We overestimate & hope for magical cures from all the gimmicky supplements & workouts out there...and underestimate the basic (seemingly boring) building blocks of our health & performance. But in reality, it's really quite amazing what good quality sleep, nutrition, simple exercises, & methods of decreasing stress can do for you.
And just to be clear, we are not talking about anything fancy here. These are easy fixes that can increase your health & performance, many of which come with zero economic cost to you. There is nothing wrong with innovation and advancement. But sometimes you need to bring things back to the basics in order to really level up.
Aim for 8-10 hours per night to allow your body to heal & recover from both the physical stress incurred from your dancing & cross-training but also the emotional stress inflicted by your environment. Sleep is such an easy, inexpensive way to upgrade your health...and yet it is so undervalued. But even getting an extra hour or two of quality sleep can make such a difference in your performance on stage & in life. And in case you have demons that make you feel guilty for sleeping longer, remind yourself that your body is actually very active while you rest:
- Clearing out damaged & "junk" cells you no longer need
- Rebuilding new tissue
- Decreasing inflammation & repairing your joints
- Restoring energy to your muscles
- Balancing hormones to aid in fat loss & longevity
- And much more
This isn’t a matter of being lazy. It’s giving your body the time it needs to do what it does best –heal & thrive (provided you are giving it what it needs to thrive…which we will cover in the next 3 steps below).
Eat REAL food. Period. The rest of the world will try to brainwash you into thinking these new man-made "foods" & supplements are the answer to your fat loss & performance goals. But that fake food will only take you further from baseline health...filling you with hormones & fillers that are unnatural to your body. Our bodies are designed, and have been for many centuries, to digest real food. This is one of those times where innovation is not better. Everything you need is provided by Mother Nature. Return to the basics* - eggs, meats (including organ meats), dairy, a variety of fruits & vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, ghee, and lots of fresh herbs & spices. Search for sources as unaltered by humans as possible - the hormone-free, organic, free-range, unprocessed, full-fat versions of food.
If you eat a variety of good quality real food, you shouldn't need expensive supplements or "superfood" gimmicks to feel vibrant & healthy. I’mnot saying you should never eat a cookie or a protein bar, but if you try to compose the bulk of your diet with this real food that is as close to its natural state as possible, you can feel confident about giving your body the nutrients it needs to thrive.
And be careful...marketers will try to trick you. They’ll slap all kinds of labels on products like “all natural,” "plant-based," “made from real food” to make you think it's healthy. Even words like “organic” and “gluten-free” can be used to describe foods that are highly processed. A good rule to follow is that if the food has to tell you it’s healthy…it probably isn’t the best choice. If it doesn't grow on a tree, in the ground or live off the land...it's not real food. Don't be fooled by the trends. Mother Nature did it best.
*assuming you don’t have any allergies or underlying health conditions.
Work hard with focused intentions. A simple workout executed really well is much more effective for building strength & resiliency (a.k.a. what you need from your cross-training as a dancer) than something that looks fancy on the surface. There are lots of trends, gadgets, & gizmos out there that will make you feel like you’re doing advanced stuff in the fitness world…but that stuff can distract from what really makes an impact in terms of your health & power – good old-fashioned hard work. And in order to work hard enough to stimulate a real transformation in your body, simple exercises work best.
It may seem boring, but you have to remind yourself why you are exercising in the first place. As a dancer, you want to increase your strength as much as possible while incurring as little damage to your body as possible. Don’t forget that exercise carries a negative impact along with its positive effects. And the ratio of these two factors varies greatly depending on the kind of workout done. Also, exercises involving complicated sequences, unstable positions, and ballistic forces leave you vulnerable to injury. Sure they can be fun & challenging. But, again, ask yourself why you are working out? If it’s to support your dance career, stick to the simple stuff that allows you work really hard with focused intentions. Save the complex moves, risky contortions, and balancing acts for the stage. Your workouts shouldn’t feel or look like choreography.
Methods of Decreasing Stress
Clear out the toxicity. Again, nothing fancy here is needed. But if you don't DO something to actively release some of that toxic energy & anxiety that build up throughout the day (especially these days!) it can cause all kinds of harm. You don't need to spend a fortune meditating with a monk on the slopes of an obscure Himalayan town for months. But making time, even if it's five minutes, for simple actions like these can go a long way towards improving your health & enjoyment of life:
- Focus on your breathing & draw your awareness inside your body
- Take a walk in nature
- Simply sit quietly and observe nature (*There is something so healing about nature. And it costs nothing to take advantage of its benefits. If you happen to live in a city and don’t have easy access to nature, stream a scene on your big screen.)
- Listen to binaural beats to encourage whatever positive effect you need
- Do some Yoga flow – not with the intent of “exercising” but of getting in your body & moving your energy
- Do some light stretches or foam rolling
There’s value in the simple things. I've been trying to heal from all the damage, pain, & stress of these last few years and it's finally working. Not because I'm doing anything novel or gimmicky...but because I'm homing in on these basics...with simple, quality effort. No frills. Just good, consistent, quality work.
Sometimes a return to the basics is what you need. Even focusing on one of these aspects can create a huge difference in your life - in terms of your energy, vitality, youth, happiness, performance.
If you need a little guidance on your personal journey...whether it's a return to peak performance in your dancing or just general health & happiness, contact me for private coaching options 💖.
PC: James Diaz