This weeks question comes from a professional dancer on the verge of being promoted to a principal dancer.
Question: What foods can I eat to give me energy throughout the dancing day that will fill me up without making me feel lethargic?
Answer: Nutrition for dancers is a touchy subject on the online message boards and forums, but I am not afraid to tackle this one head on. If you are a professional dancer dancing sometimes up to 8 hours a day, you want to make sure that you are eating to stay fueled up for rehearsals. I always drank an electrolyte beverage such as Gatorade during class and rehearsals to replace all of the carbohydrates lost while sweating. In case you haven’t noticed already, water alone will not satisfy your need for hydration during class and rehearsals. If you are a pre-professional dancer, hydration is just as important so these tips go for you as well.
As far as fueling your body with foods, you want to make sure that you are eating a healthy, carbohydrate rich snack every 2 hours during the dancing day. This is the nutrition schedule that I give to my ballet strength nutrition clients. Finding time to include the snacks in your day can sometimes be a struggle, but is imperative to your dancing when it comes to making improvements and progress in your technique. Not only will your body suffer if it is lacking essential nutrients, but your mind will also have a hard time remembering choreography.
So what should you eat? Here is a list of some great healthy snacks that you can add into your day to stay energized and eager to dance;
- Granola Bars (not protein bars!)
- Trail Mix
- Whole Wheat Crackers
These snacks will replenish the stored carbohydrates that you lost during class, rehearsal, or both. Remember, don’t go hungry, eat for energy and your dancing will improve tremendously!
Committed to Your Dancing,
Ballet injuries are common career ending catastrophes for dancers of all ages. What may seem like a small ache or pain could turn into a serious injury if you are not making the proper adjustments to your technique. There are a lot of solutions offered that just mask the pain. If you do not get to the bottom of the issue that is causing the injury, it could be a life long struggle.
The following are a list of steps you can take to ensure you are doing the right things to prevent career ending injuries.
1.) See a Doctor- I know this may seem like a no brainer, but going to a doctor is one of the most important things you can do if you are experiencing abnormal pain. If you are attending a good ballet school, they should be affiliated with a Sports Medicine department or physical therapist in your city.
2.) Rest- You’ve heard this one before too. If you are experiencing abnormal pain, you need to stop dancing until you have the issue identified by a physical therapist. I know, you’re afraid that you will lose your part to your understudy, but how would if feel if you kept dancing and tore or broke something? Do your career a favor and take a much needed rest.
3.) Therapy- Once you have seen a physical therapist and they have diagnosed the problem, you need to follow through with your treatments. Your physical therapist may have you doing some strange exercises, but if you don’t follow through with them the injury will come back.
4.) Investigate- After you are finished with physical therapy and your injury seems to have healed, start investigating your ballet technique. Are you rolling in on your ankles? Are you gripping your hips? You might even want to see a Ballet Strength & Conditioning Coach like myself to help you work on technical weaknesses based on your anatomy and body mechanics. (Keep in mind that these are things that most ballet teachers are not qualified to recommend)
Sometimes your Ballet instructors, though they have your best interest in mind, will continue to tell you to force your turnout, etc. so that your body looks aesthetically correct for ballet. While this may look good, it may be doing disastrous things for your body and your career.
Take these simple precautions to prevent long lasting injuries and never be afraid to ask questions. You can try out one of my Ballet Strength programs HERE.
Nikol Klein, Certified Personal Trainer/ Professional Ballet Dancer/ Certified Nutritionist