Thursday, October 1, 2009

Parallels

I ran this morning. After Zoe woke me and had her morning feeding, I got up instead of crawling back under the covers and put my running clothes on. It's harder to talk myself out of exercising if I'm already dressed for it - there's something kind of shameful in taking off unsweaty running clothes. When I poked my head out the door it was cold and rainy and I was tempted to stay home and make coffee. But I had a bank deposit I needed to make, so I figured I'd just run to the bank and if I was hating it I'd come right back home.

Of course by the time I got there I was warmed up and feeling great, so I headed over to the river. I had only gone another mile or so when I realized that I was pretty tired. My fitness is not actually back to its pre-pregnancy levels yet, and I had taken off most of last week what with traveling and being sick and all. So I took a few walk breaks. Sure, I had planned to run the whole way, but you do what you can do. Taking those breaks enabled me to keep going, and I reached my turnaround place and my mileage goal.

On my way home I threw in some little sprints. Running fast doesn't hurt if you only go a short distance, and it trains your legs to move quickly, and changing up paces like that really bumps up the fitness value of the run. Similarly, I ran hard up the one hill on my return trip - although I wasn't having a spectacular day today I knew I was building fitness for my next time out. Pushing the hill will make me stronger, and if my habit is to run the hardest parts of the route and take breaks only on the easy parts, that can translate to improved speed and fitness in the long term, and a certain amount of mental toughness. I came home tired but triumphant, and with a sense of accomplishment. I didn't wear myself totally out, and I'll be able to do it again tomorrow, hopefully even better.

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I practiced today. After breakfast I went directly to my studio to work - it's easy for the time to slip away if I don't get started first thing in the morning. I was not really in the mood, but lured myself in with some new warmups I wanted to try. I figured that after a half hour or so I could stop if I wasn't having fun.

Of course by that time I was having fun, so I pulled out the music for next week's concert and started working through it. After another half hour or so my embouchure was pretty tired. I knew that I needed to build it back up, though, so I went on for a few more minutes, really paying attention to intonation and dynamic control - for me the first things to go as my mouth gets tired. At that point I took a break. I need to put in the hours, but I don't have to kill myself every time I pick up the horn. Better to come back fresh and be able to put some quality in.

When I came back to the oboe later I pulled up a virtuosic piece I'm working on. I did plenty of slow work, really focusing on finger shapes and learning the technical passages correctly and strongly at a manageable tempo. I also popped the metronome back up to my goal tempo and ran tiny chunks of the piece fast, just to get my fingers moving at the desired rate and to remind myself what I'm working for. Although I don't have the piece at a performance level yet, I am farther along than I was yesterday, and tomorrow I'll be able to build again on my work from today.

I am so often struck by the parallels between running and playing the oboe - I suppose any activity that you can improve with practice would relate in the same way. Or possibly it's just my own drive that creates the parallels, and anything I was working on would fall into this pattern?

1 comment:

  1. Programming and algorithms don't quite seem to fit into that mold, unless you accept 'changing gears to fit my current abilities re: weather, mood, crankiness, etc.'

    On the other hand, a certain degree of 'ferret-wisdom' is always applicable: how does this play best?

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