When you stay out late and neglect your studies in school, you’re hindering your ability to perform well academically. The same holds true for certain bad habits that dancers have. If you’re skimping on sleep or eating poorly, you could unintentionally be holding yourself back from your true performance potential. Here’s how to improve as a dancer by breaking these five bad habits.
1. Not sleeping enough
Sometimes it might seem like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Whether you’re a high school student trying to balance dance and homework or a pre-professional struggling to maintain relationships while attending a conservatory, it’s absolutely essential that you stick to a strict sleep schedule. Aim for at least seven or eight hours per night – otherwise, you’ll be sluggish, easily distracted and impatient.
“People who don’t get adequate sleep – an hour or two fewer than what they really need – have a much harder time achieving a healthy body weight in the long term,” Emily Harrison, a dietician for the Centre for Dance Nutrition, explained to Dance Spirit magazine.
2. Eating poorly
Cupcakes at school and greasy pizza on the weekend are tempting, but dancers need to adhere to a healthy diet, just like any other athletes. Ensure that you’re eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as foods with protein and fiber. This doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in a sweet treat once in a while, but it shouldn’t be a regular habit.
On a related note, it’s important that you’re eating enough to support your active lifestyle. Skipping meals in an attempt to lose weight will surely backfire – it’s better to eat smart than to not eat at all.
3. Skipping warm-up or cool-down
If you’re late for class, you may be tempted to do a few simple stretches before jumping into the action. Or if you have big plans after rehearsal, you may rush off without letting your body cool down. Both of these bad habits can seriously harm your body in the long-run. Skipping warm-up makes you more prone to injuries.
“Warming up increases blood flow to all muscles in the body, which makes them more pliable,” Julie Green, physical therapist for Pennsylvania Ballet, told Dance Spirit magazine.
Similarly, taking the time to cool down will give your muscles and heart the time they need to return to normal after a long workout.
4. Dancing through an injury
According to a study by Safe Kids Worldwide, 42 percent of athletes have hidden or downplayed an injury so they could continue performing. While you probably don’t want to take time off from dance, even small injuries can become big problems if you don’t give them time to heal. If you’re ever in pain during class, don’t just push through it. Talk with your teacher and visit a doctor if necessary. You need to give your body time to recuperate if you want to be able to dance to the best of your ability.
5. Not hydrating
Many people are guilty of not drinking enough water on a regular basis, but you shouldn’t be one of them. Because dancers lose water through their sweat, it’s easy for them to become dehydrated. When this happens, you’ll be tired, nauseous and prone to cramping. Protect your body – and your performance – by drinking at least eight glasses of fluid each day. Most of this should be water. Steer clear of sugary drinks or caffeinated beverages.