A tempo run is a set distance run at a fast sustained pace. An example would be 7 miles overall, with 5 miles run at a 7:24 pace (the first and last mile are slower, to warm up and cool down). Again, the tempo workout alternates with the speed workout (opposite the long run), and increases in distance while also quickening the pace as the race date approaches. The tempo run is a particularly important workout because the long run is usually not run as fast as race pace. Instead, the long-run is geared toward getting the body accustomed to running long distances, while the tempo run is geared toward sustaining a quicker pace for long periods.
Easy runs are low intensity workouts, designed to allow the body to recover from strenuous workouts and accumulative fatigue. Many runners run as few as four or five days a week, thus two or three of the weekly runs will be easy runs. These should not be mindless “junk miles,” though. Easy workouts are great opportunities to monitor running form, stretch out sore muscles, and reconnect with the pure enjoyment and/or therapeutic nature of running.
These days are scheduled periods and should be treated as intentional and important parts of the training plan. Rest can mean complete rest, or other physical activities that refresh and rebalance the body. Activities like weight-lifting, yoga, and swimming are favorites, because they don’t emphasize the same muscle groups in the way that cycling or hiking may. Rest days may also be opportunities to undertake activities that refresh the mind and recapture high levels of inspiration. To offset the intensity of the training plan, rest days should feel rewarding and fun.
Musicians likely practice multiple times every single day, so what follows are general ideas for how they might build more variety into their musical training. Each individual can tailor these principles to their specific repertoire and practicing styles, and set clear goals for their practice sessions.
STAMINA (Long Run)
Set aside certain practice sessions to go longer, have fewer breaks, and/or choose more physically taxing pieces/exercises. For example, try playing continuous scales, repeat Piatti Caprice no. 1 (for the bow arm), emphasize double stops or fast runs (for the left hand).
TECHNIQUE (Speed Workouts)
Choose difficult passages, shifts, spots with difficult coordination between the hands, or bowstrokes/articulations to focus on intensely during these workouts. Like a track workout, be mentally prepared to undergo many repetitions. Be sure to warm up and cool down, rather than diving right in—use these times (as always) to check-in on the “general health” of your technique.
EXPRESSION (Tempo Run)
Whereas technical practice focuses on specific motions and isolated moments of difficulty, this type of playing builds the expression across phrases, longer passages, and entire movements. Simulate performance tempos and projection. Play with full effort and expression, focusing on vibrato, tone colors, and timing through transitions. These are intense sessions, so avoid playing through carelessly–focus intently and repeat passages until they are expressed exactly the way you wish. Avoid going on after one successful attempt—repeat good playing, in order to program it into your muscle memory.
Choose activities that foster creativity and provide inspiration. Do something musical, away from the cello: listen to recordings, attend concerts, or study scores. View other types of art (film, literature, painting, sculpture, dance, etc). Take care of your body: hit the gym, play a sport, study a martial art, or take yoga. Rest or do something calming: spend time with your family, enjoy a conversation with a friend, meditate, or practice your religion. Focus on your overall wellness during this “cross-training” time, so that you return to the cello and your repertoire feeling motivated and fresh.
Reward yourself by reviewing old favorites or considering playing through the upcoming repertoire, perhaps under tempo. The goal is to feel good physically and mentally while playing. Be fluid and a enjoy playing—there is more hard work to come!