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Avoid Downtime Disaster: Three Tips for a Winning Summer Break!

  • July 7, 2016
  • by Leigh Schanfein

Summer is amazing. It’s warm, it’s sunny, and there is no school! It’s also when we take some serious advantage of our free time and gladly sacrifice it in order to fill the day with workshops, master classes, summer intensives and major conventions. For one season, life can revolve around dance, and it is glorious. But whether you end up with a whole summer off or only a week here and there, chances are high that you have time when you are completely away from dancing and school, with not a lot of things you have to do. So how can you best take advantage of that time and not fall completely off the dance wagon? Here are a couple of tips to help you stay in tune with your body during break!

#1. Seriously and devotedly take advantage of down time.

You know how all year you’re super busy with school and dance and homework and friends and maybe also sports and piano lessons and art class and, and, and…. Well, now you’re not! Let your body and your mind rest. Working hard is good; resting is equally good and important.

  • Commit yourself to a summer of getting sufficient sleep.
  • Increase your practice of more restful activities like reading, laying in the grass and reclining by the pool.
  • Be social and take time with your best friends.
  • Pursue other interests that you don’t have time to do during the school year like going for a hike, painting, writing, going out to new restaurants, seeing movies, going to the library, going horseback riding, sewing, volunteering at the animal shelter, reading to children, gardening, getting a summer job… The list goes on and on.
  • Physically, you can rest by not dancing and reducing your overall range of motion. You can still stretch every day, but if you are not dancing, then you don’t need to go to your extremes.

#2. Eat full meals and eat what makes you feel good.

Summer coincides with a change from routines, and part of that is choosing what to eat. If you normally have breakfast and dinner at home, that probably won’t change, but you should go ahead and talk to your parents about what you want for lunches and also what time of day you should eat if your schedule is not dictated by classes.

  • Plan ahead with shopping lists for the grocery store.
  • Go through recipe books to find new things to try.
  • Get in the kitchen yourself and learn to make wonderful things.
  • Choose the most seasonal fruits and vegetables to enjoy during the summer.
  • If you want to try everything at a potluck, take just a small taste of each. That way, you don’t fill up on one thing, and you don’t waste food you don’t like. You can always go back and get more. And always make and bring a favorite dish of your own to share!
  • Common BBQ and grill foods tend to be really salty and can make you feel bloated and heavy, so balance them by drinking water and not eating too much of them.
  • When it’s hot and you’re going to be outside, eat a bit less than you might usually right beforehand so you don’t feel sick while running around. You can eat more when you’re back in the cooler house and resting.

#3. Gradually increase your exercise load as you approach your first day back.

Something that we don’t really do in the dance world but is common and expected in the sports world is to have an “on” season and an “off” season, and it’s in that off-season that the athlete takes time to replenish, heal, mentally process and strengthen. Then, when the “on” time is approaching again, they slowly ramp up their workouts to be prepared for peak performance. The process is called Periodization. Dancers should do this, too! As your return to the studio approaches, set a plan for yourself to very gradually increase your activity so you are strong and prepared to dance.

  • Focus on body regions on alternating days so your muscles have a day to rest in between workouts. For example, have a “leg day” followed by an “upper body day” followed by a “core day”.
  • With a long-term plan, start by focusing on working out each body region once or twice per week and then increase to two or three times per week.
  • Target strength, muscular endurance and cardiovascular endurance.
  • Increase your repetitions or duration to target endurance.
  • Increase your weight or resistance to target strength.
  • Review some weight training tips here and more tips regarding upper body strengthening here.

Bonus tip: Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen!

Article produced by Dance Informa.

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