As professional dancers, we know how important it is to be ready at any moment. That’s why we continue to take classes, lift weights, and focus on maintaining healthy nutritional habits. That’s also why we need to promote faster recovery of our body, mind, and muscles.
Being that active can easily lead to sore muscles– and nothing is worse than being surprised by a tight hamstring the morning of an audition. While planning out your workouts with your trainer can help prevent this, there are also a lot of things you can do on your own that can promote faster recovery between workouts and rehearsals.
I didn’t want you to miss out on any, so I created a tidy little list of eight things you can add to your routine to promote faster recovery. Let’s get started!
One: Eat Plenty Of Protein
I know I know, I know. It probably feels like you are ALWAYS hearing me talk about the importance of protein. And honestly? It’s because I am. Ensuring you have protein with every meal and after any workout or rehearsal helps muscles rebuild faster and will reduce soreness. This is because protein is made of amino acids. Amino acids act like building blocks for the body. So, eating protein after a workout or rehearsal gives your muscles the amino acids they need to rebuild after a tough session!
Hydration may seem like a no-brainer. I mean, aren’t we a generation of people who carry emotional support water bottles and hydro-jugs? But you’d be surprised how often we are dehydrating ourselves as dancers. Outside of our coffees, teas, and occasional alcoholic beverages, we are expelling water from our systems every time we sweat. This means we must drink more water than the average person to meet our bodies’ fluid needs. Not only does staying hydrated promote healthy skin and prevent brain fog, but it also helps our bodies flush out excess lactic acid, promoting faster muscle recovery and resulting in less soreness.
Three: Epsom Salt Bath
Warm baths with fancy salts and bubbles might seem like a luxury, but for athletes taking a soak has wonderful benefits for recovery and can be a great tool for relaxing muscles and promoting better sleep. While a warm bath of any kind will help release muscle tension, Epsom salts contain magnesium, an important mineral known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Magnesium also plays an important role in regulating melatonin production, which is the hormone that promotes sleep. Magnesium is said to promote relaxation of the parasympathetic nervous system, helping to relax your muscles, quiet your nervous system, and get better rest. If you love your weekly Epsom salt bath, you might even consider adding a magnesium supplement to your evening routine! (But always ask your trainer or doctor first!)
It’s easy to joke about needing your “beauty sleep,” but getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night might be the most important recovery practice of all! Sleeping is the only time a body can truly recover and repair. You’d be surprised how much energy is used by our body to simply keep us awake! Additionally, sleep is the only time our body gets into a cycle known as “Non-REM Sleep,” “slow-wave,” or “deep sleep.” During this type of sleep, our blood pressure drops, and our breathing slows. Our brain experiences very little activity during this cycle, increasing the blood supply available for flowing to our muscles. This delivers extra oxygen and nutrients, which facilitates muscle healing and growth. As if that’s not enough, this cycle is also when our bodies release a growth hormone that promotes tissue growth and muscle repair. Without 7-9 hours of sleep a night, our bodies experience a decline in growth hormone production resulting in a loss of muscle mass and reduced capacity for exercise.
Five: Hobbies Away from Dancing
Let’s talk for a second about how important it is for our minds to get a break from Dance. Pursuing a career as a dancer is complicated because it feels equal parts job and equal parts dream. It’s very hard to differentiate between what we do and who we are when we feel so passionately about something. But the reality is, each of you is a whole person who is enough even when they aren’t dancing.
Hobbies can be complicated for artists because we learn something, and, in our industry, it is easy to start leveraging that thing for our careers. But having a hobby that you keep completely separate from your profession has huge benefits for you as a dancer and athlete! Working on something with zero pressure attached is a great way to reduce stress and give our brains time to recover mentally. I encourage you to try something new this week. Maybe you could learn to knit, pick up a coloring book, or remember how much you love to read!
Six: Long Walks
As you’ve already read, taking twenty to thirty-minute walks gets your blood pumping enough to get oxygen into your muscles, which promotes muscle recovery. Not only that, it’s one of the few ways we can promote muscle recovery while remaining active. Walks are the perfect thing to do between workouts on a rest day while still ensuring you get all your steps in. An added benefit? Long walks provide enough endorphin release to lift your mood and support your daily mental health. I like to pair my walks with a favorite podcast or a phone call to an old friend!
Seven: Foam Rolling
I don’t know about you, but foam rolling has always had a very cool mystique to me. Whenever someone was foam rolling, it was because they had worked hard enough to “need to.” It’s a silly thought, born from being a young dancer because foam rolling benefits anyone who uses their body as much as we do. Foam rolling allows us to break down fascia buildup, relax tight muscles, and increase circulation.
Do any of those benefits sound bad? Exactly. You want to roll as slowly as possible to get the most out of your foam rolling session. This gives your muscles time to relax. It should feel like it “hurts so good.” If it’s too intense, try a softer-grade foam roller or a different type of stretching. There are many different types of foam rollers for different types of exercise, muscles, and stretches. So, feel free to shop around until you find something that will suit your precise needs.
Eight: Be In Nature
Spending time in the sunshine and fresh air can be a huge stress reliever and mood booster–ESPECIALLY if you have spent long hours indoors in a studio or dark theatre. Like plants, our bodies need sunshine to create certain vitamins. One such vitamin is vitamin D! While we can get this vitamin into our system through different foods, our body produces it naturally when we are exposed to sunlight! Vitamin D helps with our absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which help our immune system and bone development. There have also been studies that suggest vitamin D can help regulate our moods and decrease our risk of depression.
So, what will you be trying out this week? Do you already have a favorite? Let us know @dancerswholift on Instagram or TikTok. We’d love to see how you actively support recovery to optimize performance. In the meantime, try adding one of these things to what I am sure is an already packed schedule. Give it a few weeks and see how you feel. I think you’ll be surprised how a couple of tiny changes can make a big difference.
Direct message us on Instagram or TikTok. Or tag us in a post to let us know how do you recover?
PS if you want to work with a pro-dancer/ certified personal trainer who can make tailored training, nutrition, and recovery plans for you, you should check out our 1:1 coaching program, The Embodied Artist Academy