Friday, 20 March 2009

Voice Care for Coaches

by: Catherine Franz

Coaches rely heavily on their voice to service clients. 
If you also give teleclasses or workshops, voice 
maintenance needs to be one of their top self-care 
priorities. This information also applies to singers, 
speakers, or sales professionals. 

During flu and cold season, vocal cords become highly 
sensitized and need as much care as a valuable 
instrument. Think of your voice, and we should, as an 
expensive, rare violin. If you were going to play the 
violin the next day -- same relation as having a 
speaking engagement or a full day of coaching -- you 
wouldn't expose that violin to a night in a smoke 
filled room, lay cigars or pour alcohol all over it and 
expect it not to suffer from the abuse the next day. 

Antibiotics don't help viral infections or laryngitis 
-- a common result from a viral infection caused from a 
cold or flu. Recently, I suffered got the flu and 
suffered from a severe case of laryngitis. I had to 
cancel a teleclass, lose a week of work, and almost a 
paid speaking engagement. The more I self-treated 
through media knowledge or recommendations, the worse 
the laryngitis got. 

It took over 20 days before I improved and then two 
weeks later, it returned. After great frustration, I 
finally visited my ear, nose, and throat specialist, 
only to learn that everything I was trying was actually 
contributing the extended suffering. Let me pass along 
some of my learning so you don't need to go through 
this. Like me, some of it will surprise you. 

Food and Beverages 

Warm or hot beverages work best. Cold beverages with 
ice produces the voice center to spasm generating 
coughing that results in laryngitis. Stick to drinking 
room temperature water. 

Black Currant Pastilles, which are glycerin-containing 
lozenges for adults, keeps the throat moist. Pastilles 
are perfect to take before, during, and after flying or 
traveling from one temperature extreme to another, say 
New York to Florida in winter. It is good to have 
these on hand since they are difficult to find. Many 
professional singers use Black Currant Pastilles 24 
hours before their performance. 

Avoid anything with mint or menthol. 

Throat Coat® Tea, designed specifically for voice 
professionals, is rated higher than Pastilles. The tea 
contains licorice root, which is widely used to enhance 
throat and upper respiratory tract health. Any 
beverage that affects your stomachs acid level, like 
caffeine, will also affect your vocal cords. Caffeine 
is a mild diuretic and dries the throat and vocal 
cords. Coffee, including decaf, due to its natural 
oils causes acidic results that cause vocal damage. 
This includes chocolate. If you suffer from acid 
reflux disease, you need to take extra care of your 
voice since it cause permanent damage. Sodas also 
cause acid reflux and damages vocal cords. 

With a cold or flu, we usually drink orange juice. 
This acidic beverage actually lengthens laryngitis. So 
does the amount of lemon you use in water. A tiny bit 
of lemon in warm water with a small amount of honey is 
a great elixir that actually smoothes the vocal cords. 

Dairy increases throat mucus for some people. If after 
you drink milk, you feel even a little mucus in your 
throat, you probably have a very mild milk allergy. 
This will affect your vocal health and can length 
laryngitis. Nuts have the same allergy affect. 

Common Causes of Voice Strain 

It’s common knowledge that shouting, screaming, and 
excessive talking strains voice cords. But, did you 
know that whispering, coughing, loud sneezing, crying, 
laughing, and throat clearing could do the same damage? 

Emotional or environmental stress also causes voice 
strain. Especially major changes like separation/ 
divorce, new job, kids going off to college, grieving, 
not enough sleep, moving, and even hormonal changes in 
adolescents or maturing adults. If you add any of 
these with the need for a quality voice, you will need 
to take extra care in order not to bruise or damage 
your throat center or vocal cords. 

Voice Maintenance 

When experiencing laryngitis, limit unnecessary 
talking, and pause frequently to swallow and remoisten 
your throat, even during speaking engagements. 
Relaxation techniques, like yoga always help, yet 
conscious aware of your posture and breathing during 
speaking can save or further bruise voice projection 
especially if your voice is weak from a cold. 

One of my favorite exercises that I do every morning or 
while driving to a speaking engagement is a vowel 
review. Stretch your neck comfortable upwards and 
recite the vowels -- a, e, i, o, u. Let your vowel 
trail off after each one especially the "u." If 
experiencing laryngitis avoid whispering. Whispering 
actually stresses vocal cords reducing recovery 
significantly. If you smoke or visit smoke-filled 
rooms, triple your maintenance plan, smoke is very 

If you lose your voice, you will require additional 
rest time over a 4-7 day period. This means limiting 
your voice to 15 minutes a day. Looking on the bright 
side, listening skills will definitely improve. Keep 
phone calls brief; avoid all non-speech voice use, 
including throat clearing, coughing, and sneezing or 
any odd sound effects. Snoring also doubles strain. 


Even though they give brief relief, throat sprays and 
medicated lozenges dry the throat and extend recovery. 
If used for an emergency, you must follow with extreme 

Herbs can also cause side effects. You will want to 
discuss their use with your doctor or herb 
practitioner. Herbs like barberry reduce inflammation 
and infection caused from respiratory infections, but 
can also cause an allergic reaction especially if 
already using another remedy. Herbs like eucalyptus, 
German chamomile, goldenrod, goldenseal, licorice, 
marshmallow, peppermint, saw palmetto, or slippery elm 
are remedies for vocal cord inflections. Adding garlic 
and ginger to your foods also reduce cold symptoms 
including sore throat and don't need professional 

Support Team 

If your voice is vital to your income, you will want to 
have an ear, nose, and throat physician familiar with 
your medical history and working with singers. With an 
ongoing relationship, it’s easier for them to provide 
advice when out of the area. 

Last year, while experiencing a mild case of 
laryngitis, I saw my doctor before I left for a 
speaking engagement but I didn't know to mentioned I 
was traveling to a high elevation. By the time I 
checked in at the hotel, I was in bad shape. An 
emergency call and I was armed with new instructions. 
The next morning I was fine. Did you know that most 
taxi companies will pick up and deliver called-in 
prescriptions usually at the same rate as a cab ride? 

(c) Copyright 2005, Catherine Franz. All rights 

About the author:
Catherine Franz, a eight-year Certified Professional 
Coach, Graduate of Coach University, Mastery 
University, editor of three ezines, columnist, author 
of thousands of articles website:

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