Many of you are finishing Nutcracker performances, and will soon have a Christmas break from school, dance, and your other activities. It’s a great time to take a breather from all of the hard work you’ve been doing and have a moment to re-group in preparation for next semester.
As a dancer, you are very disciplined and loyal to your practice. Give yourself a break. Reward yourself for all of the hard work you just put in. You deserve it!
However, you don’t want to come back from break feeling tired, weaker, and not as flexible as when you left. So here are some tips to utilize your break time so you can rest, relax, recover – mentally and physically—and be ready to get back into the swing of things come January.
1. Take Some Downtime
Sleep, watch movies, do your nails, go to lunch with friends, or play games with your family—indulge in the activities that make you happy but you don’t always have time to enjoy.This will give your body and your mind a much needed breather. Laugh as much as you can (which is a good rule for any day of the week). Laughter can reduce stress and anxiety, strengthen your immune system, and diminish pain. Weather permitting, go outside and take a walk. Fresh air and sunshine (a great source of Vitamin D, just wear sunscreen) can center your mind, leave you feeling healthier, and strengthen your immune system.
2. Take Care of Your Body
Christmas break is a great time to recoup. That being said, don’t just sit and allow any injuries to go unattended. An ice or heating regime, along with elevation and physical therapy, are great ways to get your body back into peak condition. Once you're feeling better, make sure to keep your body strong by exercising and stretching often.
You want to keep your muscles moving during break. Be sure to stretch every day. Yoga, Pilates, core exercises, Thera band exercises, and Zumba are great ways to keep your body feeling loose while providing a different exercise regime. Colorado Ballet Society is also offering a Winter Workshop Dec. 28-30. This is a wonderful opportunity to have new teachers and movement while allowing your body to prepare for your normal dance schedule to resume.
Sleep is also critical for staying in shape. Your body makes repairs and rejuvenates itself when you’re getting some shut-eye. Christmas break can turn into late nights, sleeping in, and eating not so well. This is all great, until you form a habit of it that you carry with you when the season starts. So try not to disrupt your sleeping schedule too much. Dancers need anywhere from 8-10 hours of sleep, and often don’t even get 7. Make sure you're eating at about the same times every day also, as this can affect your sleep patterns.
3. Be Mindful of What You’re Eating
Exercise is important to dancer fitness but it isn’t the only element. Be sure you’re still taking care of your overall health, like eating healthy, balanced meals and drinking plenty of water. Certain foods can help your body heal from rigorous activity.
Protein is essential to building and healing muscle. But it’s also a powerhouse for repairing bones, improving muscle contraction, maintaining fluid balance and restoring collagen, which is part of connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments. When you distribute protein evenly throughout the day, the body can really use it for rebuilding tissue. You can find protein in yogurt, cheese, lean meats, beans, rice, quinoa, nuts, and seeds.
Vitamin D allows your bones to absorb calcium and uses it to repair stresses, hairline fractures, and breaks. As a bonus, vitamin D also strengthens the immune system and helps reduce inflammation throughout the body, so it’s a triple whammy for healing. Yogurt and fortified milk are good food sources of vitamin D. Read the labels to make sure the brands you like include it. You can also get vitamin D from tuna and salmon, and the yolks of eggs.
Vitamin C is a master healer, aiding everything from the rebuilding of ankle ligaments after a sprain to the repairing of skin wounds, like blisters, it plays a role in building the collagen tissue that protects blood vessels in the skin, and it’s necessary for the repair and maintenance of bones and cartilage. It is important to note that Vitamin C is acidic, and if you have too much in your system, your body will use calcium to neutralize it. The actual daily requirement is just 45–100 milligrams—the amount in an orange or two. Be sure to eat small servings throughout the day: half a grapefruit at breakfast, a kiwifruit with lunch, and a chopped bell pepper in your dinner salad.
Protein, vitamin D, and vitamin C are just the beginning—every nutrient plays a role in healing. Fill your shopping cart with these staples:
Calcium: milk, yogurt, low-fat cheese, almonds, collard greens, arugula
Magnesium: wheat bran, almonds, spinach, pumpkin, ground flaxseeds
Omega-3 fatty acids: walnuts, ground flaxseeds, beans, wild salmon
Protein: skim milk, eggs, tofu, beans, lean meats
Vitamin A: sweet potato, carrots, blue/orange/purple fruits and vegetables
Vitamin C: broccoli, citrus fruits, berries, winter squash
Vitamin D: fortified milk and yogurt, tuna, salmon, mushrooms, egg yolk
Vitamin E: whole grains, fortified cereals, leafy greens, nuts
Vitamin K: leafy greens like kale and chard, asparagus, cabbage