You didn’t think about stress and dance injuries when you started dancing. When you got MORE into it, your priorities changed. Frequent Training Sessions, Coaching, Competitions… It all adds up to muscular overuse and stress. So, how do we protect our body?
As a dancer, you want your body to be stronger, and more flexible so you can dance more and dance better. You will, for sure, start to freak out when there is any possibility of illness or even worse, an injury, which may prevent you from dancing. Right before a major competition or show, you might be even more worried about getting injured, on top of worrying about the comp.
This worry and stress will put you at risk of dance injuries.
- When feeling stressed out, the nervous system goes into overdrive and the level of cortisol in the body goes up. Cortisol is only meant to hit us in small bursts. When it stays high for a while, it wears down cells and tissues, which increases the chance of injury.
- When you are stressed about a comp, you might also practice a bit more and a bit harder. This might be fine, except if you do it while stressed. If you do not give your body time to recuperate, the little micro strains, muscle tears and bruises that would normally leave you only a bit sore, are more likely to turn into injury because of cortisol again. Too much cortisol delays the healing process, especially for bone bruises.
- Cortisol also weakens your immune system, making it harder to fight off the germs that, lets face it, are pretty much everywhere.
- If that isn’t enough, cortisol also makes you more accident prone, because is impacts balance and attention.
So, Now what?
Nothing is more useless than telling someone who is worried to just stop. Also reading this article might have just made you more worried if your stress level was high already – Very sorry. That is not the intent.
But, here are a few practical things that you might want to do to keep your nerves in check:
Warm up a bit longer before you practice, AND do not forget to cool down!
- Warming up, sends blood and oxygen to your muscles, which improves the way they function, so you will have less frustration and less stress
- Warming up opens up deep breathing, which also reduces stress
- Cooling down is even more relaxing than warming up. It helps your breathing get back to normal slowly, and keeps you breathing more deeply for a longer time after your practice. It also clears the toxic substances that build up in your body when you dance, and prevents blood pooling and cramps – which are frigging stressful because they are painful!.
- Even if you are not stressed, both a warm up and cool down of 5-10 minutes each reduces your chance of injury, just because of the physical benefit to your body.
Focus on your STRENGTHS in the days leading up to the comp, not your weaknesses
- Everybody has some weaknesses, even champions. The thing with champions is that their strengths blow you away so you do not notice any weaknesses.
- Even if you are not at a champion level, focusing all your attention on the things you do not feel good about will actually make those things stand out more. It will also sap your energy and your confidence and replace them with that bloody cortisol. You of course need to work on the things you want to improve, but there will ALWAYS be things to improve. So, no need to stress about them
Watch the sugar, Caffeine and even Energy Bars
- Fructose (in non diet pop, syrups and fruit and fruit juice – especially apples, grapes and pears and their juices) prevents you from knowing when you are full, making you more likely to overeat – think of the stress of not fitting into that costume you just got.
- It also causes a chemical and metabolic reaction as your body tries to regulate it in your bloodstream. This process makes you sluggish, which is not great when you want to be at your peak.
- Even energy bars can be suspect. Read the labels and know the impact of the ingredients before you eat them. Some are really just modern versions of candy in healthy looking wrappers. In general, it is always safer to eat lean protein, complex carbohydrates and low glycemic fruits like cherries, grapefruit and dried apricots.
- Caffeine can cause a peak and then crash. It can also increase the level of cortisol in your body, which we know is no good; and BTW cortisol can lead to stronger cravings for fat and carbohydrates, and cause the body to store fat in the abdomen – see what i mean about #$**ing cortisol!! .
Remember why you dance in the first place
- People are rarely forced to start dancing. You started on this path because you love dancing. Injuries may be a really bad result of stress, but not enjoying your dancing is even worse.