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Ask Amy: How Can I Stay in Shape After Nutcracker Ends?

My dance program goes on a two-week break after Nutcracker performances. I'm worried about staying in shape and hate not having regular class. What can I do on my own, and how much should I be doing? —Emma


It's easy to feel anxious about getting out of shape when your studio is closed, but our bodies need a break every once in a while, especially after an intense period like Nutcracker. "Resting is important physically for your tissue to recover from any kind of overuse, and it's important mentally, too," says Heather Southwick, DPT, physical therapist for Boston Ballet. But if you're not injured, she continues, "going more than a week without any physical activity makes it harder to ramp back up to your regular routine."

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Southwick recommends taking it easy the first week off: Do some dynamic stretching daily (moving gently through positions, rather than holding static stretches) and perhaps take one or two Pilates or yoga classes. During your second week off, increase your activity. Exercising three to five times per week is important for maintaining physical fitness, says Southwick. "Dancers always think that it has to be ballet—it doesn't."

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In fact, taking a break from ballet can be good for you mentally and allow you to target other areas of your body that you don't focus on regularly. Find a form of low-impact exercise that you enjoy, whether it's Pilates, Gyrotonic, the elliptical, swimming or riding a bike. During cardio workouts, alternate between pushing hard for 30 to 60 seconds (to get your heart rate up) and slowing down to a steadier rate for one to two minutes. "High-intensity interval training is much more conducive to what happens in class or during a performance, as opposed to straight, steady cardio," says Southwick. If you're not already a member at your local gym, ask about day passes or free trials.

Have a question? Send it to Pointe editor and former dancer Amy Brandt at askamy@dancemedia.com.

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