As dancers, our body is our instrument. We go through tough rigorous classes and often forget to take care of and listen to our bodies. We need to think of our bodies like an expensive piano or saxophone, and take the upmost care of them. Every dancer's body is different and needs special attention and needs. I’m going to go over a few things that I find are helpful but wont pertain to every dancer.
Our bodies need fuel to meet the expectations of what we are asking them to do. As dancer’s our diet should be about 55-60% carbohydrate, 12-15% protein, and 20-30% fat.
Carbohydrate: During heavy training and rehearsals we should increase our amount of carbohydrate to about 65%. Dancer’s should try to eat before and after dance. During long training hours and rehearsals small carbohydrate snacks should be had during breaks. I highly recommend complex carbohydrates such as: bagels, cereal, bread, english muffins, pasta, and rice rather than simple sugars. The estimated carbohydrate need is 6-10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight. Carbohydrates provide energy for brain function, nerve cells, muscle/tissues, and cell production.
Protein: Is the building block for bone, teeth, and cells. Protein helps in wound healing, material for ligaments, tendons, and organs. A good rule of thumb for dancers is to always eat protein after dancing. Sufficient protein ingestion is essential for dancers who are training. Protein is needed to repair the breakdown of muscle fibers that are in regularly used. We need about 0.5-0.7 grams of protein for each pound we way. A 140 pound person needs 50 g of protein but active or injured people may need more.
Water: We should be drinking 1 glass of water before we dance, 1-2 while dancing, and at least 1 glass after dancing. While dancing we increase our heat production by muscles. If we do not drink enough liquid it will result in dehydration that can weaken performance and mental functioning and make it difficult to pick up complicated choreography.
I always think its a good idea to take a few moments before class or a night of classes to check in and see where your body is at that point in time. Take just a few minutes laying down (or in the car on your way to dance) close your eyes and really listen to your body. While you are laying there listening to your body make a few goals for each class that day. If your body is very tired and sore make it a goal to focus on performance from the minute you walk into the classroom. If your body feels good and well rested make it a goal to really work on corrections given the class before. Always do cardio before doing any movement and make sure your muscles are warm before dancing.
Taking care of our bodies after class often gets overlooked. After a dance class or night of classes I highly recommend a cool down. Cooling down after class will help your muscles feel better the next day. If the last class of the night does not offer a cool down I recommend creating your own. Do a combinations of stretches including: calves, quads and thighs, hamstrings, and second position. The best time to do heavy stretching is at the end of class or night of classes when the muscles are the warmest. Put your warm ups on and wrap up warm as soon as you finish dancing. Its always tempting to drive home with the windows down to cool off because you feel so hot, however you will give yourself cramps and probably a cold. Be sure to drink plenty of water after class and eat protein when you get home.
For must of us classes have just started back up again! This is a very excited and fun time of year. Follow these simple steps to make sure each dancers has the best health and instrument possible!