The Dancer Athlete
Dance – your body is in motion. Feel your muscles working together to bring a piece of music to life visually. As soon as you begin to move, your body relies upon how well you have prepared. All of your training, technique, individual talent and passion are working in synchronicity to communicate a message. Dancers are not just artists. They are athletes.
How well do you prepare your body for your sport? Strength training, proper nutrition, and well-practiced recovery techniques can hugely impact your performance. As the dance industry progresses and performance becomes more demanding on the body, it is imperative that the dancer athlete has a good foundation for strength, flexibility, nutrition, rest and recovery. The primary cause of injuries among young athletes is overuse. These injuries occur over a long period of time and are due to the body not being able to recover properly and appropriate rest is not being facilitated.
Strength training is beneficial because it helps prepare the body for movement and reduces the risk for injury. It increases power in movement, facilitates body control and can help the dancer make more of a statement on stage. Strength training stabilizes the joints and reduces the risk for injury because the body is better equipped to withstand the impact and demand of dance.
Nutrition works with strength and conditioning to help keep the body healthy, provide energy and help repair the body from a cellular level. Nutrition is one of the best recovery tools any athlete can have. Nutrition is simple when we think of its benefits for the body. Our body requires 3 main things – Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins. These are macronutrients and essential for proper body function. It is important that meals are well balanced and colorful. The more color your meal has, the more vitamins your body will get from your food.
Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source for energy. They are not the enemy! Carbohydrates are generally plant based and include way more than pasta and bread. The best carbohydrate sources come in the same state you can find them in nature. Take an apple for example. You can pick it from a tree. Fruits and vegetables are the best, most nutrient packed carbohydrate sources.
Fats are excellent for our skin, hair and nails. They also help provide energy, regulate hormones and reduce inflammation (which helps recovery), when consumed properly. Fats are preferred to come from things such as nuts, avocados, cold water fish and some oils. Protein is considered the building blocks of muscle. It is necessary for tissue repair. Lean meats, plat proteins such as quinoa, and supplementation can help the body maintain its muscle structure.
Rest and recovery are necessary, because it is how we heal. Ice is a great tool to help reduce swelling and inflammation and it can help accelerate recovery after a long day of rehearsal or performance. Sleep is vital because it allows our body (on the outside) to be still. While we are sleeping, our internal systems are hard at work to repair any damage that was done during the time we were awake. If we do not get appropriate amounts of sleep, our hormones can become irregular, we become more susceptible to injury, and we cannot facilitate fat loss. Rest does not only include sleep. It includes time off as well. Every sport should have an off season where the focus is on strengthening the body to prepare for the demands of the upcoming season. The body of a dancer athlete is a representation of strength, power and beautiful artistry. The dancer athlete should be able to dance through life and enjoy the mental, emotional and physical benefits of dance. In order to lengthen the career of a dancer, the body must be taken care of. Remember, dance is a sport and the dancer is an athlete.
Dancer Athlete Method was founded by dance educator and former professional dancer Krystina Alexis Nelson and Master Trainer Marie Merritt. For more about injury prevention, nutrition and recovery to enhance your dance, contact us at GetDAMethod@yahoo.com
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