Last March, I ran my first ever marathon. Before I started training, I had never successfully run more than two miles. I began in November with Team in Training (a group that specializes in marathon preparation, and helps raise money for charity). We met once a week for a long run and were told to run four other days a week.
The task of running a marathon seemed so insurmountable that I became completely dedicated to doing all I was supposed to do: four extra weekly runs by myself; stretches before and after each run; and foam rolling. When the day of the marathon came, I felt more than prepared and although it was a lot of effort, I had done the necessary homework and finished pretty easily.
This year I am running the same Los Angeles marathon.
I began training in November with the same group as last year. At the start of this season, my coach said, “This one will be easier because your body has already been through this once already”. A few weeks into the season, I lost my sense of discipline and began only running twice a week by myself…stretching only happened after longer runs…I gave my foam roller to a friend…and I was traveling and missed two of the long group runs…. Soon, I had to run 20 miles and – you guessed it – it was hard, I was unprepared and I paid the price.
While I was icing my hip -- I suddenly thought about how this kind of thing happens for actors learning new dialects, too.
There can be an assumption that once you learn a dialect then it is yours for life. However, in order to maintain an accurate accent that you can truly integrate into a performance you must continue to put in the work.
Speaking is a muscular act and your mouth can become "out of shape", like what happened with me and my running. Each accent you speak in requires you to use your muscles in a specific way. When you don't use an accent regularly it can get as rusty as my hip did and can fail you when you need it for an important audition.
Is there an accent on your resume that you haven't worked on recently?
Here's what you can do to make sure it will be there when you need it:
· Check-in with yourself regularly that your muscles still cooperate.
· Feel the oral posture.
· Try to really communicate through the accent.
· Run it by someone who knows the accent at a native level.
· Use it on your favourite monologue.
· Keep working until it is second nature again.
My hip injury was the wake-up call I needed to get back in shape in time for the marathon. I have committed to my daily practices and in the last several weeks, I am feeling the benefits. While it is always hard to schedule the time and make myself practice, because I have made the extra effort with my training, I know I will be able to give my best performance at the LA marathon. I encourage you to schedule a little extra time to work on your accents, so that you can feel as secure with them whenever you may need them.