success

5 Top Ways for Dancers to Stay Healthy in 2017

What’s the best way to keep yourself healthy for dancing? Is it a better diet? More dance classes? More stretching? Massage? For every dancer there is a different answer. However, after years of helping dancers get healthy and back to dancing after suffering with pain and injuries, there are a few key strategies that I feel are most important for dancers who are committed to getting healthy, staying healthy, and dancing well today and for many years to come.

As you review this short list, see what fits for you and please try it. Don’t forget to seek the help of your parents, dance instructors, or medical professionals if you need it.  Wishing you a happy, healthy, and dancing 2017!

1. Look Back

New Years is a great time to sit back and reflect on what went well or didn’t go well in your dancing last year. How was 2016 for you? Was it a great year? What made it great? Was it a difficult year? Why? Taking a peek into your past can give you a great sense of where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished- was it a lot? Was it less than you hoped? Why? Be honest with yourself about 2016 now so you can go ahead into 2017 with a clear mind. While you’re thinking about last year, also take some time to think about why you dance and what it means to you. Grab a piece of paper and write it down. Purposefully remembering why you love to dance gives you the perfect backdrop from which to make great future choices about your health and your dancing.   

2. Look Ahead

Now, it’s time to decide what you’d like 2017 to look like. While no one can actually tell the future, picturing the changes or accomplishments you’d like to see in in the next year can help you make sure your everyday health choices are headed in the right direction. Goal setting is a powerful tool to help you focus your energy on the results you want- those that are most important to you. Clearly set goals also help you avoid the unhealthy behaviors (like ignoring pain) that might keep you from reaching your goal. Get specific, focus on the actions you need to take, and start small. What's one thing you'd like to do to make 2017 your best year yet? Ok. What is it going to take to achieve that one thing? Write down everything you need so you can start working on getting it.

3. Improve Your Nutrition

How has your nutrition been in 2016? Was it great? Could it use some improvement? The nutrition you give your body is fuel for your dancing- the better stuff you put in, the better stuff you're going to get out. Protein helps you build strong muscles, heal from injury, function normally, and have sustained energy. Active dancers need about 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (Divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to get kilograms, then multiply that number by 1.5 to estimate how much protein you need). Fruits and veggies contain vital nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that provide you with energy you need for your body to work well, especially under high demand situations, like long or difficult classes or rehearsals. If you feel your nutrition needs a boost, make a plan. What’s one change you can make to your nutrition soon... and stick with? What might have been keeping you from making that change already? What help do you need to make that change a little easier to fit in to your busy dancing life (could be something simple- like getting a small cooler so you can keep a yogurt snack cold while you dance or a water bottle that you can refill)? Reflect on these questions so you can make the best plan possible. 

4. Fully Address Nagging Aches and Pains

While massage sticks, foam rolls, and the occasional ice pack can be great tools to manage the everyday stiffness or soreness you might feel after dancing, they are not made to address injuries or lingering pain. If you have been experiencing pain or haven't fully recovered from an injury, your 2017 health is already in jeopardy. Take the time and get the help you need to fully heal and get strong again. It’s one of the best decisions you can make for yourself and your dancing. Not sure where to start? Call or message me to schedule a free phone consultation or make an appointment with your primary care doctor today.

5. Get More Rest

Getting enough rest is a real challenge for dancers- especially those who are in school or working outside of dance. Sleep is an extremely important part of rest- without enough, your mental and physical function gets worse and you are more at risk for an injury. However, sleep isn't the only kind of rest dancers need. Taking a break from dancing when you need to, making time for other things that you love to do, and knowing when to back down from intense classes or schedules are also smart and effective ways to avoid burning out or getting seriously injured.


Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry. Great health is not about perfection. It’s about making small, but consistent, changes in the right direction. Take it one step at a time. Once you’ve mastered your first positive change, you can take on the next one. I sincerely hope that 2017 will be your best dancing year yet.

 

Additional Resources:

Nutrition: Alisa Levine Bloom, MPH, RD, LDN www.liveyourbest365.com

Dancer Health: How Do I Know How Much Is Too Much?

Dancer Health: 5 Ways To Keep Injury From Ruining Your Dance Career

 

 

Defining Success

When I am teaching a new exercise to a client, I often modify the exercise to better suit that client's individual needs. My clients sometimes protest my suggested change. They resist making the modification and ask me some form of the question, "But if I do it this way... I'm not really doing it, am I?" 

I get it. We are usually working with a physical therapist because something is going wrong and we want to do all the right things to help ourselves get better. Doing an exercise with textbook form may seem like the right thing to do. However, if we pursue perfection before our body is ready for it, we put ourselves on the fast track to pain city. On the other hand, to not do an exercise the way we think it's supposed be done feels like failure. 

At the heart of this problem lies a key question: How do we define success? Is success based on outcome... or action? Even though the ultimate goal of rehab is to return to doing everything we love to do (outcome), the best way to reach that goal might be to simply find ways to move without pain (action). We can't reach our destination without traveling the path that leads to it.

Today, I encourage you to release yourself from the expectation of a perfect outcome and, instead, celebrate the success of taking action. 


Squat Success

Are you apprehensive about squatting because of knee pain or because you think that squatting may damage your knees? You are not alone. Although some people do experience knee pain when squatting, the squat itself is not to blame. 

A squat is simply a bending of the legs that brings our body closer to the ground. It's a worthwhile exercise because it helps us better able to reach things on the floor or under the counter, get up and down from chairs, and get up and down from the floor. Pain that occurs while squatting is most likely just a signal that our bodies need a little more help to be able to squat successfully. 

Please take a look at this video to learn how to find ways to build a more successful squat. 

Is a squat that doesn't conform to "correct squat form" still a squat? Yes! Is it still worth doing if it's not perfect? Yes!! Use this information to help you find a way of squatting that feels great to you. If you love squats and feel great doing them, please use these squat variations to build even more flexibility and strength. 

**Please do not continue any exercise that causes you pain or poses a risk to your safety. If pain is keeping you from moving normally or exercising, please seek individualized care from a physical therapist or physician so you can start feeling and moving better now.**  


This post originally appeared as a part of Kinesi, LLC's biweekly newsletter, "Movement Matters." If you would like to receive "Movement Matters" via email, please subscribe here. Thanks for reading!

 


 

Cultivating Successful Turnout Part 3/6

Welcome to our week 3 recap of Kinesi’s “Turnout” workshop at Dancenter North. I continue to hear that the dancers attending class are keeping up with the exercises they learned during Week 1 and Week 2 and are feeling that their turnout is becoming easier and more comfortable. Fantastic! That’s exactly what we are aiming for. This week we learned a little bit about the hips- how they are structured and how they work.

The hip is a “ball and socket” joint that functions, like all other joints, in 3 dimensions. The ball is located at the top of the femur and the socket is located on the pelvis. 

Front view of the right hip joint. 

Front view of the right hip joint. 

Back view of the right hip joint.

Back view of the right hip joint.

The hip can move:

  • because the femur moves inside the socket (like the moving leg hip in battement), or 
  • because pelvis moves over/around the femur (like the standing leg hip in cambré), or
  • because both the pelvis and the femur move at the same time (like both hips in grande jeté). 

Regular movements performed in ballet and other forms of dance use all of these types of hip motion. During class last Saturday, we utilized mostly a “top-down” approach with exercises that cause movement of the pelvis over and around the femur. 

As we discussed in Week 1, starting with successful movement is a much safer and more effective strategy than pushing into painful or very tight directions. And here’s the super-secret-magic* key to why: Movement is 3-dimensional. It occurs in 3 planes simultaneously at all joints and in all muscles of the body.

A visual depiction of the planes of motion. Forward and backward movement occur in the sagittal plane, side to side movement in the frontal plane, and rotational movement in the transverse plane. Although these planes are depicted as separate, all human movement has components in all 3 planes of motion. 

A visual depiction of the planes of motion. Forward and backward movement occur in the sagittal plane, side to side movement in the frontal plane, and rotational movement in the transverse plane. Although these planes are depicted as separate, all human movement has components in all 3 planes of motion. 

If we have difficulty moving in one plane of motion, we will have difficulty moving in all three planes. On the other hand, if we can gain mobility in one plane of motion, we can gain mobility in all three planes. 

Our bodies and brains are very smart. They will try their best to protect you from danger and pain is one of the ways they protect you. A stretch should feel good (though it can be a little intense) and should result in an improvement in movement in that direction. A feeling of very intense tightness or pain in the hip when it is fully stretched let’s you know there’s no more room to go. Rather than pushing hard into that direction and risking damage to your joints, ligaments, and tendons, stretch in a different direction that can be improved without pain. 

For example, if pushing your hips to turnout (when standing up or in a frog stretch) is getting nowhere, try doing an exercise or stretch that causes your leg to turn in (see below for one to try). Turning in often feels really good for dancers and can be a great strategy to improve your overall hip mobility. I’ll say it again- when your hip moves better in one direction, it moves better in all directions. Sometimes turning in is actually a better way to work on turning out! 

Stand on your left leg facing the barre and place your right hand on the barre. Then gently circle your left hand and right foot "around the corner" to the left until you feel a little bit of stretch in the outside of the left hip. Gently bend your left knee and keep your left foot planted, toes forward. Repeat 5-10 times as needed, then reverse to the other side.  Please discontinue this exercise and consult your doctor or physical therapist if you feel pain.

Stand on your left leg facing the barre and place your right hand on the barre. Then gently circle your left hand and right foot "around the corner" to the left until you feel a little bit of stretch in the outside of the left hip. Gently bend your left knee and keep your left foot planted, toes forward. Repeat 5-10 times as needed, then reverse to the other side. Please discontinue this exercise and consult your doctor or physical therapist if you feel pain.

Note: If you are experiencing intense or unrelenting pain in your hips with movement, please consult your doctor and/or physical therapist for further evaluation. These strategies are appropriate for healthy hips and are not meant to substitute for good professional or medical care. 

Thanks again for joining us! Next week we will learn a little bit more about the hips and learn more strategies to maximize your successful turnout. See you then!

*Just kidding, guys. Although this is an important point, there's nothing really super secret or magic about it. It's just a truth of how your body works!

Cultivating Successful Turnout Part 2/6

The dynamic and adaptable human foot contains 26 bones and 33 joints. Getting them moving well can help your turnout!

The dynamic and adaptable human foot contains 26 bones and 33 joints. Getting them moving well can help your turnout!

During Week 2 of our "Turnout" workshop at Dancenter North, I was so happy to hear that some of the dancers had felt that their turnout was already improving since Week 1. Yes! Great job, ladies! Now, onto the feet:

  1. Foot structure is highly individual. Flat feet? High arches? Whatever! How your foot functions is much more important than what it looks like. Ideally, your foot should function a little bit like a spring, flexing gently downward as you put weight onto it or perform a plié, but also rebounding back up when you take weight off of it or rise onto relevé. 
  2. Your foot contains an astounding 26 bones and 33 joints. These bones and joints move 3-dimensionally to keep you connected to the floor as you move. This incredible function not only allows you to keep your balance, but also feeds movement, like a chain reaction, to the rest of your leg and body. 
  3. Although our ankle joints have lots of motion in the sagittal plane (front to back motion seen when flexing and pointing the foot), they are still 3-dimensional joints. The small amounts of frontal plane (side to side) and transverse plane (rotational) motion at the ankles have a big influence on the ability of the ankle to flex and point fully. In addition, maintaining good rotational ability through the ankle allows your lower leg to contribute to the total turnout of your leg.
 

Foot Note: Forcing your turnout to the point where your arches roll in toward the floor limits the ability of your foot to stay stable on the ground while you are dancing. Try readjusting your turnout to an angle where your foot can be comfortably flat and your arch a little bit springy- this is your successfully turned out position!

 

During the Week 2 class, we worked on a number of exercises to help the foot and ankle move and work well. Check out the stretch below and try it for yourself- remembering to stay pain free and work where you feel comfortable and successful. 

Thanks for joining us- see you next week!

Two approaches to stretching the calf in three dimensions:  Position/Movement: Face the barre or a wall, use hands for support. Place 1 foot on the floor, toes forward, toes in, or toes out (whichever is most comfortable). Move other knee 5-10 times in each direction: straight forward and backward, then straight side to side, then rotationally to the right and left. Allow your body to follow the movement of the knee. If your ankle on the standing leg isn't moving, bring that foot closer to the wall and try again. Please discontinue this exercise and consult your doctor or physical therapist if you feel pain.  Pictured Left: Towel roll under the heel lessens the (dorsi)flexion in the ankle allowing more side to side and rotational movement success.  Pictured Right: Towel roll under the ball of the foot causes more dorsiflexion in the ankle, which challenges the foot and ankle to be more flexible in all 3 directions.

Two approaches to stretching the calf in three dimensions:

Position/Movement: Face the barre or a wall, use hands for support. Place 1 foot on the floor, toes forward, toes in, or toes out (whichever is most comfortable). Move other knee 5-10 times in each direction: straight forward and backward, then straight side to side, then rotationally to the right and left. Allow your body to follow the movement of the knee. If your ankle on the standing leg isn't moving, bring that foot closer to the wall and try again. Please discontinue this exercise and consult your doctor or physical therapist if you feel pain.

Pictured Left: Towel roll under the heel lessens the (dorsi)flexion in the ankle allowing more side to side and rotational movement success.

Pictured Right: Towel roll under the ball of the foot causes more dorsiflexion in the ankle, which challenges the foot and ankle to be more flexible in all 3 directions.

Cultivating Successful Turnout Part 1/6

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of working with a few dancers at Dancenter North on turnout. This was the first of 6 weekly sessions designed to help these dancers better understand and execute turnout while dancing. As a complement to this class, each Wednesday of the following week I will post a brief summary discussion of our time together. It is my hope that these posts will help even more dancers get a glimpse of the work we did and learn some concepts that might also help you improve your turnout. As with every physical endeavor, success is created with a process, which is why I have entitled these posts “Cultivating Successful Turnout”.

For our first week together, we discussed three concepts that will guide every exercise and activity we do together during this workshop. 

  1. Turnout involves your whole body. From head to toe. Our bodies are made up of multiple segments that are interdependent and constantly interacting with each other. Although we focus on the hips and a primary source of turnout, the shoulder, spine, knees, ankles, and feet do influence how well the hips can turn out. We must address how each of these segments move in order to achieve our best turnout. 
  2. Turnout involves multiple physical capacities, not just flexibility. Your body requires strength, balance, control, and endurance to achieve and maintain good turnout while you dance. Developing each one of these components to turnout can help you not only improve your ability to turn out while standing still, but during dynamic movements such as passé, développé, or grande jeté.  
  3. Starting with success is critical. When our bodies perceive that they are under stress and in danger, they will likely react protectively. Therefore, forcing maximal turnout will likely contribute to more muscle tightness and less mobility, which is the opposite of our goal. Allowing our bodies to work from an initially comfortable position (we used the standards of little to no perceived joint strain and good stability when standing on one leg) enables a sense of safety and supports more movement and control as we progress. 

Success Tip: In your next dance class, start with only as much turnout is completely comfortable. Then watch your comfortable turnout gradually increase as you warm up. 

Next week, we will explore the role of the feet in turnout and will work on some exercises to enhance the contribution of our feet to our turnout. I will be reviewing comments and questions about turnout submitted by the dancers participating in this workshop and encourage you to comment below to join the conversation. We hope you will join us as we continue our journey toward success!