Dancers tend to be pretty hard on themselves, physically and mentally. Rest is an important aspect of training that is largely overlooked or ignored, especially in today's face-paced society. According to Matt Wyon, Professor of Dance Science at the University of Wolverhapton, "Quality of training is more important than hours danced. Optimal learning occurs when dancers are not tired, and therefore rest is a fundamental training strategy".
Why is Rest so Important?
Rest is defined as anything that gives your body a break and allows it to recover. There are two types of recovery, short-term recovery and long-term recovery. Short-term recovery refers to the immediate action to rest one's body, taken after a difficult exercise or a cool down after a long, sweaty ballet class for example. Long-term recovery tends to refer to days of rest allowing the body to recover and heal. This type of recovery becomes more and more important the busier you are and the more intensive your workouts become. If a dancer does not properly rest, the risk of burnout, over-training and injury increases dramatically.
Benefits of Rest
- Rest allows muscles to strengthen and grow - As you exercise, you create micro-tears in your muscles and rest, along with proper nutrition, allows them to heal and grow stronger
- Reduced risk of injury
- Allows you to review choreography and corrections mentally - studies show that reviewing material or corrections mentally, in addition to doing them physically is more effective than solely working physically
- Rest allows new information to be consolidated in your memory - This can improve not only your memory but how well you perform movement
- Mental break - Self care is important and allowing yourself some free time to relax can help with stress relief and leads to feeling more refreshed and ready for your next class
Incorporating Rest Into Your Busy Schedule
Life can feel like a non-stop train of activities. We can sometimes feel guilty about slowing down and taking time to ourselves, but it is important to remember that working smarter, not harder, is always better than running yourself into the ground. Taking even just a few moments everyday to check in with yourself and allowing yourself to rest can mean that you can give your full attention and effort to work or activities later.
- Quality over quantity - The quality of your dance training is paramount to quantity of training. Give your all in your weekly class/classes, taking into account how you are feeling that particular day. It's not always realistic to expect 100% of yourself, 100% of the time. Working this way will lead to more progress than taking seven classes a week and struggling through them due to fatigue.
- Rest is not just about sleep - Incorporating other activities you enjoy other than dance and school can be considered rest and recovery. Maybe you enjoy taking long walks with your dog, or curling up on the couch to read a good book.
- Set realistic goals - Setting realistic goals can help you prevent burnout and excessive fatigue. Read more about setting goals here.
- Review mentally - As discussed above, to help yourself rest, you can review choreography mentally versus physically.
- Eat nutritious food - Spending time eating nutrient dense food that you enjoy nourishes your body and contributes to rest.
- Don't wait until it's too late - Feel a nagging sore tendon or starting to feel run down? Take a break! Training through pain or excessive fatigue is a recipe for injury or coming down with an illness.