“Sitting for long periods of time — when you don’t stand up, don’t move at all — tends to cause changes physiologically within your muscles. You stop breaking up fat in your bloodstream, you start getting accumulations of fat … in your liver, your heart and your brain. You get sleepy. You gain weight. You basically are much less healthy than if you’re moving.”
– Gretchen Reynolds, author of The First 20 Minutes
As, I tweeted a while back, almost every teacher and coach (including me) talks too much. We should all talk a lot less and let our students get more reps in class. If possible, we should give them a chance to try it again immediately after getting a negative note. If your students can keep track of how many scenes they have improvised in your class, you have failed as a teacher.
Research on the effects of cardio vascular health on neurobiology seems pretty clear. The fitter you are > the fitter your brain will be > the better you will be at learning and the better you will be at the kind of executive functions that make good improvisors. So get your ass out there and exercise every day.
Exercise also has immediate short term benefits in learning environments, which means I’ll be starting rehearsals that I coach with active warmups that get people moving and their heart rates up. Be ready for it.
Keep things simple and focused. Work one muscle at a time in rehearsal. Repeat exercises from rehearsal to rehearsal or class to class. A student must practice a given skill many times for it to become second nature and useful on stage.
Also, you can’t really practice two things at once and certainly not three. Let students practice something over and over and until it becomes at least partially unconscious, before you add other layers on top of it.
Let students practice things slowly. Too often we are pushing people to do things fast before they have succeeded in doing them slow. In fact, force them to go far slower than they are used to sometimes. Then speed them up. Then slow them back down again.
For the first time in my life, I’m doing movement/physical theater classes. It’s silly and ridiculous and queer, but it’s also fun and playful and ultimately quite useful. I recommend it.