Love it or hate it, this is the time of year when people start talking about New Year's Resolutions. While it's exciting to think about what you want to work on in 2017, it can also feel daunting—especially because we often set unrealistic goals for ourselves, and wind up frustrated a few months in. Breaking resolutions down into small, attainable steps can help keep you motivated, and seeing positive results. To get you started, we pulled together a few tips for tackling some common dance-related goals.
Chances are, you're a couple weeks into your Nutcracker run, and the exhaustion is starting to set in. With so many performances, your joints and muscles have less time to recover between shows, and you have less time to wind down and relax. For those days that you aren't sure your body and mind can take one more performance, try these tips to fight fatigue and soreness:
Take a nap: A short power nap can give you a quick burst of energy before you get ready to take the stage. Try finding a quiet place to rest between your matinee and evening performances.
This time of year, we're used to seeing dancers embodying the flavors of The Nutcracker's magical Land of Sweets. But the real-life equivalents of those seasonal treats are more than just holiday guilty pleasures, and have benefits that could help you get through a crazy month of performances. Here are a few reasons to indulge in the spices and flavors of the season—now, and all year long.
Peppermint: This powerhouse herb has an abundance of benefits to help you get through a busy performance season. It's been known to aid digestion and help calm anxiety, and one study found that inhaling its vapors may improve athletic performance. Smelling peppermint has also been found to increase focus. You don't just have to get it from candy canes: Try brewing a hot cup of peppermint tea between rehearsals, or to wind down after a long day.
If you identify as a "night owl," then you're probably all too familiar with the feeling of running late. Maybe you've been trying to get into an early-morning cross-training routine for months, but when the alarm goes off, the struggle becomes all too real. Or you have no trouble performing until late at night, but find yourself sluggish during your morning rehearsals. Perhaps you're constantly scrambling to get to your first class on time, while others cheerfully boast that they've already been up for hours at the start of barre.
Most of the time, people will just tell you that you should be going to bed earlier, and getting more sleep per night. While this is good advice, it may not tell the whole story. A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that there really might be differences in the way night owls and early risers are "wired"—and that society tends to cater to the morning people.
As dancers, you know how rewarding creative endeavors can be—but you also know how tremendously challenging they are. Sometimes we just don't feel inspired, or new ideas seem out of reach.
Creativity is complicated: Earlier this month, researchers at Kent University and Sussex University identified 14 different components that make up the creative process, like persistence and being able to deal with uncertainty. Other studies have noted that it can take both positive and negative emotions to help creativity thrive—feelings of frustration can drive us to fix problems or complete daunting tasks.
Here are a few to get you started:
Apples: Aside from the fun of going on an apple-picking trip, the fruit is a good source of fiber and the antioxidant quercetin, which improves endurance. There are thousands of varieties to choose from, each with their own unique benefits.
Pumpkins: Basically the poster-child for the fall season, pumpkins also have tons of health benefits. One cup contains 11 percent of the fiber you need daily, and plenty of potassium, which helps keep your muscles strong and prevents cramping. Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium—important for energy production and bone development.
We all do our best to get enough sleep, but sometimes it feels like there just aren't enough hours in the day. And dancers have crazy schedules, whether you're in the midst of a busy performance season, touring, or juggling classes and rehearsals. It's easy to convince yourself that if you can just get six hours or so, you'll be functional enough to get through the next day. But a study published in the journal Sleep found that getting six hours of shut-eye may be just as bad as not sleeping at all.
For the study, 48 adults were asked to limit their sleep to four, six or eight hours per night for two weeks—and one group didn't sleep at all for three days. Researchers then kept track of each person's cognitive performance, reaction time and mood.
Whether you're heading off to a summer intensive or loading up on classes at your hometown studio, buying fresh and seasonal produce is a great way to get the fuel you need for dancing. Fruits and veggies are tastier (and often cheaper) when they’re in season, since they are more locally abundant and don’t have to be shipped from far away.
Here are a few foods that are in season right now, to get you started:
Beets: A good source of potassium (helpful for reducing muscle cramps) and fiber, which keeps you feeling satiated for longer. Plus, the phytonutrients in beets have antioxidant, detoxification and anti-inflammatory benefits. Try grating raw beets over salad to mix up your usual blend of veggies.
Watermelon: Is there anything better than a juicy slice of watermelon in the summer? True to its name, the fruit's water content is over 90 percent, helping you stay cool and hydrated on hot days. Watermelon juice may also help reduce muscle soreness if you drink it before a workout.
Strawberries and Blueberries: Fresh berries are a perfect summer snack, and not just because they’re delicious. These have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and one study found that blueberries may give short term memory a boost.
Green Beans: Non-starchy vegetables like green beans are a healthy source of carbs that can help provide the energy you need for long rehearsals or performances. Green beans are also a good source of vitamin K, which helps blood to clot.
Cherries: They're known for their anti-inflammatory properties, and tart cherry juice in particular has been found to reduce muscle pain and weakness after intense strength training or long-distance running.