I can think of very few jobs that require more physical strength, mental focus and emotional resilience than being a dancer or body worker. At my holistic clinic I specialise in helping performers deal with and hopefully clear physical health issues and emotional stressors. Over time one starts to notice patterns in behaviour, symptoms and results. Here I'd like to share my most effective advice to help you become more energised, healthier, happier and ultimately a better body worker. Take a deep breath and 5,6,7,8...
You dancers love a bowl of pasta and a white baked potato! And why wouldn't you. It's comforting, satisfying, feels and tastes oh so good. But is it the healthiest way to fill up and recover after a big show, rehearsal or workout??? Everything starts with diet and nutrition and it's the first port of call when dealing with dancers at my clinic with any physical symptoms. For example, one client, circus performer Daniel, remedied aches and pains he'd been experiencing for years just by eradicating inflammatory milk and gluten foods from his diet!
My background as a vocal coach and holistic health practitioner for some of London's top drama schools has opened my eyes to the fact that nutritional education is just not up to scratch. Nutrition and diet should be at the centre of our lives as well as our careers. Young students, quite frankly, are not getting the right information. If you are the type of body worker that likes to source your carbs from white rice, pasta, bread and potato, I'd like you to seriously consider making some of the changes outlined below.
The foods listed above are highly processed and high in starches. There are so many health implications linked with these foods that it's impossible to outline all of them here. But here are some of them put simply...
1. White starchy carbs will spike your blood sugars and mess with your insulin
2. Wheat and gluten is inflammatory for most people and messes with your digestion
3. The above foods have little or no nutritional value
As high level intense body workers your top priority should be getting nutrient dense food into your bodies to fuel your system and heal your muscle fibres and keep muscles strong, supple and flexible. A big bowl of pasta, white rice or a large white potato is a huge wasted portion of otherwise nutrient dense food. You can get just as much healthy carbohydrates from vegetables such as sweet potato, green beans, broccoli, carrots and other colourful veggies.
To replace your carb fix from pasta, bread, white rice and white potato (which are simple carbs) opt for brown rice, buckwheat, different kinds of beans, lentils, chick peas and other legumes and pulses (which are complex carbs). The benefit of swapping for these kinds of foods is that, yes you get your carbs, but you also get a fabulous hit of protein (just as important for repairing and building muscle as you know) AND you get a powerhouse of other vitamins, trace minerals and nutrients. An example of a great meal for a dancer or body worker would be buckwheat with loads of sauteed vegetables and some steamed salmon (if you're not a vegetarian) or brown rice and bean mix with steamed greens and avocado. A little tip; buy all grains and beans in their dried form and soak over night in water and a table spoon of apple cider vinegar, drain and cook the next day. This makes them much easier to digest and releases toxins such as phytic acid.
Following these guidelines I am certain you will notice a difference in your body, energy level and lightness in your digestive system.
2. DON'T STRETCH!
Ok, this is a hugely controversial one. Please stay with me and keep and open mind! The dancers who follow these recommendations experience a DRAMATIC reduction in rate and severity of injury like pulled muscles, sprains, strains and improved balance and co-ordination. What I am about to tell you is a little known secret that a few of the worlds top athletes have started implementing.
Ok, so the rule is:
Only a well hydrated, healthy, balanced muscle can return to integrity after stretching
Stretching actually periodically WEAKENS and SOFTENS the muscle tissue. But if the muscle is healthy it will return to strength. Ever wondered why you spent half an hour warming up and stretching and STILL hurt yourself?! This is probably why...
I would question anyone that says that they have perfectly hydrated, healthy, balanced, unstressed muscles. Just everyday life has an impact on them. And stretching is actually increasing your chances of injury.
So what SHOULD you do?
Rebounding (bouncing on a trampoline) is the most powerful and effective form of all over body exercise that you can possibly do. There are so many incredible health and body benefits to this form of work. It engages every muscle of the body at the same time in a gentle but focussed and energised manner. Unlike stretching, rebounding sends blood and oxygen coursing to the muscles giving them the fuel and warmth they require to kick into action. Rebounding ignites and sends lymphatic fluids racing through your system giving your immune system the most dramatic boost of any physical exercise possible. This greatly reduces the chance of injury and greatly increases the rate of recovery should it happen.
BUT I DON'T HAVE A TRAMPOLINE TO TAKE WITH ME EVERYWHERE I GO!
I know, in an ideal world hey! I would definitely recommend investing in a rebounder to keep at home for a daily 15 minute exercise before you leave to workout, rehearse or perform. Then you'll be ready (after your jog or fast walk) to stretch and whatever else you do before work.
You can get a very similar effect by just gently jumping and bouncing up and down on the ground making sure you keep soft knees. Imagine the type of bouncing motion a boxer would do. In fact bouncing around like a boxer including some of those cool punching movements would be a perfect way to do things. Can you see how you will be engaging all your muscles at the same time and getting blood flow and lymph fluid racing around? You can add in general smooth dance like, bouncing movements with little stretch moments here and there. Skipping also has the same effect as rebounding and any other movement that involves a bounce. Even just gentle jumping and bouncing on the spot. After about 10-15 minutes of this, you could add in a few simple easy stretches, but again nothing extended or too intense.
I know this information goes against tradition and the grain. But give it a go and feel the difference.
As body workers you will be using a lot more fuel than most, and therefor you will require a lot more input. Now, following my nutritional advice above is a fantastic start. But unfortunately, due to mass production, we have depleted the land of trace minerals and nutrients and we simply can not get what we need from food alone. They aren't called SUPPLE-ments for nothing. They can have a profound impact on your bodies. I can tell you now, you dancers will be deficient in these nutrients:
Essential for function of the immune system, bone health, happiness and mood. Vitamin D3 deficiency has been linked to cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic muscle pain, bone loss and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis. We simply can not get enough from the sun in the UK and food sources are limited, so supplementation is essential.
Dr Roger Wolman, consultant in rheumatology and sport and exercise medicine at the RNOH, said: "We know vitamin D3 deficiency can affect the bones. What's become clear is vitamin D3 is also important for muscles. It might not have an intense effect on your average office worker but on someone doing very intensive training, putting a lot of stress on their bones and muscles, it can be significant." Read my full article on Vitamin D here
What is important to know when supplementing with Vitamin D3 is you need to balance it with...
Magnesium & Calcium
It is essential to take magnesium if you are supplementing with Vitamin D!
This is the top most important mineral not just for dancers and body workers but for EVERYONE!
Think of Magnesium as the relaxation mineral. Anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, and stiff — whether it is a body part or even your mood — is a sign of magnesium deficiency. This critical mineral is actually responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions in your body and is found in all of your tissues — but mainly in your bones, muscles, and brain. You must have it for your cells to make energy, for many different chemical pumps to work, to stabilise membranes, and to help muscles relax. Magnesium is depleted in the body by excessive sweating - if YOU aren't sweating you aren't working hard enough :o) - use of alcohol, salt and coffee - anyone use caffeine hit pre or mid show/rehearsal? - and physical and emotional stress - we all got that!
I recently had a dancer client, Louise, come to me with chronic migraines for pretty much her whole life and an extremely stiff neck. This were so debilitating she could no longer audition or dance. After our session I prescribed daily intakes of Calcium-Magnesium, and she hasn't had a migraine in 6 months, and her neck is no longer stiff.
I would recommend in periods of rehearsals, shows and intense work outs to take anywhere between 400-1000mg a day of Calcium-Magnesium.
BUY IT HERE - this product contains a synergistic balance of Vitamin D, Calcium & Magnesium. 2 in the morning and 2 in the evening should cover you for your needs for maintenance. And 2 morning, 2 lunch and 2 evening at times of work and stress!
Your classic Vitamin C is the most powerful nutrient to protect you from infection, bacteria and virus. I take 9000mg of Vitamin C a day in the winter just to stay balanced and protected. I can go up to 15,000mg a day when sick to nip it in the bud. Hot sweaty rehearsal studios, gyms with shared equipment, dusty and dirty back stage areas and the touchy feely huggy huggy nature of us performers is a breeding ground for viruses and bacteria. Take your daily dose of Vitamin C and you will significantly reduce your chances of catching a bug making your work more enjoyable. BUY IT HERE
Omega 3 Oils
Dr Hyman from Functional Medicine says "Simply put, these extraordinary fats affect every part of your biochemistry. They control gene function, regulate your immune system, impact the speed and efficacy of your metabolism, and they are a vital component of the cell membrane that covers every one of the 100 trillion cells in your body.
This means when you don’t get enough omega-3 fats, messages can’t properly communicate from one cell to another. If you’re not getting enough omega-3s, your body — including your brain — just can’t work to its optimum potential!"
I think you'd agree that for a dancer, having your 100 trillion cells working optimally along with your brain is utterly essential! BUY IT HERE
Well done for reaching the end of the article! Quite a lot of information to take in... but if you think about it, actually really simple to implement. Just swap your carbs around, bounce instead of stretch and buy your supplements! SIMPLE!
If you implement the steps outlined here and do not experience a dramatic difference in your health and well being and do not notice an improvement in your physicality, dance ability or work out sessions (providing you are living a healthy existence else where in your lives) I will personally try to do a triple pirouette in public and embarrass myself deeply!
The dancers and body workers who HAVE implemented everything outlined in this article have noticed dramatic changes. I invite you to try the same.
As always if you'd like to ask me any questions why not join my over on FACEBOOK and if you feel you might benefit from coming to my clinic for a session to work on your physical and emotional health then contact me using the button below.
Lots of Love Gary x