thoracic extension stretch

Technique Tip Tuesday: Kneeling Thoracic Extension Stretch

Today, I want to talk to you about upper thoracic extension and a stretch for it that you may not know. 

 What is “Thoracic Extension”??? 

That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked.

Thoracic extension is the ability of your thoracic spine to move freely between rounded, flat, and even arched.

The thoracic part of our back is the longest part of our spine including the vertebrae between the neck and the lower back.

The thoracic spine is capable of multiple movements in different planes, as it can help flex and round the body forward, extend, rotate, and laterally flex (side bend). Thoracic Extension is important, not only for proper posture, but also to prevent neck, shoulder, back, and even hip pain.

However, the primary movement of the thoracic spine is rotation. The other movements — flexion, extension, and side bending — are considerably smaller in range in comparison to the movement of the lower neck (cervical) and low back (lumbar) areas.

In dance this mobility within your thoracic spine helps with spotting, épaulement, contractions and spine isolations.  In the gym, thoracic extension is important for the health and safety of your overhead lifts. 

But, if you sit hunched over at a desk all day, stand with poor posture, or even sit looking at your phone with a hunchback, these are all things affecting your “thoracic extension.” You see, like any muscle or joint, the longer your spine stays in that curved position, the more it wants to stay there. 

So how do you ensure that hours editing self-tapes, typing at your side hustle, and days spent looking at your phone train your thoracic extension into extinction? 

Simple, you stretch it!

Here is a rundown on how to do a Kneeling Thoracic Extension Stretch.

First

To do the Kneeling Thoracic Extension and Lat Stretch, kneel in front of a bench or box and place your elbows up on the bench about shoulder-width apart. Kneel far enough from the bench that you have room to sit back and drop your chest through your arms to extend your spine.

Second

With your elbows on the bench, sit your butt back and relax your chest and head over, pressing your chest toward the ground so that you feel a nice stretch down your triceps and lats as well as through your thoracic spine. Try to extend your back as much as possible as you drop your chest toward the ground between your arms.

**Helpful cue: Try to get your biceps by your ears as you extend your spine.**

Finally 

You can either hold here and breathe, relaxing deeper into the stretch as you hold, or you can perform repetitions. If you take the second option, make sure you try to stretch further each time you repeat the stretch.

**This stretch can also be done standing, but make sure you find a countertop, ledge, or bar thats the proper height for you!**

Want a visual of this stretch? Check out our form video, here

Trust me, this thoracic extension stretch does more than just help to mobilize your spine. It also feels *incredible.* It’s the perfect stretch for your ten minute break at work, or as a way to wake up in the morning!

What do you think? You willing to give it a try? 

We hope you will. And in the meantime, don’t forget to tune into the Dancers Who Lift blog every Tuesday for a new Training Tip!

injury recovery tips for dancers

Injury Recovery 101: The Do’s and Don’ts for Getting Back on Stage Faster

Sustaining an injury as a dancer can be brutal, both physically and mentally. However, as professional athletes, injuries are going to happen. And while injury recovery looks different for every injury and every dancer, there are a few actions you can take to help your body and mind along the process. 

Because whether you sustained an acute injury like an ACL or Achilles tear, or suffered as a stress fracture slowly developed over time, being pro-active about your recovery will get you back on stage faster. 

Now, this list is by no means a comprehensive guide for healing. Only your doctors and physical therapists and give you that.  However, this list of “Dos and Don’ts” will help you thrive throughout your injury recovery journey within the plan your doctor and PTs have put in place for you. 

So, do you want to know what you can do to speed up and support yourself while recovering from an injury?

To the list!

 

 

mindfulness for self-care, mental health support for injury recovery

 

 

  • DON’T Keep Going

The first and hardest lesson dancers need to learn about being injured is to stop dancing when the injury arises. Whether you hear a pop or you’ve “tweaked” something that’s bugging you, just stop. 

Dancers struggle with this because we were taught to “just keep going.” Although we are athletes, we were trained with the “show must go on mindset.” But by “keeping going” we are putting ourselves at risk for even greater injury. 

So whether you are bleeding through your pointe shoes, or dancing on a “tweaked” knee, just stop.  

I promise, you will thank yourself for preventing further injury to whatever is hurting.

**If you read this and said “Yeah, but I’ve always been fine, I know my body” this bullet point was specifically written for you.**

 

  • Go to the Doctor – Get a Good P.T.

Once you’ve stopped, go see a doctor or physical therapist. There they can asses the injury and create an action plan for your injury recovery. The faster you find out what’s wrong, the faster you can start healing. 

As far as finding a good physical therapist, read reviews or ask a friend for a referral.  You want to make sure you are working with someone who understands your needs as an athlete and dancer. 

 

If you know what’s going on, and don’t need to see a doctor, follow the proper rest protocols. 

For example, if you sprain your ankle during petite allegro, stop. Once you’ve stopped, rest it, ice it, add compression, and elevate it!

 

  • Eat well

Nutrition is a huge factor in injury recovery. Eating a diet full of nutrients, plenty of protein, and fiber promotes healing. 

Don’t make the common mistake of underfueling your recovery. Now is not the time to “cut” to prevent weight gain. You’re body needs all the fuel it can get to heal whatever is broken. Instead, ensure you’e getting plenty of protein, antioxidants and vitamins through a healthy and balanced diet.

Besides, healing burns calories!

In fact, depending on the type of injury, you might need to adjust your macro split. Studies have shown that during injury recovery, about 55% of total calories should be delivered as complex carbs like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans. 

Eating for recovery also means watching your alcohol intake. Alcohol has been shown to exacerbate muscle loss during immobilization. So, during injury recovery,  consider cutting out alcohol or at the very least, consume mindfully. 

 

  • Incorporate Resistance Training (Based on Doctor Clearance)

Whether you’re early on in your injury recovery journey or late in the game, incorporating resistance training will be critical to rebuilding and recovering. 

Resistance training can be used to both strengthen the injury itself and strengthen any imbalances around the injury that might’ve led to the initial injury or could contribute to re-injury.  It’s critical to your injury recovery that you follow whatever physical therapy exercises you’ve been given between sessions. 

 

That’s why I recommend finding and excellent physical therapist or personal trainer (or both)! 

In fact, did you know our very own Amber Tacy started her personal training journey by working in a physical therapy office? It’s true!

It’s one of the reasons Dancers Who Lift is so passionate about providing training that aides in injury prevention and takes personal interest in their dancers to create plans built around their individual needs. Want to learn more about that? Read about Amber’s journey to creating The Embodied Artist Academy here

 

  • Work with a Mental Health Professional:

As humans who are passionate about moving our bodies (and might even do so for work) being unable to do so can impact our mental health immensely. 

Between the lack of physical activity (known to release happy endorphins) and the temporary detachment from your performance community, injuries can leave dancers feeling low mentally. 

 Add on to the the possibility that the injury may have happened while dancing, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for anxiety and stress. 

 

Working with a mental health professional throughout your injury recovery can help you navigate these feelings and get you ready to dance even faster. 

Even after athletes have fully healed, hesitance to return to sport is common. From the fear of re-injury to the mental hurdle of trusting your body again, it’s normal to need help getting over these mental barriers. 

 

So, if you’re finding yourself facing a long recovery, get yourself professional external support so that when you’re body is ready, your mind will be also. 

 

  • Be Patient:

Dancers are famous for pushing through injuries.

And I’ll be honest, a lot of that is not our fault. Unlike professional athletes who are praised for “making a comeback,” dancers are taught that we are replaceable. And often, dancers are taught that to be injured makes you “injury prone,” “damaged goods,” or even “unreliable.” 

However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth! Research shows that most athletes actually report feeling stronger, more dedicated, and more physically focused after experiencing a long season of injury recovery. 

 

And while no dancer wants to be in the audience very long, returning to dance before you’re body is ready can lead to re-injury.  

The reality is, injury recovery takes time and rushing back to dance before your body is ready can make that recovery time even longer. 

Can you imagine spending months in injury recovery, working to strengthen, build confidence, and gain clearance to dance again only to re-injur yourself and have to start all over again?

It’s highly possible. Depending on the type of injury, it can make you seven times more likely. That’s why it is so incredibly important that you listen to your doctors and physical therapists before you start dancing gain. 

This is not meant to scare you. This is a reminder that one class, audition or show, is not worth sacrificing your body. Ever. 

 

  • Feel Everything: Healing is HARD

Injury recovery is incredibly challenging mentally, emotionally, and physically. Take the time to feel all of the emotions. 

Whether you’re feeling angry, sad, frustrated, exhausted, or even depressed, all emotions are valid and need processing in order for you to get back on that stage feeling confident and strong. 

 

Just remember, this isn’t forever. 

A good way to process those feelings is to keep a journal. It’s a habit that’s scientifically proven to increase mental health and we’ve seen the benefits of this in our coaches and athletes first-hand! New to journaling? Try these journal prompts to get you started. 

 

  • Remember, In general, all is not lost:

In the midst of not ignoring your feelings, remember that all is not lost. All of the hard work you put in before your injury does not just disappear. All of the networking did and audition successes you had are not suddenly for nothing. 

 

You will dance again. Casting directors will welcome you back. And you might even be stronger than before. 

One study raised a beautiful point. During recovery athletes have an opportunity to improve and grow in ways they might not when healthy. I’ll leave this quote for you because it is *chef’s kiss.* 

“While a successful injury rehabilitation process is crucial, it is important to consider how we can harness that time to not only help the athlete return to their pre-injury baseline ability but also leverage it as an experience of personal growth to aid in even further wellness and development. In fact, researchers have suggested that after enduring the challenge of a long rehabilitation period, many athletes report being more dedicated, focused, and mentally and physically stronger than they were pre-injury.” -National Library of Medicine. 

 

Helping You Amidst Your Injury Recovery

Whatever your injury, I hope this list provides you with the information to create a game plan for your injury recovery journey. 

And remember, while this list focuses on how to aide your recovery and get you back on your feet faster, take your injury recovery one day at a time. Not every day will be a slam dunk, and that’s okay. 

The important thing is that you remember that taking the time to rest and heal is as important as showing up to class. 

If you’re needing some help remembering that, know that you have a community right here at Dancers Who Lift ready to support you.

Joining Body Mechanics gains you access to our entire community filled with hundreds of dancers who are going through the same worries, struggles, and reaching for similar goals. 

If that feels a little too official right now, that’s okay too. Reach out to us at dancerswholift@gmail.com. We love connecting with and getting to know dancers and fitness lovers alike. 

Most of all, good luck in your recovery. Keep going, you’ve got this. 

Practicing Emotional Self-Care: Common Mistakes High-Performance Humans Make

Self-care is a hot topic these days, and for good reason. Practicing emotional self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy. 

That’s why lists of self-care products from at-home spa accessories to essential oil diffusers have people convinced that if they just “treat themselves” their emotional well-being will increase. And, while a relaxing bubble bath complete with face and hair mask, can do wonders for your emotional state, it’s not the only thing you should be doing to regulate your emotions. 

The National Institute of Health defines self-care as the ability to care for oneself through awareness, self-control, and self-reliance in order to achieve, maintain, or promote optimal health and well-being.

Based on this definition, to fully engage in self-care will require you to do things that might not be as appealing as that bath. That’s right, the age-old “dedication is greater than motivation’ mantra applies to your emotional self-care as well as your physical fitness. 

Unfortunately, a lot of high-performance people have no idea that they are missing out on so many opportunities for emotional self-care. 

How many times have you said,

“I’m sorry I’ve been M.I.A.. When I get busy I forget to reach out.”

Or what about,

“I just turned the TV on to zone out and mindlessly scroll.”

How about this one,

“I just got so busy I forgot to eat.”

Listen, we’ve all been there. But these are all elements of emotional self-care that often go unprioritized even though using a wide array of emotional self-care practices can result in greater resilience and lower levels of distress. 

Now, at this point, you might be asking “Okay, so there’s self-care and emotional self-care…what’s the difference?”

In short, there really isn’t one. You see the way to care for ourselves directly impacts our emotions. That’s why it’s so important to practice all kinds of emotional self-care–not just the ones that feel luxurious. 

So what are the most common mistakes when it comes to emotional self-care?

I thought you’d never ask.

 

Not Exercising Regularly:

Okay, Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “Of course, the fitness website is pitching that exercise is emotional self-care.” 

However, the fact is the National Institute of Health emphasizes that regular exercise has a positive impact on mental health and encourages mental health professionals to recommend a regular exercise routine to their clients. 

You see when people get stressed, depressed, or overwhelmed, hitting the gym is usually the first thing that gets removed from the “to-do” list to alleviate their schedule. Unfortunately, working out or even going for a walk would likely do wonders for alleviating the emotions they are experiencing. 

So next time you’re not feeling it, try the ten-minute rule. Do some form of exercise for ten minutes. If after that you’ve had enough, fine, go take a rest. But most of the time, getting started is the hardest part and once you’ve gotten moving, you’ll want to finish your workout. 

Not feeling like you have enough time to work out? Check out this 16-minute workout designed for someone on a time crunch!

 

Being Unintentional or Inconsistent About Food:

One of the biggest mistakes high-performance people make is being unintentional and inconsistent with how they fuel their bodies. Food is incredibly important to your emotional well-being. So it should go without saying that being intentional about how you fuel your body is a big part of emotional self-care. 

Why is food so linked to our mood? Let’s talk about Serotonin. 

Did you know that about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract? And the production of serotonin and other neurons are impacted by the “good” bacteria in your gut biome? That’s why what you eat is so important for regulating mood in addition to energy.

Furthermore, studies have shown that diets high in sugar are correlated with a greater risk of depression and other mood disorders, while other studies show a diet high in vegetables, fruits, grains, seafood, and lean meats can significantly decrease symptoms of depression.

So, how can we be more intentional about our food?  

First, don’t give yourself an opportunity to crash. Everyone has busy days, but ensuring that you can have breaks for meals or pack healthy snacks to consistently keep your brain fueled will make a huge impact on your emotions throughout the day. Not to mention, it’s another way of practicing emotional self-care by showing up for yourself.  

Next, be intentional about what it is you’re eating. I get it, popping into Starbies and grabbing a croissant and a latte might be quick, easy, and affordable, but it might also have you experiencing a large sugar spike and crash later in your day.

 Instead, pop into a deli and grab a turkey sandwich. It’ll still be affordable and (if necessary) you can eat it on the go.  But you’ll have the added benefit of a lean protein to keep you fueled until your next meal.

 

Failing to Prioritize Relaxation:

This next one is the most common among high-performance people because productivity is such a huge part of our culture. But the practice of embracing intention relaxation is an important part of emotional self-care. Yes, this is the category where you get to bring out those spa kits we talked about earlier if you enjoy relaxing that way. 

The most important part of this relaxation is that it is intentional. There is a big difference between sitting down in a comfy blanket to watch your favorite movie with a loved one and turning on Gilmore Girls for the gazillionth time to play in the background while you doom scroll. 

How did I know? Let’s just say I have a tab at Luke’s Diner as well. And listen, having a “comfort show” is not a bad thing. But it can be when it becomes a way to numb or dissociate. So while this can be a way to zone out, or have “company” while you clean, it’s not an intentional form of relaxation.

One of the best rules of thumb for restful emotional self-care is to do something that requires you to be present during your rest. Instead, drawing a bubble bath while you listen to music, download a mindfulness app and go through a meditation, or take time to journal with a cup of warm tea. 

 

Having Poor Sleep Hygiene:

It’s no secret that shutting down at the end of the day can be a challenge, especially for performers who are working high-energy jobs late into the evenings. But getting quality sleep at night is directly linked to improving your mental health. A great way to improve your sleep is to practice good sleep hygiene

So, what are some examples of good sleep hygiene? 

Good sleep hygiene looks like having a fairly consistent routine that prepares your body’s nervous system for sleep by helping it wind down. This can look like doing a skincare routine, putting on comfy pajamas, having a sleepy time tea, and turning off screens thirty minutes before bed. It can also look like ensuring your bedroom is a relaxing space to be in, whether that is putting your folded laundry away and out of sight or investing in quality bedding that keeps you comfortable all night. 

My favorite sleepy-time routine? In the winter I make a “bedtime hot coco” complete with 10 grams of protein, zinc, and magnesium to help my muscles relax. It tastes just like the real thing and makes for a perfect bedside sipper while I read my book. 

In the summer I opt for a mock-tail made of 100% Tart Cherry juice, pomegranate juice, a squeeze of lemon, and topped with sparkling water. The Tart Cherry juice is a known sleep aid and the perfect sweet and sour to replace a nightcap. 

 

 

mindfulness for self-care

 

 

 

Forgetting to Practice Gratitude:

It’s so easy to go through our busy days, go to the gym, cook dinner, go through our routines, and go to bed without considering what we’re grateful for that day. That’s a shame because studies have shown that practicing gratitude is correlated with experiencing fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

Practicing gratitude as a form of self-care can look like keeping a gratitude journal

 

Neglect Their Goals or Compromising Priorities:

Imagine, for a moment, that your best friend promised to meet you somewhere important and they no-showed you. You likely wouldn’t be pleased and might think twice before relying on them again. When you break the commitments you make with yourself, you’re teaching yourself that you are unreliable. Conversely, when you say “I promised myself ___, and now I am following through on that promise” you’re teaching yourself that you can be relied upon. 

Setting goals and showing up for yourself daily is an excellent way to practice emotional self-care. Goals give us something to focus on and work toward that is outside of our circumstances. They give us a sense of ownership over our lives and choosing to not give up on our goals is an important way of showing up for ourselves and increasing healthy self-reliance. 

A good example of this is choosing your goals over the expectations of others. For example, visiting relatives can sometimes be stressful when working toward a fitness goal. Whether it’s choosing not to have seconds, going to bed early, or taking an hour to yourself to get some exercise, it’s often challenging for people to understand why we won’t compromise “just for this trip.”  

And sometimes, compromise is important. But allowing yourself to be the only one who chooses when to compromise is an important practice of self-care. 

 

Isolating Themselves: 

Does this sound familiar? 

“I’m so sorry I forgot to text you back! I’ve just been so swamped!”

How about, “I’m sorry I haven’t called you back. It’s been a tough season and I just haven’t felt like talking to people.”

We all have seasons like this. And we do need to listen to our bodies and set boundaries for is privy to what information. 

However, it’s important to make sure we aren’t isolating ourselves from the people who can offer us encouragement or support when we’re struggling. Isolation can be a slippery slope away from community and accountability. 

If you are feeling like you want to limit your extroversion, that’s okay! But I encourage you to find a therapist or trusted friend you can speak to when things feel especially bleak. 

Practicing emotional self-care can be a rewarding practice of discipline on top of being incredibly beneficial for your recovery as an athlete. 

So which one of these practices will you try today?

Want some guidance about where might be the best place to start? Reach out to us here and ask about Body Mechanics, our personal training program designed to give you the tools to do it on your own. 

BCAAs, Supplements, What are BCAAs

The ABCs of BCAAs: The Science-Based Facts, Revealed

If you’ve been in the fitness world for a while you’ve likely heard people talk about BCAAs, pre-workouts, and other supplements designed to give you energy, boost performance, and stimulate muscle growth.

 

And with this buzz about BCAAs comes a slurry of questions like, 

What are BCAAs?

Are BCAA supplements worth it?

Should I be taking BCAAs?

We’re going to tackle these questions and more as we dive into the ABCs of BCAAs (see what I did there?). 

 

First things First, What Are BCAAs?

BCAAs=Branched-Chain Amino Acids

What are Branched-Chain Amino Acids?

 

Branched-chain amino acids are a group of three essential amino acids- leucine, isoleucine, and valine- that are “burned” for energy and aid in building muscle tissue protein. 

Because of their role in building muscle tissue, BCAAs are excellent at preventing D.O.M.S. especially when eaten before and after exercise. 

The thing about BCAAs is that your body does not manufacture them. They must be consumed. 

And this leads us right to our next question.

 

If I Don’t Take BCAA Supplements, How Do I Consume Them?

BCAAs are naturally occurring in a high-protein diet. Yes, this means that you can get enough BCAAs to support an active life without adding in the supplement – though there may be other benefits to using a supplement depending on your goals. 

 

Here’s a list of foods high in BCAAs. You might be surprised how many foods on this list you’re already consuming! 

  • Why, Milk, and Soy Proteins (Yes, including Tofu and Tempeh!)
  • Beef, Poultry, Fish, and Eggs
  • Chickpeas, Lentils, Corn, Beans, Pumpkin Seeds
  • Whole Wheat, Brown Rice
  • Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Pistachios, Cashews

If you’re looking at this list and thinking, “Gee, that’s most of the foods I eat.”

Yes. Correct. If you are eating intentionally to fuel your body for dancing, performing, and lifting, you’re likely getting all of the BCAAs you need from your diet. 

 

So Why Do People Take BCAA Supplements?

This is where we get into the nitty-gritty.

For a long time, people believed that taking BCAA supplements before a workout was a great way to speed up muscle growth because Leucine (one of the amino acids in BCAAs) is an integral player in muscle tissue growth. 

However, studies have shown that, despite common belief, athletes who use  BCAAs as a pre-workout saw a decrease rather than an increase in protein synthesis.

Instead, combining BCAAs with WHEY protein creates a complete protein that has shown to increase muscle protein synthesis

 

 

personal training for dancers

 

 

But If I Get BCAAs In My Diet, Why Add Them to My Protein?

The thing BCAAs do very well, outside of preventing D.O.M.S., is increasing your athletic performance by keeping your energy levels high. 

You see, these supplements decrease the amount of Serotonin your body produces during a workout which prevents fatigue. 

 

What does this mean? 

It means you’ll be able to work out harder and longer with the immediate support of BCAAs than you would without it.

 

However, use this power with wisdom as this added intensity without the support of WHEY protein and a well-fueled diet can lead to a decrease in muscle protein synthesis.

 

So… TLDR What Should I Do?

It all depends on your goals. 

If you are working tirelessly to build muscle, it may be best to get your pre-workout energy from quick energy sources like an apple, honey, or even a cup of coffee. 

However, if you are eating a balanced diet and are struggling with stamina and muscle recovery during and after your workouts, BCAA supplements could be beneficial for a season. 

 

At the end of the day, we always recommend that you try to get all of your important nutrients from whole foods. If you’re eating the protein and fiber required of the professional athlete you are, you likely don’t need to add BCAAs to your supplement regimen. 

Want some more insight into your nutrition needs? Check out Body Mechanics. A fully realized personal training program designed to teach you while you train.

8 Need to Know Plantar Fasciitis Exercises For Dancers

Plantar Fasciitis is a painful overuse injury and the healing process can be long and frustrating. While orthotics and supportive shoes can help, I’m grateful that there are a lot of plantar fasciitis exercises you can do to both speed up your recovery and relieve your pain. 

Not a sufferer of plantar fasciitis? That’s okay. These 8 plantar fasciitis exercises also serve to strengthen your feet, lowering your likelihood of developing the injury. 

So without further ado, let’s get started. 

Towel scrunch

The first of our plantar fasciitis exercises is the towel scrunch. Lay a towel or Theraband out on the floor and stand or sit with your foot behind it. Keeping your heel on the ground, use your toes to grab the towel and pull it toward you. Release and repeat until you reach the end of the towel. For added muscle work, use your toes to push the towel back out and away from you, again keeping your heel on the ground. 

Want to amp this exercise up? Place a small weighted item on the far edge of the towel and perform the exercise as written. 

Repeat 3 times on each foot. 

Short Foot

Whether you suffer from plantar fasciitis, fallen arches, or even just achy arches, the short foot exercise will be your best friend. Think of this as crunches for your arches! 

If you’re new to this exercise start by sitting down. Plant your foot on the ground and press your toes into the ground. Imagine suction cupping your foot to the floor and contract your arch for three seconds. As you are doing this, a small space should appear between your arch and the floor.  

Repeat for 15-20 reps on each foot. 

Eccentric Relevés

All workouts have an eccentric and concentric stage. Concentric is when the muscle is contracting- think lifting a dumbbell in a bicep curl. Eccentric is the part of the movement that’s lengthening and working with gravity- think the lowering of a dumbbell in a bicep curl. 

Strengthening our feet and calves for both eccentric and concentric movements will increase the control we see in landing jumps and lowering out of turns and piqués. Added strength means higher endurance and higher endurance means you’ll be less prone to an overuse injury. 

So to perform these Eccentric Relevés stand in parallel and relevé. Shift your weight to one foot, and slowly lower your heel to the floor. 

For an added challenge, perform these on a stair and drop your heel below the stair between reps. 

Repeat for 12 reps on each leg.

 

 

personal training for dancers

 

 

Internal External Ankle Rotations

Dancers love a winged foot! But that means that while our external ankle rotations are great, our internal rotations can be fairly weak. 

Take a set so your feet aren’t touching the floor. Use your ankle muscles to wing your foot (pull your pinky toe toward the outside of your calf). Perform ten reps this way, then reverse, using your ankle muscles to sickle your foot (pull your big toe toward the opposite foot. 

Repeat 10 reps in each direction on both legs. 

Toe Pulls

Toe pulls are one of the best plantar fasciitis exercises to alleviate pain. To perform, flex your foot and grab your big toe with your fingers. Gently pull backward until you feel a stretch in the underside of your foot and calf. Hold here for thirty seconds at a time and switch feet. 

Calf Stretch

Plantar Fasciitis can be further aggravated by tight calves as it puts additional pressure on your plantar fascia. That’s why continually stretching your calves is a good way to help alleviate discomfort from plantar fasciitis. 

To perform, face a wall and stagger your feet, one in front of the other. Pressing against the wall with your hands, bend your front knee keeping your back foot planted on the ground and the leg straight. Breathe here for 30 seconds before switching sides. 

Roll Them Out

Rolling out the bottoms of your feet regularly is a great way to mitigate the symptoms of plantar fasciitis. To do this, you can use a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, or my favorite, a frozen water bottle. Icing is a great way to decrease inflammation in stressed muscles. Combining ice with the benefits of rolling out the muscles is a double whammy against pain and inflammation!

Marble Grab and Drop

The last of our plantar fasciitis exercises is one of my absolute favorites because it’s sort of a game! To perform, find a handful of small objects, like marbles, thimbles, scrunchies, or even wine corks will work. Dump them out on the floor and place a bowl next to them. Then, using your toes, pick up the objects one at a time. Once held by your foot, use your internal or external ankle rotation to drop the object into the bowl. Repeat with the opposite rotation (internal or external) then switch feet.

Each of these exercises can be done at home while you’re watching TV and they can’t be done too much. Ideally, you perform these plantar fasciitis exercises even when you aren’t having a flare up- that way your feet are getting stronger and stronger. And strong feet are happy feet!

So say goodbye to achy arches at the ballet barre and pain in your heels when you’re on your feet all day. And if you want even more specific help strengthening yourself against injuries or even working out around one, check out Body Mechanics, a program designed to teach you everything you need to know to care for, nourish, and train your body for optimal success.

deliberate cold exposure, ice bath, cryotherapy

Keeping Things Cool: The Benefits of Deliberate Cold Exposure for Dancers

 

From cryotherapy to ice baths, cold plunges to cold showers, it seems like deliberate cold exposure is THE new miracle tool for athletes. But is forcing yourself to withstand cold temperatures really worth the discipline?

History tells us that the benefits of deliberate cold exposure date as far back as 2500 BC as Edwin Smith Papyrus noted the use of cold exposure for therapeutic purposes. And the ancient Greeks utilized cold water as a means of relaxation and even socialization. 

 

Okay, okay, but history also believed blood-letting was a good idea, does deliberate cold exposure stand the test of time?

In short, yes!

Deliberate cold exposure increases your metabolic rate and spikes plasma concentrations which in turn affects the immune system. And if a boosted metabolism and immune system aren’t enough to convince you, deliberate cold exposure decreases cortisol levels resulting in less stress and anxiety while increases in norepinephrine aides in pain relief. 

Studies have shown that regular cold exposure positively impacts mental status and physical composition. This is likely because of the increased metabolic rate as well as an increase in Brown Adipose Tissue or BAT activity.

What’s BAT?

It’s a type of body fat that regulates your body temperature in cold conditions. It activates right before you start to shiver! Its primary purpose is to produce heat to help maintain body temperature and it achieves that by burning calories. 

 

But wait, there’s more!

Athletes who utilize deliberate cold exposure after intense exercise experience less muscle soreness. On top of that, deliberate cold exposure aids in muscle recovery, making your performance during your next workout even better. 

However, make sure you limit the length of time you subject yourself to these cold temps! Too long in the cold and the benefits of deliberate cold exposure for muscle recovery begin to reverse by limiting muscle hypertrophy.

 

 

mindfulness to examine boundaries

 

 

So what are the ways you can implement this optimally into your routine? 

Before we get into the many options of deliberate cold exposure remember, like your choice of gym location, whatever you’ll be able to do consistently is going to have the greatest impact. 

You can start to enjoy the benefits of cold exposure from temperatures lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. 

As for the length of time, you need to ease into this practice. Submerging yourself in cold water can pose a risk of “cold shock” which is an increase in heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. This shock can put you at risk of drowning (if you gasp underwater) or even cardiac arrest. This risk is highest for the first 30 seconds, which is why you should never jump into a cold plunge or submerge your head right off the bat. Instead, ease yourself into the water. 

To reap the benefits of deliberate cold exposure you’ll need to remain in the cold water for at least one minute, this will decrease your skin temperature and you’ll start to feel the benefits of that norepinephrine release.

If you choose to stay in the water longer (3min-15min) you’ll start to reach the point where superficial muscle tissue temperatures will decrease. This is the point where you start to increase your metabolic rate and reap the muscle recovery benefits. 

Do not remain in the cold longer than 20 minutes! Once you reach the 30-minute mark your deep muscle tissue begins to cool and your body begins to enter a hypothermic state–not good. 

No matter how long you stay in the cold, studies have shown that people who use intentional breathing techniques while engaging in deliberate cold exposure yield the largest positive results. 

 

But What If I Don’t Have a Cold Plunge at my Gym?

There are a lot of ways to incorporate deliberate cold exposure into your life. 

The simplest way is to practice a hot-to-cold shower. This won’t yield the muscle recovery results, but it will yield some of the mental health benefits that those ancient Greeks loved!

Another option is to simply fill your bathtub will cool water- remember, water only needs to be 55 degrees or lower to be beneficial. If you practice this continually and want to up the intensity, add ice to your bathtub! (Similar to how you might give your  feet an ice bath after a long day in LaDucas!)

 

The next two options do require you to leave your home. 

The first is to visit a cryotherapy facility. In these facilities, you enter into a pod that exposes your body to cold air which yields similar benefits to water submersion. However, this can be a pricier option with sessions costing up to $32.

If you are lucky enough to live in a summery place, finding an outdoor pool you can use in the off-season can even work! Here’s a video of Amber shivering her way through one of her first deliberate cold exposure practices in a pool like this!

The point is, that any integration of deliberate cold exposure into your life will be beneficial to your mental and physical health. So what do you think? Will you brave the cold?