Back to Dance: 6 Ways To Stay Healthy During the Summer Season
By: Katherine Mann, Founding Director & Choreographer
Here we are! Back again to begin another production of Exhalations Dance Theatre! The beginning of summer rehearsal season is probably my favorite time of the whole year. Not only do we get to see all of the friends we have missed for the last few months, but we are also able to start working on some amazing new choreography during the warm weather. (I absolutely abhor the cold.) Summer also seems to have a much more leisurely pace about it regarding rehearsals and overall time availability.
Getting back into the swing of things, though fun, isn’t always easy. Especially for those of us who don’t take class daily or even dance on a regular basis during the off season.
Though not an expert by any means, between being a medical professional and dancing for many years I believe I have developed some good habits that I (try my best to) follow as I am getting back into our strenuous rehearsal hours!
1. Warm up. ALWAYS.
This is the most important piece of information on this list! I unfortunately learned this one the hard way last season! I had allowed myself to become cold during a rehearsal and tore my hamstring. (It hurt. A lot.) Even though we are currently in the midst of summer it is important to always bring enough layers of clothing to the studio, and to always warm yourself up and stretch out as much as possible before a rehearsal. Sometimes we are running late to rehearsals and just jump in; even in these cases it is OK TO MARK until you feel warm enough to dance full out. I promise it is not worth the injury.
2. Hydrate and Such
I know you know. We all know. But sometimes we forget. According to the leading medical research you are supposed to drink 8 oz of water for every 15 minutes of heavy exercise. Just trying to inform you. The more you know…
3. What Pain? Take Care of Your Body
Make sure you are actually doing what your body needs following a rehearsal. Is one muscle starting to become sore? Use a foam roller to roll out some of the lactic acid before you really feel it tomorrow. Are your shins aching? Maybe an epsom salt bath would be the answer. Sometimes we are so busy we feel we don’t have time to pay attention to whatever pain is currently occurring in our body. If we take care of it early it will help us to recover faster, prevent injuries, and get back in shape quicker.
As always; during and after rehearsal you should be paying attention to your body for ANY signs of unnatural pain. If you feel that you are developing an injury take care of it ASAP with a medical professional if one is available to you.
4. Don’t Eat Junk
Yes, this might make me a hypocrite for writing this. I am notoriously bad about eating junk food before rehearsal. It is important on rehearsal days to make sure your body is getting enough protein and complex carbohydrates.
You should also always be intaking potassium daily, but this is especially important on rehearsal days when you know you will be or notice you are sweating.
(If you don’t like bananas there are many other foods that have potassium: yogurt, watermelon, and potatoes are just a couple of your other options!) This will help with muscle fatigue and cramping.
Supplements are also very important for a dancer’s comprehensive health. Everyone should take a multi-vitamin each day, and most women are in need of a calcium + vitamin D supplement as well for overall health and strength.
5. Do Other Stuff (i.e. Cross-Training)
Besides taking other dance and technique classes to stay in shape and prepare for the season, it is also very important to cross-train. Our shows, and most dance productions, are becoming increasingly athletic.
Just attending rehearsal will not give you the stamina you need to perform at an acceptable level. Running, cycling, and swimming are all great ways for dancers build endurance, while yoga and pilates are great for creating strength and flexibility. As long as dancers are smart and don’t push themselves too hard in other athletic disciplines, they will be able to enjoy successful cross-training.
6. It’s All In Your Head
Review choreography and corrections!
I don’t know about you, but since I’m not in class for hours a day anymore I have a difficult time with my memory.
Before rehearsals I find it helpful to review my choreography a day or two prior, and I also do my best to write down any corrections I’m given in a rehearsal or class so I can remember for the next time. In the digital age it is much easier to do this in the notes app or Evernote on your phone rather than carrying around a cumbersome pad of paper etc.
Attending classes and learning choreography is the best way to learn more choreography and to pick it up faster, but I find writing things down is always helpful no matter what profession or activity you are working in.
I hope you find some of these things helpful as you are returning to rehearsals or intensives this summer! I would love to hear comments or tips on the things you do to get back in shape for rehearsal season!