Sunday, January 4, 2015

BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN: RETURNING TO DANCE AFTER TAKING A BREAK




Happy New Year!

Since many of us have taken a holiday break, I thought the first post of 2015 ought to be about getting back into the swing of things dance-wise. Sure, many dancers work during the holidays- and I am one of them- but still, all that un-structured downtime, studio holiday closures and…well, yeah… all those sweet treats we’ve indulged in do take their toll! You show up for class, rehearsal or a show and mentally, you’re rarin’ to go, but the next day you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck. Why? It’s because you’re a dancer living in a body that- even if it’s only been a few days- has gotten used to sitting at a table swathed in a cozy fleece onsie munching on leftovers and drinking booze!

Of course, this doesn’t only apply to the holidays… you could be getting over an injury, illness, or maybe you’ve had a surgery- or a child! In any case, bouncing back after being sidelined for a while     ( even a little while) might not be as easy as you thought it was going to be.

 Here are some ideas that might make the transition a little easier for you.

  Go Easy At First
  By that, I mean cut yourself some slack… but I don’t mean slacking off! Acknowledge the fact that you haven’t trained for a while and take things slowly.  Whether you’ve been gone for a few days or a few weeks or months, ease back into dancing.  Your brain thinks it can do what you were capable of, and your muscle memory probably does too- but your physical body might not exactly be down with that concept…yet.  Test the waters a little; you definitely don’t want to be so gung-ho that you injure yourself in the process of trying to prove yourself.

If you’ve been out because of an injury, make sure you’ve followed your doctor’s orders to the letter.  If you were prescribed physical therapy, make sure you’ve completed your course before you even think of returning to class or performing.

 Any medical restrictions that have been placed on your dancing due to injury are there for a reason, and that reason is to insure you are healthy enough to continue   your dance practice!

Prepare Yourself Physically…And Emotionally
Be sure to warm up completely- this should be your regular M.O. anyway, but many of us just kinda skip over this process, because it seems so tedious.

 It’s not.

Warming up is integral to being a healthy dancer, as is cooling down- especially after you’ve taken a break!  Maybe you need a longer warm up than you did previously. If so, go with it.  Remember, even a scant few days out of the game can make a big difference, so do some light cardio before stretching- your tight tendons and lazy, underworked muscles will thank you profusely!

Emotional preparation is in order right now too. That means accepting your situation- no guilt, no shame, no little inner voice cutting you down cause you can't shimmy or turn, gained a few pounds or don’t have the stamina to last as long as you did before you took some time off.  Now’s the time to be your own cheerleader, not your worst critic! You want to motivate- not denigrate- yourself  back to work.

 Remind yourself that it can often be frustrating as you return to peak condition, so be gentle on yourself emotionally. Whose the meanest boss in the world? You are. Fire that slave driver and have your own personal Human Resource Department hire a compassionate coach who can see your potential and help you get back into fighting shape in a positive way, ok?

Work Hard…But Work Safe
 When you return to your “regularly scheduled program”, do the absolute best that you can, but do it safely.  It’s always better to err on the side of caution than push your boundaries a little too far. Remind yourself that this situation will change soon. Allow your body to re-familiarize itself with your dance practice.  Remember, our muscles don’t listen to reason. If you over-do it, the only way they know how to protest is by shutting down…going into spasm, or (yikes) getting strained or torn.  Let them know whose boss, but baby them! Soon, they’ll once again be your obedient servants.

 Last but definitely not least, remind yourself that  your situation is temporary, it will pass…and you’ll be back to where you were sooner than you thought you’d be!


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 The  outrageous “One Zill Up”  tee  features  a universally understood symbol…driving the point home with a  finger cymbal!
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Photo  and  graphics by Maharet Hughes

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