Highland Dance Wellness
Anyone who has seen highland dancers practice their craft can attest to the fact that it can be hard on the body.
During competition, performance, classes, practicing, and other training, dancers exert a lot of energy as they push their bodies to the max. Maintaining physical wellness is essential for preventing injuries, optimizing performance, and keeping dancers in the sport longer.
Your Guide to Post-Dance Recovery
Luckily for you, we’ve been in the game for a while and seen a thing or two.
This post is all about how dancers can protect their bodies before, during, and after dancing.
Disclaimer: the author of this post is not a doctor.
I don’t even know first aid. But I’ve seen many lost toenails and MANY rolls of athletic tape come and go throughout my time as a dancer and instructor.
Starting From the Top: Warming Up For Dance Effectively
When you’re six years old, and your dance teacher makes you do a warm up at the beginning of class, it can sometimes feel like a waste of time.
As you get older, though, it becomes increasingly apparent how important an effective warm up is. Not only does warming up prepare your body to perform at its best, it is a vital step in staying healthy.
Elements of a Good Dance Warm-Up
Light cardio: Begin your warm-up with a few minutes of cardio exercises like jogging in place, jumping jacks, or select movements such as shedding. This increases your heart rate, warms up your muscles, and improves blood circulation.
Joint mobilization: Perform gentle movements to mobilize your joints. Rotate your ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows, and shoulders in circular motions. This helps lubricate the joints and increases their range of motion.
Dynamic stretches: Also known as active stretching, dynamic stretching incorporates small, smooth movements and without bouncing, focusing on gradually increasing the range of motion.
Limbering exercises: Engage in exercises that target specific muscle groups, such as leg swings to warm up your legs or shoulder rolls to warm up your upper body. These exercises help activate and prepare the muscles for dancing.
How To Protect Your Body While Dancing
Whether it’s your weekly dance class, or a major competition, there are steps you can take during dance to promote physical wellness.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and support muscle recovery.
- Fuel your body with a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Adequate nutrition supports muscle repair and overall recovery. For a lot of dancers, having snacks on hand is essential to keeping energy high.
How to Cool Down After Dancing
Cooling down after a dance class is just as important as warming up. It allows your body to gradually return to its normal state and promotes recovery.
Static stretching: Perform static (non-moving) stretches to lengthen and relax the muscles that you worked during the dance class. Focus on all major muscle groups, including the legs, hips, back, and arms. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds and breathe deeply. This promotes flexibility and prevents muscle tightness.
Rolling: Use a foam roller, stick roller, or your hands to perform gentle massage on any tight or sore muscles. Roll over the muscles slowly and evenly to help release tension and improve circulation. Pay attention to areas that may have been particularly stressed during the dance class, such as the calves and thighs.
Hydration: Remember to drink water and rehydrate your body after dancing. Proper hydration supports muscle recovery and replenishes fluid lost through sweat during exercise.
Maintaining Physical Wellness Outside the Dance Studio
Staying healthy doesn’t start and stop at warming up and cooling down. What we do outside the dance studio can make all the difference when it comes to physical wellness.
Rest and sleep: Allow your body enough time to rest and recover. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
Stretching and mobility work: Incorporate gentle stretching exercises and mobility drills into your daily routine to improve flexibility, prevent muscle tightness, and enhance recovery.
Active recovery: Engage in low-impact activities like swimming, cycling, or yoga on your rest days. Active recovery promotes blood circulation.
Cold therapy: After intense training or performances, use cold therapy techniques such as ice baths or ice packs to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. It can take some courage, but it works!
Cross-training: Incorporate cross-training activities such as strength training or Pilates to improve overall fitness, strengthen supporting muscles, and prevent overuse injuries.
Figure Out What Works For You
Out of all the tips we could offer, the biggest one would be to find out what works for you. Use trial and error, develop a routine, and research new ways to take care of yourself.