As I mentioned before, I've been using my time off this summer to rehab from a hand injury I suffered last February. Until now this has meant taking it easy playing-wise. I've played this summer but not nearly as much as I do during the season. I even took three weeks completely off from playing. I can't remember the last time I took that long of a break. I'm sure it was more than 10 years ago. It was refreshing.
I recently received the symphony schedule for next season. I started to panic a little bit when I looked over the month of September. This September the KSO schedule is crazier than any I have been around for. Don't get me wrong - it's great to be busy! I'm nervous because right now my hand is working really well. I'm pain free and I want to keep it that way. Going back to a rigorous schedule like we have in September could be disastrous without careful preparation.
To get ready for the upcoming season, I've switched back to the viola (from violin) and have started to systematically increase the length of my practice sessions. It's similar to a couch to 5K approach. Right now I'm playing for a little over an hour a day. By the time the season starts I should be back to playing roughly four hours a day - two in the morning and two in the afternoon. On days that we have two rehearsals (aka a double) this is approximately what is required of us.
In my quest to come back strong and healthy, I have found the work of Janet Horvath invaluable. She is the Associate Principal Cellist of the Minnesota Orchestra. She has written a book for musicians called Playing (Less) Hurt and has an extremely informative website. I encourage anyone with even a twinge of playing-related pain to investigate her site.