Approaching Muscle Tension and Some of The Best Advice I've Ever Gotten
October 1, 2015
I've been thinking about writing this post for a couple weeks now and trying to make sure that I construct it the way that I want to, because it's around one of the direct intersections of running and drumming and the effect on both is significant. Both activities involve repetitive movements of the arms and legs that are can cause some strain on odd parts of the body. The impact that legs absorb in running can be pretty monstrous as mileage starts clicking up and the seated, up and down leg movements of drumming are fairly unnatural. These can lead to muscle tension, particularly in the legs.
My outer calves get really tight from the way that I play drums and I've noticed it affecting my running stride at times when I don't deal with it. I've had running affect everything from my knees, to my ankles, to my hamstrings at different times of my life though. Oddly enough, drumming has helped to rehab some of my running problems in my knees and hamstrings and running has released tension from drumming.
Being able to have super low impact, but repetitive movements in my legs has helped me to get muscles warmed up, stretched out, and strengthened in a way that got me back out running in an easier and more enjoyable way than just foam rolling and icing. By the same token, running has helped to release tension built up in my calves from drumming through the same process of warming the affected muscles up and working them in a way that allows them to stretch out without being strained further.
If you're having tension problems, I can't recommend foam rolling enough. It's usually relatively cheap to find a foam roller and the benefits are invaluable. If you're a drummer that's not as much into the running side of things, I would suggest a) give it a shot! and b) get after those problem spots, like the outer calf, with a golf ball - especially if you play your pedals heel up. The golf ball helps to keep you from tightening up your hands and arms while you loosen up your legs and for that advice I have to thank Jeremy Thomas.
All of this also ties back into DRUM! magazine where I read, years ago, that one should "warm up to drum, not drum to warm up" and that has changed my approach to drumming ever since, which in turn has changed my approach to fitness. In line with that, I have an upcoming post that builds on that idea of linking running and drumming and digs into the accessibility of running for anyone.