It wasn’t that long ago, when I set up a new training schedule for my partner and I: a plan with all the goals, the training sessions and the topics we wanted to improve. To be honest, I was proud of what I created, because it was so thought through along with a lot of things finally falling into place. Well, at least these were my thoughts – until I brought the plan for discussion to a private lesson with our coach…
I am so glad that I had a professional eye to look over this! When he saw the schedule, he nodded and then said: “Good work so far, but there is one crucial thing missing.” It was like a wakeup call when he told me: “I see everything in this plan, except for the time when you do nothing at all”.
That was it! I totally forgot to plan the time for regeneration: one of the key components when it comes to successful training.
In a (dance)-society that is (mostly) driven by the words higher, faster, stronger, we all tend to forget that we only get better in the time we leave our bodies to regenerate. This doesn’t mean of course that we will get better by doing nothing at all. It’s all about doing nothing AFTER we have been working hard. For instance, if we want to make our muscles more powerful, they first have to be exhausted and then they need time to rebuild to an even stronger version. But also our brain needs downtime to process new information. If we learn something new, it’s first saved in the short-term memory and then by processing the information, it will probably be stored in the long-term memory. And as we all know, in sleep our brain consolidates memories best.
Active work demands for active recovery from the physical and mental demands, in order to improve what we are doing. This goes for nearly all aspects in life and also perfectly for dancing. What do I mean by “active recovery”? Here is a quick and personal list:
Low Impact Activities
It’s always great to go on a short, easy 15-minute-walk. You can also do a really low impact Yoga session or stretch a little bit. Everything that makes you feel calm, relaxed and refueled. But don’t overdo it! Really give your body a rest!
Of course and as always, what you put into your body is crucial. A balanced nutrition is key to your healthy body as well as active recovery. Try to really control the amounts and also the quality of food you are taking in, and your exhausted muscles will thank you. Not to mention, your concentration on the next lesson will be so much better. One really important tip to keep in mind is, that starving your body (in case you are trying to lose weight or you’ve been telling yourself that “you don’t have time to eat”) is not good for your recovery at all. It will stress your system even more and will not let your body improve.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, Serena Williams, a really successful tennis player, enjoys to go to bed at 7pm in order to get enough sleep. I am not telling you, that this would also work for you, but it is worth giving a thought. I used her example to really emphasize on how important sleeping is, even more for people who are physically active. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself as a serious athlete/artist, or if you are just in it for fun, but getting the right amount of sleep is decisive to your performance and also to your improvement. Adults between the age 18 and 64 need between 6 and 11 hours, while 7-9 hours of sleep are recommended. I understand that this is a lot of time, but, in my opinion, sleeping is not enough of a priority anymore. Find yourself a sleeping schedule and also keep it on the weekends. Turn off electronics, find your ideal light, sound and temperatures in your bedroom and give your system a chance to reboot.
Let go of the “Coulda Woulda Shoulda”
If you now come to the conclusion that some downtime for yourself is what you need, you also have to let go of all the Rumba Walks you could have practiced in that time. Really! Focus on relaxing, recovering and refueling your energy! And, stop overthinking all the things you could’ve, should’ve or would’ve been able to do then. Just enjoy the famous Dolce Far Niente.
And, afterwards – Dance on, even better than before!