As the last few weeks of summer vacation come to a close (single tear 😢 ), many dancers are anxiously awaiting the return to regular dance classes and training. It's always an exciting time filled with anticipation of new classes with new friends, new teachers, new routines and choreography, and more challenging moves and technique. No one wants to start the year off with an injury, so below are a few ways you can start to prepare your body for the upcoming dance year to help minimize your chance of injury.
1. Take a class - many studios are offering last minute summer intensive, drop-in technique classes or boot camp style classes in order to prepare your body for the demands of the upcoming fall schedule. See if you can fit in a few classes before the start of the year to start getting back into shape. This is especially great if you haven't already done any intensives this summer.
2. Start to build strength - if you've taken a (much deserved!) break from dance this summer, now is the time to start building back some of the strength you may have lost in muscles that are key to dance. Start doing some basic core work, foot strengthening, calf muscle strengthening, and hip strengthening exercises at home now. Your body will thank you in your first week back at class!
3. Gentle stretching - similar to strength, your body will have lost some flexibility with a prolonged break this summer. It's important to slowly try to gain back your mobility, as too much stretching too soon will risk pulling or injuring a muscle. Start to work on myofascial releases with a ball, foam roller, stick roller etc and then incorporate some gentle stretching of the major muscles in your back, hips, legs and feet as well.
4. Set goals - even though I've been out of school for 10+ years, there's still something about September that signals the start of a new year for me (even more so than actual New Years!). It's a great time to set some goals for the upcoming dance season. Want to be able to turn better? Improve your pointe? Increase your leg height in arabesque? Improve your backbend? Now's the time to figure out what your goals are for the season, and what you need to work on to achieve them.
5. Stock your 'tool kit' (aka dance bag) - now is a great time to not only make sure you have new tights, oodles of hair supplies, properly fitting shoes etc; but it's also a great time to make sure you have some basic supplies for injury prevention in your dance bag. I recommend every dancer have a golf ball, larger myofascial release ball, resistance band, roller (either hand/stick roller or small foam roller), some muscle rub, and some athletic tape. *Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how to use all these goodies in your tool kit for injury prevention*
6. Schedule a screening assessment - the beginning of a new dance year is a great time to have a dance specific screening assessment done. A lot of people grow over the summer months, so things in your body might not be the same as they were at the end of last season. A thorough screening assessment will look at posture, muscle balance, strength, flexibility, and functional technique; and give you suggestions for ways to improve on any issues that may arise from the assessment.
So there you have it! My top tips to get you into tip top shape for the upcoming dance year. Have I missed anything? Would love to hear what your pre-season routines include, whether they relate to injury prevention or not!