on posture, breathing, and easy habits to stay healthy in the booth.
How did you sleep last night? If you’ve been improving your posture while working and relaxing, getting regular massages, getting some movement or exercise into your days, and you are still waking up with back pain or stiffness, it may be time to replace your mattress.
The Sleep Foundation says:
Generally speaking, you should replace your mattress if one or more of the following apply:
• It’s 6-8+ years old
• It’s negatively affecting your sleep
• It’s noticeably saggy or damaged in certain areas
• It’s making more noise than usual (noisy springs are common in old innerspring mattresses)
• You find that you sleep better at hotels or friends’ houses
• You notice an increase in allergies and/or asthma
• You regularly wake up with muscle or joint stiffness
Remember, it can take a couple of weeks to adjust to the new feel and support.
Joint cracking is not a sound we want in our audio files, right? But it happens, often with the slightest gesture or ankle shift.
They do agree that it is harmless, unless accompanied by pain, redness or swelling. They also agree that cracking your joints on purpose does not cause arthritis. They also agree that more movement in your daily life may reduce the cracking.
Do your joints snap, crackle and pop?
Have you seen your abdominal muscles lately? Maybe they’re hiding behind the holiday goodies we ate, but they are there, I promise.
Abs are part of your core and, when weak, contribute to slouching. NO SLOUCHING in the booth, guys!
Planks are one of the best core strengthening movements, and are done with no equipment.
It’s time for thankful Americans (and others) to warm up their Masseter muscles with self-massage. Keeping the strongest muscle (by weight) in your body loose and free will increase your ability to change your oral shapes, so you can improve your cool accents, gender and character voices.
If you’ve been putting in the work and it has made your wallet fat, good for you. Just remember that you may want to carry that wallet someplace other than your back pocket.
Sitting on your wallet throws your pelvis out of alignment, compressing one side of your back and overstretching the other side. It can cause an impingement of your Piriformis muscle, which can put too much pressure on your Sciatic nerve, causing back, hip, knee, and leg problems.
Try switching to the front pocket, carry a bag, or remove your wallet if you’re going to be sitting more than a few minutes.
How about a nice alligator purse?
Did you know that if you’re a side sleeper, you may be developing low back or hip pain while you sleep? Side sleepers often rotate their hips, causing torsion or twisting of the lumbar spine and undue tension across the hip that is in the upper position. Try sleeping with a knee pillow to keep your hips aligned all night long.
Sweet dreams, friends!
When I think of the most useful little self-care tool I’ve ever used, I think of the RICE SOCK. We have kept one in our household, always, for years.
It provides MOIST heat because the raw rice has a bit of moisture, which is emitted when it’s heated.It molds to any shape so it can be used on any body part.
Please don’t overheat it to a temperature that could burn your skin.
Replace the rice occasionally to refresh, but it will last for months.
You can get fancy and add dried herbs or flowers, but we like the smell of the rice alone.
Have you ever felt a little shrimpy after a long day of work?
Treat yourself to an unwinding stretch after a long period of sitting. You’ll be opening up the superficial front line of myofascial tissue of the body and uncurling that flexed forward posture.
Here, I’m using a foam roller, placed vertically along my spine and all I’m doing is laying on it with my arms spread open, feeling the release!
Thanks to Andy Garcia-Ruse for the truthful shrimp image.
Let’s meet two muscles which need some love: Gastrocnemius and Soleus, otherwise known as your calf muscles.
When we are stationary for long periods, our calves can become tight and short. This can lead to aches and pains in other parts of the body further up and down the kinetic chain.
Ankles can lose mobility, knees can hurt due to tight calf muscles pulling down on them in the back, and Plantar Fasciitis can develop from tightness pulling up on the bottoms of the feet.
While you’re doing your lip trills and vocal warm-ups, try using the threshold of your booth, or another step, to stretch your calves.
Make sure to hold the stretch for 30 seconds to give the muscle time to release and lengthen, then repeat two more times.
Booth Health Tuesday is back after Hurricane Ida strolled through my area. Her winds were fast but her forward movement was slow.
Muscles of the skeleton are made of fast twitch and slow twitch fibers. Slow twitch fibers make up a large part of deep and core muscles responsible for posture and stabilization, while fast twitch fibers are for movement and bursts of activity.
Slow twitch fibers can work under heavy loads (posture) for a long time while fast twitch fibers are fatigued more quickly (movement).
Poor posture can cause core muscles to weaken from lack of use. Improper posture calls on fast twitch muscles to do the job, and these muscles become tired, fatigued, and achy.
Quick tip: Add a mirror to your studio/work area and let it be a reminder to lift yourself to better posture.
I got a new saddle!
People often ask what type of chair is best for narrating, editing, and working.
Answer: totally personal choice!
I do recommend a backless version such as saddle, kneeling, or yoga ball chair.
Engages the back muscles for improved back strength
Maintains better posture, opening respiratory pathways
Maintains proper spinal curves, reducing back fatigue
Do tongue twisting words in your narration make you want to pull your hair out? Me too, but did you know that hair pulling self-massage can restore your peace?
Head massage goes way back in history all over the world and it is known for its benefits regarding stress reduction, healing and recovery, hair growth (YES!!) and improved circulation.
Pulling on your own hair is an easy way to stretch the scalp fascia and refresh your mind.
-Start with grasping your hair at the back if your head, close to your scalp
-Reach in with open hands, sliding your fingers up your head, then close your hands to capture a fistful of hair in each hand
-Pull UP toward the top of your head
-Repeat on the sides above your ears
-Repeat at your temples, always aiming the pull up
-Finish with the center line of your head, following the line as if you had a Mohawk hairstyle, from front to back
-Only pull til you feel a stretch. It should not hurt. Adjust the pull to your comfort level.
Sorry, bald friends.
Anyone have a headache? Meet the SternoCleidomastoid Suscle (SCM). There is one on each side of your neck. You can’t miss it. See mine?
Tightness in the SCM from looking down at phones and desks can cause trigger points (areas of tenderness) that can radiate to other parts of the head, including the forehead, jaw and eyes.
Daily self-massage of this muscle can alleviate these pain patterns.
Turn your head to the right side and tilt your head down. Find the SCM on the left side and grasp the middle of the muscle with your thumb and index finger of your right hand. If you feel a pulse or feel like choking, let go and grasp it further away from your throat. Squeeze and roll the muscle and inch your way up and down the length of it. Hold it and tilt your head forward and backward and side to side. You may feel tenderness in certain spots. Pinch those (not too hard) for about 15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Squatting is an awesome alternative to bending, stooping, and sitting. The benefits range from digestive, respiratory, and metabolic activity. Blood chemistry is improved with less sitting because sitting for long periods increases insulin resistance. Not everyone can get low, so take your time. Sub squatting instead of bending to pick something up from the floor. Squat to pet the dog instead of stooping. Slow down if there is pain. Your future old self will be grateful for the hip mobility you develop today.
Sitting for long periods of time can cause tightness in the hips and groin, which can lead to back and knee pain. Here’s one way to stretch the hip adductors and lower back to bring some balance back.
Bucket of Rocks Stretch:
Place one foot on a stool, not too high. The bend in your knee should be 90 degrees or less.
Bend forward, go ahead and drop your head and curve your back.
IMAGINE you’re holding a bucket of rocks in your hands and “feel” its weight pulling your hands towards the floor.
Hold for several seconds, or as long as is comfortable.
Switch legs and stretch the other side.
Comb your hair, if necessary.
Is it true that “locking your knees” can cause you to faint? It is! But locking means more than just standing with your legs straight. It’s when your Quadriceps muscles in the front of your thighs are contracted enough to lift your kneecaps upwards, and held in that tightened position for an extended length of time.
Locking the knees can restrict blood flow through the veins, back to the heart, causing a depletion of oxygen to the upper part of the body, including THE BRAIN. Then….oops….thud.
If you stand to narrate, avoid locking your knees by keeping them softly bent and taking lots of breaks.
Reminder: Izotope RX doesn’t have THUD removal.
Here’s a SURPRISE! The little muscle in the front of your body has a big impact on your posture.
Pectoralis Minor sits underneath the muscles you know as “pecs.” If they’re tight, they will pull your shoulders forward into a rounded position causing back and neck pain. It may even cause shoulder injury by making the shoulder joint function out of proper alignment.
You can stretch this muscle daily in a corner or a doorway. Be sure to hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, breathing and relaxing into it with every breath as you feel the release in your chest. Headphones optional.
Let’s meet the piriformis muscle.
Located deeper than your glutes, the piriformis helps stabilize and rotate your hips. The very large sciatic nerve lays next to the piriformis. Fun fact: In 10%-15% of people, it can run through the center of the piriformis muscle.
If that muscle is tight from excessive sitting and slouching, it can push on the sciatic nerve causing pain down the leg. Massaging and stretching can help. Here is just one way to self-massage the piriformis.
Here’s a DIY self massage gadget for those long hours in the booth (or the car).
You just need a sock and a tennis ball. Place the ball inside the sock, fling that thing over your shoulder and control the placement with the open end of the sock. Now lean back against your chair or carseat. Enjoy!
Let’s visualize how good posture benefits your ability to breathe well.
Think of your respiratory diaphragm as the “roof” of your abdominal organs and the pelvic diaphragm (floor) as the “basement”. They work in concert with each breath to create and regulate pressure.
Breath dysfunction (shallow breathing) can lead to weakening of core breathing muscles as well as the pelvic diaphragm which can lead to bladder leakage, prolapse, and lower back pain. It also can induce those sharp intakes of breath which may sound distracting in our narration.
Some fellow #narrators have asked me about postnasal drip, allergy, and sinus issues. Since those are things beyond the scope of my training, I consulted with fellow narrator and Registered Respiratory Therapist, Peter Lerman.
Allergy Advice for Narrators
By Peter Lerman, Registered Respiratory Therapist
Licensed in the states of Connecticut and New York
Be aware that, unlike normal people, narrators inhale through their mouths while narrating. We all do. We have to. The humidification and filtering that normally takes place in your nose and sinuses is not happening when we mouth breathe. So, we must compensate.
Get Ready for Netti
The Netti Pot is the open secret of singers, actors and narrators. It’s a little ‘pitcher’ that you use to pour salt water into one nostril which flows through your sinuses and out the other nostril. It is harder to explain than it is to show. Just visit YouTube and watch some videos of people doing it. It is drug free, simple, easy, effective – and has great benefits with no side effects.
Thin is In: Guiafenesen
This is an over-the-counter medication popularly known as ‘Mucinex’. It thins the mucous secretions in your airways. It works well and is generally considered quite safe but check with your MD if you have any concerns.
The Salt of the Earth: Saline Spray
My favorite is ‘Simply Saline’. Convenient, safe, useful: no ingredients other than salt and water. Very handy if your airways dry out while narrating. Everyone’s airways do. Better than the squeeze bottle type of spray, which has preservatives and actually ‘inhales’ room air after you squeeze it out.
One by one, eliminate scented products from your life. There are scent free versions of dryer sheets, detergents, hand lotions, shampoo, deodorant, etc. Stop bringing that ‘pollution’ into your booth.
Honorable Mentions: Environment
- Dust Reduction
- Pollen Reduction
I have a secret code for you: Silly Lovers Try Positions That They Can’t Handle!
OK, it’s not a secret, but rather a mnemonic to help remember the bones of the wrist. Some of those bones help form a narrow canal called the carpal tunnel, through which the median nerve passes. Get where I’m going with this? You’ve probably heard of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, right? Maybe you’ve experienced it. Burning, tingling, numbness in your palm, thumb, or middle fingers?
There are many causes for this syndrome including repetitive wrist motions, certain health conditions and pregnancy but the one I want to focus on is posture. Slumping your shoulders causes impingement of the nerve before it even gets to your wrist, causing inflammation before it must squeeze through the carpal tunnel. Opening the chest with stretches can help, making it easier to adjust your posture to a more upright and open one.
Let’s meet some muscles of the back. Back muscles are many and their arrangement and functions are complex. Many of them are integral to maintaining good posture.
When I performed human dissections in my human anatomy studies, my favorite back muscle was the iliocostalis thoracis muscle for its beauty and bird wing appearance (Not posting a cadaver picture here because, not everyone likes that sort of thing.)
Slumping posture can weaken back muscles by overstretching them over time. Here is an easy way to perform the yoga pose, Cat Cow, while at your desk, to both stretch and strengthen those beauties.
PS: If you want to see what I mean, I’ll message you the cadaver photo.