As a dancer, you need to respect your body by being dancesafe and practicing safe dance practice at all times.
Believe it or not, dancing is great for your body and dancers tend to live long lives in superb health. They seem to maintain their strength, suppleness and good posture well into old age.
Let’s look at Margot Fonteyn for instance who danced professionally well into her sixties or Frederic Franklin who performed with the American Ballet Theater when he was ninety.
But dancers, just like all elite athletes need to look after their bodies in order to perform at their best and avoid injury.
How To Remain Dancesafe
Luckily most qualified teachers and professional companies know more now than ever before about safely training the dancer’s body so that it performs at its best.
Knowing about your own joints and muscles and being able to heed their warnings is the crucial first line of defense against overuse injuries along with making sure you have the proper footwear and are dancing on sensible floors.
Even though this is all common sense, it is easy to let things slide, especially when there are many demands on your time.
It is tempting to confuse hard work, discipline and occasional discomfort entailed in ballet with unhealthy patterns of thought and behavior.
You won’t be able to dance if you discipline yourself into illness or injury.
Being dancesafe includes:
- working on decent sprung floors or floors that have ‘give’ in them to protect the dancer’s bones and knees.
- training the correct muscles in the correct alignment to avoid long term injuries.
- avoiding risky behavior that shortens a dancer’s career. This includes doing steps and tricks before a dancer is physically ready for them.
- getting enough rest in between dance classes and rehearsals and maintaining a consistent schedule.
- last but not least practicing good nutrition.
Let’s look at nutrition in the quest to being dancesafe, as this is something that many dancers don’t think is that important.
Being Nutritionally Dancesafe
Whatever body shape or type that you have, your dancing will improve if you are strong and lean. You also have to learn not to stint on nutrition, as real, vibrant long-term health relies on what you put into your body.
Food is more than just fuel, it is the construction material with which your body builds and repairs itself.
High-level athletic performance requires first-rate nutrition as you need the energy. You may feel that you are surviving quite well on a diet of junk food, but it will catch up with you. You will also feel so much better when you eat wisely.
Strive to get a good balance of fresh, non-processed foods that are free of additives, and organic where possible.
Rather than count calories, make your calories count. For instance, an orange and a soda both provide sugar for energy, but the orange is full of vitamin C while the soda is virtually nutrient-free.
Also, make sure that as a dancer you are eating enough. Insufficient calorie intake reduces muscle strength, endurance, speed, and coordination. You increase your risk of injury and prolong recovery after an injury.
Low blood sugar impairs your concentration, decision-making and mood. You will feel more angry, anxious, irritable and even depressed. Ultimately your health and your performance will suffer.
How To Eat Well
We also require water, fiber, and our vitamins and minerals. Don’t rely on your supplements to get all your micronutrients because our bodies absorb nutrients much more efficiently and fully from real whole foods.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are the best sources for many crucial micronutrients, and they are low in calories and high in fiber. As a dancer make sure you are getting enough carbohydrates and lean protein into your diet. This includes whole grains and cereals, brown rice, meat, poultry, dairy, legumes, and nuts.
Diet don’ts include:
- fad diets
- eating extremes of any kind
- refined and processed foods
- food grown with pesticides, antibiotics or hormones
- junk food
- excessive caffeine
- sodas – both regular and diet
The Secret Nutrient: Water
Hydration is also part of keeping our bodies well-nourished. All the body’s systems require enough water to function properly.
Because dancers and other athletes lose water through perspiration, it’s especially important to stay hydrated. No one can tell you exactly how much water your body needs because it varies from day to day, but every dancer should have access to water at all times.
If your urine is dark yellow rather than clear of light yellow, this could indicate dehydration, so make a water bottle part of your regular dance kit.
There are a million reasons why you shouldn’t be smoking and the top ones are cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. As a dancer, you need to have lung capacity which will be reduced if you are a smoker.
Other reasons not to smoke include smelly hair, unhealthy skin, weak finger, and toenails. So if you want to dance to your full potential, its simple, don’t smoke.
Well, there you have it in a nutshell. I believe everything in moderation, and if you stick to the 80/20 percent rule you should be ok. So if you need the occasional treat make sure that it is less than 20 percent of the time, and 80 percent of the time you should be eating healthily.