For most people, and especially kids, summer means a time to take a break, enjoy a warmer weather, and welcome a less busy schedule. For dancers of any age, it tends to be a little less relaxing; the sunny days are instead filled with summer programs, intensives, rehearsals and performances. As dancers, we are trained to work extremely hard 24/7; often, taking time off from dance can be viewed as weakness, or that you don’t love the art form as much as someone who decides to dance year round. But this mentality towards constant training, or even overtraining, can lead to burnout, exhaustion, depression and, not surprisingly, injuries. No matter who you are, summer is the perfect season to reflect and evaluate your priorities. Taking a break is healthy: give your body some rest, explore cross training, and allow your mind to focus on something else for awhile!
while taking a break sounds lazy, in reality, it’s the total opposite
Mental Health Benefits
Giving your brain time to recalibrate can help clear your mind and enables you to return to your task with a fresh perspective and attitude. Have you ever been focusing on something - perhaps a school paper, or even a video game - and you can’t seem to find that perfect conclusion, or move up to the next level? And have you walked away for a bit, only to come back and find the solution you were seeking? I can guarantee you have! So if you’re having trouble nailing that triple pirouette, or remembering that certain variation, chances are a little break will help your mind reset.
Burnout is a very real danger for dancers. Our art form is one that demands a great level of determination and dedication - many dancers train 5 or 6 days a week to maintain the strength and technique necessary to succeed in this industry. However, this mindset can quickly lead to overtraining, which can result in burnout. This can manifest in a number of ways, including: constant tiredness, negative attitude, lack of concentration, injuries, anxiety, lack of sleep, or poor performance, both onstage and in class. For some, this can steer you into a rejection of dance altogether - in other words, you quit. Taking a break is a way to stop burnout before it starts! Take a nap, meditate, maybe get a massage. Be kind to yourself, and recognize when you may need a little separation from your #1 - dance.
Active recovery is a method used by some of the best athletes in the world, and not just when they’re trying to heal from an injury! Active recovery differs from passive recovery (where you basically do nothing - which is sometimes necessary!) in that it is a lower intensity workout that is directly beneficial for your body. It can reduce the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles, increase blood flow to your muscles, alleviate fatigue and maintain your heart rate (which will improve your endurance). It can - and should - be integrated into your normal routine. Some activities you can incorporate are swimming, walking, cycling, or hiking.
Similar to active recovery, cross training is an important part of any dancer’s regime. Incorporating different methods of exercise can help strengthen muscle groups that aren’t used as often during your regular dance classes. Hit the gym, take a yoga, pilates, or gyrotonic class, try some resistance or weight training. There are so many options!
In conclusion, while taking a break sounds lazy, in reality, it’s the total opposite. Work hard in the studio, then allow yourself the space to rest & rejuvenate, monitor your health, and be ready to hit the dance floor at your best.