Haven’t we been through enough Nashville fam? That’s why this deal is just for you. (Ignore the January 15 deadline, both deals are good through the end of the month!)
Valid at my Nashville location at Next Level Fitness 1917 Church St. only. 5 minutes from Music Row in Midtown, you can stop by before/after your recording session, on your lunch break from publishing or before a songwriting sesh or writers round!
Contact me if you have questions, let’s talk about what you need and if I can help!
So….2020 carried some good and some bad. I think it’s safe to say that it was not the year any of us planned for. After the home projects were over, the to-do list finished, with trips cancelled there was so much sitting on the couch, binge-watching EVERYTHING and while “quarantine snacks” sound cute, come the fall we found very quickly that our clothes disagreed and our sweatpants LIED to us.
Beyond this, a lot of us, while enjoying less commute and more time at home, also struggled with feelings of frustration, anger, hopelessness, sadness, mixed with bouts of creativity and satisfaction, and back again. It’s been a wild emotional ride, to put it mildly.
Were you one of the masses that bought all the home workout equipment, followed the YouTube video workouts and then….gave up?
Our best intentions can be laid waste in the snap of your fingers, especially when you are doing it alone.
We drink everything BUT water: coffee, sweet tea, soda, Starbucks anything, beer…. but why not water? The laundry list of benefits for drinking water is a mile long – everything from increased energy to decreased inflammation, increased creativity, bolstered immune system, clearer skin to better sleep.
You should be getting a minimum of half your body weight in ounces a day (for a 150 lb. person that’s 75 ounces – or 2 1/2 32 oz. Nalgene bottles). Start with 8-12 ounces first when you wake up, and see if you can get a full liter before noon. Notice how you feel. Note your allergies, sniffles, sleep, energy, etc. Make this into a fun experiment!
Many people talk about peeing clear, but my favorite was when I was at Basic Training for the Army, we drank SO much water, and the drill sergeants told us if we could not pee on command, we were not hydrated!
Ever notice how you don’t appreciate something as much until you don’t have it? This pandemic has really taught us how valuable real relationships are and how ugly things can get in cyberspace. When we just watch the news and get caught up in ONLY the macro, it’s too easy to neglect real relationships right in front of us. We’ve got that weird mix of now knowing some of our neighbors better while not seeing our family and spending more time on social media than ever before.
I challenge you to limit yourself on the amount of media in your life and INCREASE the amount of real relationships. As we transition from Zoom hangouts to in-person hangouts, hang on to people as REAL people. If you live alone and find yourself craving connection now more than ever, vow this year to check out any or all of these different types of organizations: a religious or church group, a meetup, an interest group, a club, pickup sports, neighborhood HOA or organizations, volunteering at nursing homes, a charity, a church, a help center, homeless shelter – life does not have to revolve around Happy Hour or virtual cocktail networking.
Stepping away from virtual and into personal, especially when it’s for the benefit of others goes a long way to your mental attitude and emotional health.
How comfortable are we with being present and only doing one thing at a time? Why does it make you uncomfortable to eat without distraction? No TV show, phone, etc.
To get to who you really want to be, we have to learn to be present and comfortable with ourselves. Start with this one thing : note how you feel and if you are uncomfortable or anxious, notice it and ask why? Are you lonely and afraid of acknowledging that? Are you stressed about food? Or, are you suddenly noticing the flavors your food has and if you really want it, which leads me to…
Have a vegetable with every meal (or at least most)
Eat what you REALLY want and
Write it down, including the emotions you felt when you ate it, how hungry you were and if you were satisfied. You’ll probably identify a pattern and you’ll become more self aware in the process, thereby eating less. (Also, there’s something honest about committing to writing down every morsel)
I talk more about each of these in depth in the original series but we have to reestablish that yes, we CAN take care of ourselves and we know how to eat and and it comes back to being present when we eat. Really enjoying it, savoring it.
Ever see a cat eat? Doesn’t matter how small the morsel is, they sit down to eat.
A craving is a signal that you are in need; the proverb is that somewhere along the way we got our remedies confused. When we were young and we wanted comfort, we would run to get a hug, play with friends when we were lonely, eat when hungry, drink when thirsty, cry when sad, invent games when bored and sleep when tired. Somewhere in the course of growing up we found out that just because we needed something we didn’t always get it. So we turned to food, drink, TV or maybe even drugs, whatever gave you pleasure to meet those needs. We confused pleasure with meeting needs.
To change your habits you have to go back to the source: identify your real need and have the courage to meet it instead of substituting food (or other things) for the answer.
If you’ve noticed, I haven’t yet mentioned exercise at all, and isn’t that one of the first things people jump into when they say “I’m going to get in shape!” Yup, and one of the first things to go because most people will start out with the mentality that “more is better” and do too much. Then, they don’t see results quickly enough and get discouraged.
Just like everything else, it’s simple: easy to do, easy NOT to do. The choice is up to you. So make it as simple as possible – pick a goal, find a plan, hire a coach or just commit to doing SOME sort of movement/exercise every day. (I highly recommend a coach though, because it’s easy to OVERDO! Ever been injured by those YouTube workouts? More on that later…)
This is not just wishful thinking – this is where you make an action plan. Start with a short list so you don’t get overwhelmed, set a date for each one, and then, working backwards, write 5 action steps you can do every month, week, day to get there.
For example, if your list includes reading 12 books in a year, write out which books, make a plan on how to get them (either paper or audio) and then schedule one per month. Finally schedule out time every week/day to read until you accomplish your goal.
Additionally – if 2020 showed us anything, it is that we are capable of more than we think we are. So, make at least one goal a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) aka: something scary that pushes you outside your comfort zone.
Take your biggest goal and multiply it times 10.
Example: I want to decrease my debt in half in one year. BHAG: I will be debt free in 1 year.
Example: I want to run a 5k in 3 months. BHAG: I want to run a half marathon in a year.
Example: I want to make $5k/mo BHAG: I will make $15k/mo
Also, notice the change in voice “I want” vs. “I will”.
Everyone from Oprah to Presidents have hired Tony Robbins to coach them.
When you want to learn to dance, shoot, play an instrument, etc. you hire a teacher or a coach.
Whether it’s a life coach or a Fitness Coach – you will get where you want to go much faster and with better results if you hire a coach to teach you and guide you there. Plus, you have enough on your plate without figuring out everything else in the world. Hire someone who is good at what you want to be good at (or in the case of a fitness coach, is good at guiding, teaching and helping you do the work you might want to do but struggle with showing up to do it). Accountability is real, and someone you invest a good bit of money in means you’ve got skin in the game. It ensures you show up. It also allows you to relax and trust your coach, which in turn allows them to do their best work with you. It’s a win-win!
2020 has challenged us in so many way, BUT has it really all been awful? Every day’s outcome depends on YOUR actions, and no one else’s.
No one can :
exercise for you
work for you
set boundaries for you
admit failure for you
tell you what to eat
tell you what to drink
change your body (ultimately)
alter your pain
accept your present
change your future
If you haven’t read the book Extreme Ownership by Jocko Wilinik, I challenge you to. It can be very freeing to take complete responsibility and not place blame. And in the end, that’s really all we can do is take responsibility for ourselves.
It is such a joy to me to get to be able to personally walk people through the mechanics of fitness and learning how to properly use their bodies to better play their first instrument, their bodies, before picking up the flute.
Speaking of learning to use our bodies correctly, I have noticed a large overlap in strength training with Alexander Technique and yoga. The biggest overlap I see comes in relationship to our hips. If you have ever had an Alexander lesson or taken a body mapping course, one of the biggest things you must wrap your head around is this: your hips are a hinge. I will never forget when I was taking Barbara Conable’s “What Every Musician Needs to Know About the Body” course back in college that it blew my mind when she revealed that the human body does not have a waist.
That is a fashion term, not an anatomical term! There is no joint in the middle of the spine, and yet, that is where so many of us bend from and a large reason why we end up throwing out our backs, or hurting other areas of our bodies.
It never ceases to amaze me when I ask my private students, workshop participants or presentation attendees “where do you think your hips are”? and ask them to point to the hip joint. Almost everyone gets it wrong. The hip joint is not the bone you can feel around the waistband of your pants. It is lower. If you move your fingers down your pelvis to the spot where your leg meets your body and forms a crease and you push, you will notice that if you push hard enough, the joint will move and your rear end will go backwards. This is the hip joint. The bone we often point to is the top of the pelvis, and from where we usually try to bend. In Alexander lessons you spend a great deal of time learning how to bend from the hips, pushing your butt back to sit in a chair, leaning forward from the hips to get out of a chair, etc. all because we have not only forgotten how to use our hips, but we don’t even know where they are!
This crossover is huge when it comes to strength training. I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen some guy in the weight room, lifting more than he is capable of lifting safely, and doing it with bad form, bending from the “waist” – causing his back to round and all those pounds of weight to be supported by his lumbar disks. YIKES! Alexander Technique has been fantastic in helping my clients understand where their hips are located so they can bend and hinge properly. When the hips are used properly, as a hinge:
There is less tension in the neck
There is less excess tension in the back
The legs are allowed to hang freely from the body
The entire body moves more freely
The core muscles are engaged properly
The spine is protected
Etcetera, etcetera, the list goes on and on. When you bend properly, your butt will go back, you will feel a stretch in the back of your legs and your spine will remain neutral. Not only will this allow you to lift weights properly, this is the basis of human movement. You will prevent the dreaded “throwing out” of your back, you can help your friend move with no back pain, you can play your flute in a rehearsal for hours with less pain due to the freedom in your spine, and on and on it goes.
If you think of the hips as a joint that cuts the body in half, the thighs bend one way and the spine bends the other way, just like a pendulum or a see-saw. When you bend from the hips, your spine should not round. It should stay neutral (or “flat” as they say in the fitness realm). Try this exercise next time you go to sit down:
Walk your fingers down your pelvis until you find the joint where your legs meet your body, this is your hip joint.
I urge you to learn to use your hips as a hinge properly. Seek out a good Alexander Technique teacher if you ever can, even just to find out how to hinge your hips. Take body awareness classes when they are offered and find a good personal trainer, even if just for one session, for that session can go a long way towards leading you on the path to balance and health. Again, if you missed my class at the convention, I am available for travel for workshops and would LOVE to present at your school, for your studio or to your group, so please contact me to find out how I can help your group. I’m happy to offer free assessments to anyone over Skype, as well. I would very much like to hear your comments on what you think of my articles and hear what fitness questions you have. Please feel free to email me at Angela@MusicStrong.com and I would love to get some questions to answer in the next quarter’s column. Hope to see you soon in Las Vegas!
Hypermobility: something I’ve struggled with in one way or another over the years. (How many 37 yo you know can flip a back bend with no warmup?) What is it? An excessive range of motion in the joints. While most people trainers deal with have the opposite of this problem (hypomobility: lack of mobility) the hypermobile person I feel like needs just as much, if not more attention.
Example: during an Overhead DB Press, I literally watched as both my shoulder popped out of socket, and back in, with no pain. Freaked me out big time. Stability exercises for the shoulder/rotator cuff could have prevented that.
Solutions for hypermobility as it relates to core (to include pelvis and shoulder joints).
Hypermobile persons can have muscle compensations just like any other person (myself: hip imbalance) so be careful when stretching. Strength is SO important to keeping a person stable! One of my favorite exercises? Planks and all the variations. For this one: put your hands directly underneath the shoulders, pull the scapula towards the hips, tuck the pelvis and squeeze glutes and abs. Try to do the touches without moving the hips.
What are your experiences with being hypermobile? Lately I’ve been training a lot of people with it, and females tend to be more hypermobile than men, so it’s no surprise my last 3 clients with this are all female.
Interested in working together? Let’s get you strong!
Recently I had the honor of being interviewed by Dr. Heidi Kay Begay about my experiences as a military musician.
You can listen to it here:
In today’s episode, Heidi talks with Sergeant Angela McCuiston about her time being a Military Flutist in the U.S. Army Reserve Band. She goes into detail about the audition process, her experience with basic training, and advises those who are considering this career path. This series runs through the entire month of May 2020 and we hope that it is beneficial for you and, or your students.
10:09 – “I am an entrepreneur at heart, so the Reserves fit well for me!” – Angela
10:44 – Heidi Comments
11:37 – “You need to go to that next event, and performance super prepared. You never know who will be there, listening to you, and possibly giving you an opportunity that will blow your mind!” – Heidi
You may not be performing on stage at the moment but practicing can still wear tear on your body. I’m here to help! In 1.5 hours I’ll will walk you through an instrument specific workout that will keep you strong, healthy and injury free throughout your career as a musician.
What you’ll learn:
How to mobilize, stretch and activate
What specific exercises you need to do for each instrument to help you avoid injury, increase strength and endurance and correct muscle imbalances.
Each workout is designed specifically for YOUR instrument and includes:
Specific strength exercises
Basics of form and strength training technique
Progressions and Regressions
Options for if you have equipment, access to a gym or no equipment at all
a downloadable PDF of the workout
The recording of the workout so you can watch it at your leisure.
I will be hosting my Live Workout series most Tuesdays and Thursday at 10 AM CST with bonus “Essential Excercises” workouts on Sundays at 5:00 PM. If you can’t attend the session, not a problem! I will send you a recording following the workout to cover everything you need to know about the strength training you need!
Essential Exercises Workouts: In these workouts we will go through my book and cover the basics of form and the bare bones exercises you need to be doing in any workout as a musician. These will be based off my book “The Musician’s Essential Exercises” – we will be going through the book, explaining and doing the exercises and also going through and doing the workouts in the back so you can feel competent going forward with any workout you do, knowing what is appropriate for you.
These workout are separate from the instrument specific workouts.
You do not need the book but it is helpful. These workouts are not included in the Buy 5 deal, but 1 workout IS included if you buy all as a package.
All instrument specific workouts are on sale for $49 until 2 days before, then they go up to the full price of $79.
For a limited time only, buy 5 & get 1 FREE! Enter coupon code BUNDLEDEAL at checkout!
All video access: You can get access to all 20 instrument specific workouts plus 1 Essential Exercises video for the discounted rate of $1200, which is 5 free classes and a savings of $400! That’s all 20 classes (both live AND recorded) and 20 instrument specific workout PDFs, plus the Essential Exercises class of your choice. Enter coupon code “ALL” at checkout. And don’t forget, there is the option to pay in installments, so you can space things out as you need to without waiting on the content.
This gives us the optimal amount of time without being rushed to be able to not just do a workout, but explain the how and why and lead you through it all.
Will we be working out the entire time? Doing? Yes. Working out like you would normally do in a gym? No!
Do I need any equipment? These are structured with little to no equipment, but I will definitely show you options if you do have equipment! Foam roller, lacrosse ball, exercise bands, dumbbells are all things I may use.
What if I can’t make the workout time? All the workouts will be recorded so you can watch and re-watch anytime you want.
Will you see me? Only if you want me to! You have the option to show your screen or not, totally up to you. If I can see you, I have the opportunity to see you in real time, giving you feedback on how you’re performing the exercise and answering your questions.
What happens after I make my payment? You’ll be sent an email with the Zoom registration details, Make sure you click on that to register for the class! When you’ve done that, you’ll get the Zoom class link.
What if I have more questions? Great! Let’s set up a time to talk! Email me at email@example.com.
According to a 2011 study, 95% of skilled flute players suffered some form of performance-related musculoskeletal disorder. While many injuries are a result of overuse and muscle imbalances, playing a heavy flute can contribute to additional problems. For many flutists, a lightweight flute can help mitigate these imbalances, lessening the chance of injury severity. Throughout the past 11 months, Francesca Leo and Angela McCuiston worked with Flute Specialists, Inc. and the Flute Center of New York to test 42 different flutes and headjoints across 14 different brands to compare the differences in weight versus sound quality.
In general, the average weight of all flutes tested was 18.09oz (1.13lb). The weight comparison between material demonstrated that the silver flutes were the lightest (average of 17.47oz), followed by gold (18.39oz), Platinum-Clad (18.3oz), Gold-Silver Fusion (18.9oz), and wooden flutes being the heaviest (19.84oz). The lightest flute was the Used Powell Silver Flute 1975 model with no add-on features (14.49oz). Because there was a drastic difference in weight from other silver models, we can conclude that the addition of extra keys changes the weight significantly. The lightest gold flute was the Muramatsu 9k Standard Wall Flute (16.72oz), the lightest Platinum-Clad flute was the Burkart Elite 5/95 (18.19oz) and the lightest Gold-Silver Fusion flute was the Powell 14k Aurumite (18.24oz).
A lot of the weight differences came from the thickness of the metal and the weight of the mechanisms. The split E options weighed more than those without or those that have the “donut” or “high E facilitator” (a small circular ring inserted into the left hand G tone hole that helps stabilize the third octave E.) If you are set on a heavier flute model or material, you can decrease weight by requesting a model without a C# trill key or a Split E mechanism or changing to a lighter headjoint. There is also a drastic difference in weight between B foot and C foot models and if you don’t need a B footjoint, switching to a C foot can help significantly.
The results of this study highlighted a few common misconceptions:
· The karat of gold used in different flute models does not always add more weight.
· Wooden flutes are not always lighter options, and the weight depends on the brand and the density of wood. Grenadilla wood is more dense on average than Boxwood, Cocobolo, or Mopani.
· Gold-Silver fusion models are not always lighter than gold flutes.
Both participants noted the difference in projection between the heavy wall and lightweight models, but there was not a drastic difference in sound overall. Adding a gold riser or lip plate to a lightweight silver flute broadened the depth of the sound and added resistance. According to the participants, the difference in sound quality between lightweight and heavy wall flutes was not drastic enough to deter the consideration of lightweight flutes. Since each flute responds differently depending on the player, we encourage all flutists to test a wide variety of flutes.
Notes on Hand Size and Injury
Angela: “During the play-testing of these flutes, I was suffering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which caused numbness, tingling, muscle spasms and shooting electrical pains down my right arm. For this reason, I was in the unique position of finding myself NEEDING a lightweight flute.
I have large hands and ergonomically found several flutes challenging to play. I found the Haynes custom models very easy to play, but something about the position of the thumb key made my left hand start to cramp. On the Powell Aurumite flute, the placement of the G# key prevented me from playing the flute at all: my third finger sat comfortably on the G# key and I could not get my hands to fit on the keys as they should. This could have been a specific serial number issue as I did not have the issue on any other Powell flutes. Overall notes for the grenadilla headjoints were that they felt easier on the wrists, I did not tend to grip the keys as much.
Regarding TOS symptoms, It’s interesting to note that even though both of the Burkarts were the same weight, the 10k felt lighter than the 9k. While I was experiencing more severe TOS symptoms, I could play the 10k longer with no increase in symptoms. Also the Powell solid grenadilla flute seemed lighter weight, which helped as I was able to play it during a particularly heavy playing schedule and at a particularly painful point in my diagnosis.”
Francesca: “I have also been managing performance-related tendinitis in my shoulder and forearm for the past several years, and I really noticed a difference between different brands and models of flutes and how they felt physically. I found that I was able to manipulate a good sound on all of the flutes that we play-tested, but the flutes that felt and sounded the best and most comfortable for me personally were the Muramatsu, Brannen and Haynes flutes. I have very small hands, and the Brannen flute mechanism was among the easiest to navigate because of this factor. With gold flutes, I felt that the most comfortable playing on the 9k Gold Standard Wall Muramatsu. This gold model did not aggravate my performance-related injury even when I played on it for a significant amount of time. I later discovered that this model was actually the lightest gold flute out of all of the gold models that we weighed.
Personally ,I experienced challenges playing the wooden flute models because the tubing size felt a bit larger than silver and gold models, and having small hands it was difficult to reach the keys comfortably. The grenadilla wood, whether it was a grenadilla flute or just the headjoint, also added a noticeable amount of weight.”
If you should find yourself needing to find a lighter flute to perform in a variety of settings, consider the following:
1. Consider adding a denser metal headjoint (platinum, gold, fusion) to a lightweight body. You can also find lighter headjoints with a denser metal riser or lip plate. You may consider trying an Arista 14K Rose Gold gold headjoint (3.07oz) on a lightweight silver flute.
2. Consider removing the split E mechanism and add the E Facilitator instead. Also try removing the C# trill key or consider switching to a C footjoint if you find yourself seldom using the low B footjoint.
3. Look into lightweight pinless mechanism options. Wm. S. Haynes Co. specifically provides this option on their custom flute models.
4. Compare the thickness in tubing between different models and look for softer silvers (925) as opposed to 950 or 997 silver. You may consider trying a Muramatsu GX, a Brannen 725, a Miyazawa 602 or a Sankyo 901 as lightweight silver options.
This study was intended to be as comprehensive as possible, but due to the plethora of options and variations on each model this is not an exhaustive list. We encourage you to utilize the results of this study as a guide to compare general weight differences between brands and models.
Special offer from the Flute Center: Use code “LightenUp” for $50 off any order over $500, plus free shipping on your next flute trial! (Discount code may be applied to purchases of flutes or accessories, limit one use per customer.)
Recently I was asked to write an article for Flutist Quarterly, the quarterly publication of the National Flute Association. There are a LOT of beneficial exercises for flutists, but I picked 2 stretches and 2 strengthening exercises I felt were the most beneficial, with no equipment, for the general population of flute players. These may be more difficult for some, too easy for others, nonethess, they have their place in a DAILY workout routine for all flutists to keep you mobile and strong, so you can continue playing pain free.
The chair of the Performance Health Care Committee recommends these exercises to help reduce playing-related pain. Read more about them in the spring 2020 issue of The Flutist Quarterly. In addition to those discussed in the article, a bonus exercise for neck and shoulder pain is included here.
Put your arm in a doorway with your elbow at 90 degrees. Squeeze your shoulder blade back and down toward your low back and twist your body away from the door. If you don’t feel much, try bringing your arm up higher. Hold for 30 seconds.
Facing a flat surface with straight elbows, turn your fingers toward your body and lower your arms until the tops of your hands are flat on the table, if possible. (Don’t force them; take them to maximum stretch and hold gently.) Touch your fingers and thumbs together; try to lift your knuckles off the table. This should not be possible. If you can do this, you are leaning too far forward or your elbows are bent. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds, and hold 30 more seconds. Come out of the stretch gently.
For a more intense stretch, turn your hands so that they are palms down on the table with fingers pointed toward your body. (Don’t force them flat if wrists are too tight; take them to maximum stretch and hold gently.)
Upper Back and Shoulder Strengthener: Prone T Exercise
Stand with your feet hip width apart, knees slightly bent. Push your hips backwards, keeping your spine neutral, so that you are leaning slightly forward. Raise your arms straight out to either side, with thumbs pointing to the ceiling and palms facing forward, keeping shoulders away from ears. Think about bringing the bottom of your shoulder blades together. Do 15 times.
Core Strengthener: Deadbugs
Lie on your back, with knees bent and feet flat. Pull your belly button toward your spine and mash your low back into the floor. Raise your arms overhead and drop them alternately behind your head as far back as possible without causing pain.
For additional strength building, lift both legs to a 90-degree angle and drop one heel at a time toward the ground.
BONUS: Tight Neck Muscles
Flutists turn their heads to the left but also tilt them somewhat forward and down to the right. As a result, two muscles tend to get overused and cause problems: the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and the levator scapulae.
The SCM attaches to the collarbone near the sternum and inserts on the skull just behind each ear, turning the head and also flexing it forward. The levator scapulae muscle attaches to the upper part of the shoulder blade on the inside and goes up the neck, where it inserts on the C1–C4 vertebrae of the neck. It helps shrug the shoulder upwards.
With the advent of cell phones and other screens, the levator scapulae can become shortened while the SCM becomes tight on one side and weak on the other. This may cause headaches, pain in the back of the neck, or pain on the inside of the shoulder blade (the rhomboid muscle), and—combined with tight chest muscles—can cause the rhomboids to become weak and overstretched, causing pain. Relaxing the SCM and the levator scapulae and strengthening the rhomboids can be the trifecta to bring the upper body back into balance.
Try these two back to back, in the order given here. If either of them doesn’t feel good, don’t do it.