We all desire these things, especially if you’re a dancer trying to achieve success in your career. And you’re led to believe there’s an ideal fitness routine & diet that can bring you success if you just stick with it long enough. Just requires a little willpower, right?
It's nowhere near that simple. A specific routine & diet might give you short-term success, but when training for the long game (aka, if you want a career that lasts), you need to know how to vary both workouts & diet to ensure continued progression without burn out. Here's why...
Dancers are professional athletes with no real off-season. Being able to maintain a high level of performance ability along with exceptional body aesthetics year-round for decades is no easy task. Especially as a freelancer, you must be ready to get up on stage and perform with very short notice, which means you have to keep your body close to its peak performance state almost 365 days a year.
But even with that pressure, you must learn how to cycle & adjust your training, or you will burn out before you reach your potential as an artist. To be clear, you are an athlete & an artist. Athletics thrive on youth, power, hard work, challenges, pushing to extremes. But artistry thrives on maturity, experience, vulnerability, risk. There's value in sticking with the game long enough to become seasoned & develop that artistry. But the traditional way of training for a dance career doesn’t prepare you for the long game…to get to that level of maturity.
Like anything, if you push too hard for too long, you break - one way or the other, physically or emotionally. Most professional athletic careers in any sport end early because of the rigorous demands imposed on the body. These extremes, while certainly admirable, can't be sustained for long periods of time. It's just too physically & emotionally stressful. But as a dancer, you need to not only be able to endure rigorous training but also hang on long enough to mature & become seasoned in your art. That is what's missing in the dance world. There’s plenty of focus on athleticism and tricks…but not enough emphasis on sustaining a long career. You need time to develop your artistry, which is nurtured by life experience.
The current training trends in the dance world rely on repetition for improvement. Spend more time rehearsing. Take more classes. Practice that step over & over. If you want to get better...spend more time dancing. But this all-consuming effort leads to emotional & physical burnout, and often injuries. Hence, our tragically short careers.
Especially because we don’t really have an off-season, we can't just keep pushing for more, more, more…driving our bodies full-speed ahead with a constant all-out effort, as if we are sprinting to the finish line. We have to learn how to train for the long game, or we'll never reach our peak of artistic maturity before our bodies give out.
This requires cycling your efforts to make room for fluctuations:
- There are periods to take your foot off the gas pedal and make room for recovery.
- There are periods to focus on optimizing your body through specific cross-training to build strength & resiliency for injury prevention & athletic power.
- There are periods to focus on skill & technique enhancement in the studio.
- There are periods to nurture artistic development, which includes experiencing life outside of ballet so you can bring that richness to your art.
- And there are periods to focus on pure performance…not trying to get ahead or improve but simply being present in the moment...so you can connect with your audience & create the biggest impact with your work.
The same thing goes for diet. If you are too strict with your eating for too long, you risk damaging your hormonal balance and disrupting your body's ability to thrive off of proper nourishment. That’s why my FAT LOSS GAME PLAN involves different phases for focusing on fat loss and vibrancy. Your body is amazingly brilliant – the trouble is you’ve probably lost touch with listening to it. That hardcore drive you pride yourself on that allows you to push your body through pain also causes you to ignore the signals & feedback your body gives you. The last thing you want to do is lose touch with those built-in, ancient mechanisms designed to ensure your survival. Listening to that feedback is essential to your success.
So how do you do this cycling? Well, as with most things in life, there's no exact formula. But what I can tell you is that it's crucial to learn to listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs, provided you have the proper knowledge to interpret what your body is saying. That also means not buying into the mindset almost every fitness advertisement and post tell you to believe - that more is better - that you need to constantly be doing more, driving harder, pushing farther. "They" won't tell you this because it doesn't make them money. They want you buying more classes, needing more things, spending more time on their products. They need you following along instead of thinking for yourself so they can make money off you.
Thinking for yourself means realizing there are moments when your success & improvement actually require you to back off to allow for recovery. Then, there are moments when your success requires a full-out, ballz-to-wall effort. Knowing when to apply these different modes is an art that comes with experience, experiments, and listening to your body. This type of training not only promotes peak performance on that stage, but it allows you to stay in the game long enough to gain experience & develop your artistry. Your dance career shouldn’t feel like a sprint to the finish line; train for the long run instead.