Rest and Recovery for the Dancer-Athlete


by Janine Bryant for The Dance Journal

Most high-level athletes know that adequate rest after performance is essential to recovery and regeneration.  However, many still overtrain or feel guilty when they take the day off and dancers are no different!

The beginning of this academic year is a great time to analyze schedules to determine study times, workout times and rest times.

Rest is critical to performance for a variety of reasons.  Some reasons are physiological and some are psychological.  Rest is required though so that the body can repair and strengthen.  For dancers who are constantly striving for technical gains, rest could be the key to an increased level of performance in the studio and on the stage.

What happens during rest and recovery?  The body renews energy stores and repairs tissue. Without this time to recover, the body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise.  Dancers will notice a general feeling of malaise, decreased performance and possible depression. At this stage, the body is at an increased risk for injury. Dancers who have pushed themselves beyond this point know all too well the damage that can occur.

There are two types of recovery:  short-term and long-term.  Short-term recovery occurs in the hours just after intense exercise.  Dancers should think of proper cool down, hydration and the right post exercise foods so that energy stores and fluids are replaced as well as the protein content of muscle cells.  This is also the time when soft tissue repairs.

Long-term recovery behaviors involve getting enough sleep, cross-training and modifying workouts and intensity levels.  Sleep deprivation has been linked to subtle changes in hormone levels and increased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) which can effect mood, muscle recovery and glycogen synthesis.  Glycogen is an easily converted store of energy: a polysaccharide found in the liver and muscles that is easily converted to glucose for energy. Think of it as food for your muscles!

Balance is key – treat your daily schedule like it is the key to your wellness, because it is!  Scheduling time to study is important but, for the dancer-athlete, rest is equally important.  Work hard on your plies, your range of motion and on multiple turns but consider that you may do all three better with more adequate sleep!

Until next time, friends, dance healthy and strong!

Janine Bryant
Director of Dance Programs
Eastern University, St. David’s, Pa.

To find out more, please check out this full article, The Benefits of Rest and Recovery After Exercise.