Instructor Rx: Vocal & Body Prep & Repair

Saturday, December 28 2019

Eavesdrop on a conversation of seasoned fitness instructors and you will hear plenty of stories regarding strains, sprains, stresses, syndromes, injuries, pulls and more.  The body and the throat take a lot of abuse from physical and vocal overuse.  Chris LaCour shares some stretches and vocal exercises that can be done before and after a class to prepare and repair the body and the vocal cords. 

An actor and vocal coach by trade, Chris was unprepared for the rigors of instructing water exercise on deck when his wife Jenni Lynn Patterson LaCour recruited him into teaching after he had been attending her classes for years.  After a few pulls, strains and some miserable days with back soreness, Chris discovered the importance of targeted stretching before a class to prevent problems stemming from muscle tightness.  He also adopted a regimen of nightly stretches before bedtime to relax and repair his overused muscles. 

Understanding what muscles require the most stretching involves an intuitive approach that honors your body and your personal history of strains and injuries.  If you have experienced numerous strains to your hamstring, then you obviously need to give extra attention to that muscle group.  If like Chris, you experience chronic back soreness, then you need to pay attention to your lower back, hips and glutes.  Appropriate stretching also requires attention to muscles that get overused when demonstrating exercises on deck.  Below are some muscles you may want to give extra attention to when stretching before and after a class.

Iliopsoas (Hip flexors) and Quadriceps
Arguably the most overused muscle in the body, the hip flexors and quads and involved in walking, running, stair climbing, sitting, standing and much more.  Instructing aquatic exercise from deck requires lots of knee lifts, kicks, skis, simulated tucks and more, all emanating and powered by the hip flexors.  Tight hip flexors can lead to pain, inflammation and potentially contribute to other conditions such as tendinitis, IT Band Syndrome and more. 

Tight hamstrings are not only vulnerable to pulls and strains, but they are also one of the biggest contributors to sciatica and lower back pain.  Tight hamstrings plague both athletes and couch potatoes because the causes stem from both overuse and excessive sitting. 

One of the most common problems that instructors deal with is pain and injury involving the feet. Aquatic fitness instructors often demo impact on deck with plantar flexion, raising the heels repeatedly to mimic weight shifting.  This obviously overworks the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. Tight calves are one of the biggest contributors to foot problems, such as plantar fasciitis (heel pain), bunions, flat feet, tendinitis, inflammation and more.  Keeping the calf muscles flexible is essential to the structure of the ankle, the foot and even the knee. 

Anterior Deltoids and Pectoralis
Fitness instructors spend hours lifting their arms into the downward pull of gravity and thus overusing the shoulders and chest. Life also ages us into flexion as we spend much of our time with shoulders forward - typing, texting, driving, pushing, reaching and more.  These activities pull us into poor posture, tightening the anterior muscles of the upper body and leading to injuries down the road.  

These are just a few of the more important muscles to focus on.   However, a regimen that stretches all of the major muscles groups is best. 

As a vocal instructor for 15 years, Chris entered the world of fitness instruction keenly aware of the need to prepare and protect his voice.   He equates teaching a couple of classes to singing in a cabaret all night.  Watch Chris explain the importance of vocal care.

Aside from the vocal exercises that Chris demonstrates before and after a class, he also provided some advice regarding what you consume before a class and the difference it makes in how hard your voice will need to work.  Here are some good and bad options:

Things to AVOID for optimum vocal health:

- Caffeine
- Milk/Dairy
Cold/Icy Drinks
Sugary Drinks
Too much Citrus

Things to CONSUME for optimum vocal health:

- Herbal Teas
- Warm Water (add a little lemon and/or honey)

Chris also suggests lozenges.  “There are some great throat lozenge options that contain slippery elm, which help with keeping the throat naturally coated and helpful to endure for long classes,” he says. 

Fitmotivation extends a big THANK YOU to Chris LaCour for returning to Florida and filming more videos. Check out some of Chris's other videos and stay tuned for Xtreme Aqua 2 posting next month. 


Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.