Hey dancers and coaches!
As we enter the busiest time of the year filled with holiday performances, you may also be deep into your competition and convention season. It’s important that we take the time to address the elephant in the room during this crazy time — dancer burnout.
Without minimizing the concern for the mental health of our dancers, I want to focus on the physical stress on our dancers’ bodies. Burnout can absolutely be mental, especially when dancers start to question whether dancing is the right thing for them. But I see physical burnout most often comes from overtraining, not resting enough, and not taking time to let the body recover.
When we put this much stress on the body, our dancers become more mentally and physically fatigued, making it easier for them to get hurt or injured. It’s better to take a day or two to rest now than to have to take weeks off from competitions down the road.
“When you don’t make the time for yourself, your body will make the time… and it’s not always convenient.”
I love this quote because it rings true. And I don’t want you to learn this from experience.
Here are a few signs of physical dancer burnout to look out for.
- You constantly feel sore.
- You have difficulty recovering from long rehearsals.
- You have injuries that aren’t healing correctly.
- You are constantly exhausted.
- You get sick a lot.
These symptoms and signs come and go through the year, but with the winter months in full swing, it’s more than likely you and your dancers will catch something this season. But if you have any dancers that just seem to always be sick, their immune systems are weakened, and they may not be able to keep up with the demands of life. It could be a sign of a struggle with burnout.
I know when we’re in the craziness of competition season it’s challenging to pause and take a step back.
If you’re a dancer, I want you to find time when you’re not at a competition or convention to implement the following steps. The weekend or in the evenings have worked well for many dancers to implement a self-care routine and prevent dancer burnout.
If you’re a coach, and you notice that your dancers are always sick or sore, or they’re starting to get hurt in really weird and avoidable ways — I encourage you to take a step back. Take a look at any competitions that aren’t one hundred percent necessary. Can you cut out any of them? Where can you allocate time in your practices for some self-care and recovery?
Be a leader for your dancers. Encourage them to set aside time to do the following tips.
How to Sidestep Dancer Burnout
1. Drink plenty of water.
The top two reasons dancers get hurt are overtraining and dehydration. The moment dancers feel thirsty, their body is already dehydrated. A good place to start when it comes to water is to divide your weight in half — that’s how many ounces of water your body needs each day. So if you’re approximately 100 pounds, you need 50 oz of water per day.
Water helps prevent your body from overheating from the lights and costumes when you perform. But it also helps your body recover from the demands of your busy schedule so you perform better too.
2. Eat a proper diet.
A proper diet includes protein, fats, and carbs within each meal. When you only snack on carbohydrates, you lack the protein your body needs to rebuild your muscles. When you don’t have enough fat, it makes it harder for your body to recover. When you eat healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and oils, this helps bring down inflammation in your sore muscles.
Imagine when you have a fever and a loved one puts a cool towel on you to bring the inflammation down. Being sore is basically inflammation inside your body. Just as a fever tells you that your body is fighting off an infection, soreness is your body’s way of asking for rest and self-care. The first step in recovering those sore muscles is proper nutrition.
If you’re curious about what to eat before and after a competition, get my Competition Nutrition Packet . This packet includes a full day of meals with a snack list and hydration enhancers.
3. Get enough sleep.
I know your workload is heavy. Between practicing for competition, school, homework, and a part-time job — it’s a lot. Getting 7-9 hours of restful sleep is going to be the most beneficial thing for your body’s recovery. Dancers get stronger when they rest, not when they’re at practice. When you get deep sleep, your mind and body are able to reset themselves. That’s when the construction crew comes in and rebuilds your muscles so they’re strong and ready to go for the next day.
If you don’t eat, sleep, or drink enough water, there’s no way your body can recover to keep up with the demands of your competition season.
4. Prioritize time for intentional rest and recovery.
While sitting around and scrolling social media might feel like resting, it is important to be intentional with your rest and recovery. Epsom salt baths and foam rolling are great ways to help sore muscles recover.
Look for Epsom salt that has 100% magnesium sulfate and add 1-2 cups to your bath as it fills up with hot water. Check the water temperature before you get in so you don’t burn yourself. Magnesium blocks the body from absorbing calcium and regulates the muscles when they contract so that your muscles can fully relax. The idea is that your body absorbs the magnesium through your skin to reduce inflammation in your body and help your muscles recover.
You likely have extra tight, concentrated, sore muscles after a long rehearsal or performance week. Foam rollers can help increase flexibility and range of motion by releasing tension in your muscles. They help your muscles repair themselves by making it easier for blood to flow to your muscles and start that repair process. Focus on your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and IT band to work out sore spots in your muscles.
There are different types of foam rollers you can get. Some have deep grooves in them to really dig into the tight areas and work out the knots quicker but, full disclosure, it will probably hurt more. I use a smooth foam roller and it does the trick, every time. You can go slower with a smooth one or wait a few seconds when you hit a tight spot. Just like stretching, remember to breathe through it.
Not sure how to use your foam roller?
Check out this reel to help speed up your muscle recovery.
Finish Competition Season Strong
If you don’t take the time to let your body rest and recover, your body will make time for it. And it’s not always going to be convenient for you. So find pockets of time within your practices and your weekly schedule to set aside time dedicated to recovery. This prevents injuries and dancer burnout from creeping in.
Avoid dancer burnout with:
No one has extra time lying around to implement these 4 steps. If we did, dancers would never experience burnout in the first place, right? It’s crucial that you set aside time weekly, if not daily, to give your body the time it needs to rest and recover. Your body is capable of doing incredible routines, tricks, and endurance during demanding schedules. But you have to take care of it in order to be able to perform your best and finish out your season strong. Carve out time to use the four simple methods to avoid dancer burnout and finish the season strong!