Here, Dance Informa offers some advice on keeping warm and taking care of your body…even in the cold!
#1. Find the heat from inside and thoroughly warm up before dancing.
Have you noticed that it is more difficult to stretch your muscles when you feel cold? Or that it takes longer for you to feel “on”? This is not your imagination! When it’s cold out, and your starting temperature is lower, it’s even harder on your body than it is in nicer weather not to give yourself a legit warm-up. How can you tell if your warm-up is enough? You need to literally warm your body up from the core out to your fingers and toes, and the way to do so is to move around enough to get your heart rate and your breathing rate to increase. If you’ve broken a sweat, you’ve hit gold. Start with small movements at each joint, working your way through the entire body. Keep in mind that for the safety and stretch of your muscles, you need to get warm before you start to stretch! Stretching can be part of your warm-up of course, but do not start to push your flexibility or go to your maximum range until you are properly warm.
#2. Seek out a little sunshine and get some essential vitamin D.
Dancers already tend to spend a lot of time indoors due to their training schedules. In the winter, when we are also inside more and bundled up to stay warm, we further reduce our time in the sun. Regardless of how much of a tan you want, we naturally use the energy of the sun to help our body make vitamin D. When the sun hits our skin, the energy converts a molecule into the form of vitamin D that our body uses and needs. How can we combat a potential deficiency? If it is warm enough, try to get five to 20 minutes of direct sunshine every day. If not, then make sure you find some good dietary sources, mainly fortified foods like milk and breakfast cereals. And, if that doesn’t work for your dietary needs, then you can find vitamin D supplements for the season.
#3. Beat the dulldrums with positive activities.
Sometimes the clouds and the grey penetrate further and can make us feel a little sadder in the winter time. It’s hard when you can’t go outside when you want, soak in the sun, and feel lifted up by the beautiful greens, reds and yellows of more warmer-weather flora. A couple of things you can do to beat the winter blues include staying social with friends, taking some time for yourself to do a calm activity that makes you feel good, reading good books and listening to good music, talking about how you feel with people you trust, journaling, and getting enough sleep.
#4. Speaking of… seriously and devotedly take advantage of down time.
Our inclination to hibernate in winter is strong, especially if we just finished school exams or a run of seasonal performances. Working hard is good; resting is equally good and important. If you are on winter break, this will be even more advantageous for sleep, quiet time and calmness.
#5. Gradually increase your exercise load as you approach your first day back.
If you are going on break and taking time off from dancing, be good to your body and ease back into your workload rather than going from cold turkey to full throttle. Something that we don’t really do in the dance world but is common and expected in the sports world is to have an “on” season and an “off” season, and it’s in that offseason that the athlete takes time to replenish, heal, mentally process and strengthen. As your return to the studio approaches, set a plan for yourself to very gradually increase your activity a little bit each week so you are strong and prepared to dance. Slowly increase your repetitions or duration to target endurance. Slowly increase your weight or resistance to target strength.
By Leigh Schanfein of Dance Informa.