Practice like you train

September 6, 2011

The Road AheadI had a perhaps not so novel idea today. Why should we practice the same things every day? Instead, why shouldn’t we have a larger purpose for every single practice session and take some ideas from runners?

I’m a lapsed runner of sorts. I still run regularly, but I haven’t trained since I was an overly enthusiastic newbie two years ago. I’m in a rut. In this rut I let my subscription to Runner’s World expire, too.

I resubscribed in a hope to get some kind of motivational tip that would spur me back into a crazed training phase. I’ve been reading a few pages here and there and I read today about how and why you should have a purpose before you even begin running. Without a purpose, it’s too easy to get bound up in time contraints, the weather, or any of the million other reasons we usually fail to do what we say we’re going to do.

Yeah, we should have a purpose when we practice. That part is pretty obvious. But have we related our purpose to longer term goals in a meaningful way?

I run about 3 to 4 times a week. One day consists of a long run, which serves to build up endurance and help strengthen the legs and I do speedwork once a week to get faster. The remaining 2 days are easy runs, where I’m letting the work of the harder two workouts settle in.

I hate doing the same thing every day, so I’m not one for making up a routine. Instead, I tend to go with the flow which sometimes sets me up for failure. Translating my running workouts into my flute workouts might help me reach my goals faster. So here’s a quick sketch of how my different training runs relate to my practice sessions:

The Long Run – A longer than average practice session that gives you adequate time to cover all the areas of your playing that need consistent attention. It’s also the time to just enjoy the feeling of being able to play your instrument and not have to watch the clock.

Speedwork – Technical practice. Want to bump up your scales a couple notches on the metronome? Treat this “workout” as speedwork and limit to one or two days a week.

The Recovery Run – Focused, slow practice. Practice what you need to, but let your body assimilate the changes you’re making in your playing. Enjoy the recovery.

The Social Run – Jam session!

The Whatever Run – Play what you want without pressure. Use it as opportunity to explore different areas of your awareness. Or don’t.

*Originally published on The Sensible Flutist, August 2011

© Alexis Del Palazzo 2011

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One Response to “Practice like you train”


  1. EXCELLENT post Alexis! It’s funny how things really can apply to different areas of our lives, but we don’t think about it – you outlined this beautifully! I can also think of a way to build on this is progression, or periodization. If I applied my strength training background to this I’d think of it this way:
    1) Stabilization endurance – this is your time to focus on the basics, your scales, your tone work, etc.
    2) Strength endurance – we’re moving up from the basics, but not quite ready to attack things yet. This could be thought of as the time to work on etudes, putting those basics into practice
    3) Hypertrophy – in lifting, this is the phase where your muscles grow. What about growing our music or flute muscles? Maybe this is the time to sightread, play something you ordinarily wouldn’t play, try music you don’t think you’ll like. What will grow you as a flutist or musician?
    4) Maximum strength – the repertoire and hashing it out! If you think of it, don’t we tend to do this backwards? We attack the repertoire first and wonder why it doesn’t get much better. You can’t build a house on sand, whether that’s to apply to muscle strength, musicianship, entrepreneurship, getting over performance anxiety, etc.
    5) Power – The ultimate! In strength training, this is where you would do explosive work like plyometrics, jumping, everything is fast. Maybe in music this is the phase where you leave the basics to your subconscious, let go and let fly! Performance time! 🙂


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