You might wonder what going to the gym has to do with horn playing but, at least in my case, a whole lot. I’ve struggled with keeping my weight in check most of my life. There was one year, 1980, when I was actually too skinny. That didn’t last long. The rest of the time I’ve had to work on keeping the excess weight off.
My most recent big weight loss began in the fall of 2005 when I retired from work. I had gained a ton (well not really a ton) of weight during my last year at work. I retired because I came down with fibromyalgia in 2004 and that stopped me from exercising so everything I ate just stuck on my body. I was probably eating poorly as well though if you asked me that I would deny that this was the case. I set out to get the weight off beginning in early 2006 and lost 85 pounds during 2006 – 2007. I did this by limiting calories, eating healthy food, and exercising every day.
When I started playing the horn again I was in great shape. I was riding my bicycle between 20 and 30 miles daily, weather permitting, or working out in my gym in my house and, for once in my life, reasonably happy with my weight. Fast forward to the fall of 2010 when I went back to school. I was at school all day, four days a week, and I started eating junk food lots of the time because that was what was easy to grab in between classes. I also got a lot less exercise. With classes during the day and homework at night I exercised less and less and by the spring of 2011 I had gained the ‘freshman 15.’
At this point my sloth-like behavior hadn’t hurt my horn playing. I played ‘off the leg’ and could easily play standing up for long lengths of time. During the summer of 2011 I tried to take off the 15 pounds but that didn’t happen. My plan was to take it off by exercising more but the summer on the east coast was extremely hot and I rarely got out to ride. I also didn’t go back to my healthy food diet. Once I started eating junk food it was very hard to stop eating junk food. I realize that the heat and junk food are merely excuses and I just didn’t have the necessary motivation to lose the weight.
During the fall of 2011 I started to see the impact that the lack of exercise and the weight gain had on me when playing the horn. Playing standing up got more and more difficult. But what really worried me was that I was running out of breath. I was working on Malcomb Arnold’s Fantasy for Horn for my December jury exam and I was getting completely exhausted trying to play it. I needed to take extended breaks at the end of every phrase. In fact, anything fast just wiped me out.
The weight gain continued to spiral out of control as I kept eating junk and I couldn’t exercise because I had knee surgery in October. I couldn’t play standing up for more than 10 minutes and by January 2012 I started playing with my horn resting on my leg again. I made this change for sound quality but quickly realized that it was less exhausting as well. Now playing standing up got even harder because the horn was heavier when I wasn’t resting it on my leg.
By March I had gained another 15 pounds and I finally got motivated to get the weight off. I realized that the impact the extra weight had on my horn playing was unacceptable, never mind all the clothes in my closet that didn’t fit. Between March and the middle of June I lost 15 pounds by following the Nutrisystem food plan but I still didn’t get back to exercising. Then I went on vacation and got shingles and gained back 3 pounds. Thank goodness it was only 3 pounds. At this point in time I’m still following Nutrisystem but I haven’t started exercising and I haven’t seen much positive effect yet on my horn playing. There are 6 weeks left before school starts. I’ve got the food under control but I have to start exercising. I don’t think I’m going to see a positive effect on playing my horn unless I exercise. My goal is to exercise for at least 30 minutes every day and to lose a pound a week. I’d like to get back to where I was before I started school by my birthday in November.