Here we are at the start of 2021 - a good time to evaluate honestly where you are and where you want to go in the months ahead. When it comes to your health and body goals, you often hear that consistency is super important – committing to the small steps that build up every day and lead you closer to the end game. So true. However, when it comes to superior athletic performance (something us dancers ABSOLUTELY need!) knowing when to vary and adjust that consistency is just as important. That takes tuning into your body and listening to what it needs, while still being consistent enough to make progress in any given area.
Sound complicated? It kind of is.
It’s much easier to drive with the same effort, intensity, and routine week after week, especially for us dancers with that hardcore-never-back-down-mindset. Things are made even more complicated with the overwhelming amount of random exercise and fitness tips bombarding every social media platform in this post-quarantine online era.
How do you know who to follow or what to do for cross-training with the ginormous amount of information out there? You might think of this extra info as being a good problem to have. But instead of motivating & guiding you to take care of your body better, one of two things usually happens:
- You end up doing a bunch of random stuff just because it's popular and shows up in your feed every 5 minutes (much of which ends up being self-defeating and counterproductive to your goals)
- You are paralyzed by the sheer amount of choices and get stuck in a familiar routine you are comfortable with.
This is why it’s so vital to learn how to listen to your body so you don't get distracted by all the noise out there. Treat your body as an ongoing experiment that you constantly have to evaluate and adjust for. Then, find someone to work with that has the knowledge to help you pursue your specific body & dancing goals. Sure you can do it yourself with a lot of trial-and-error and “how-to” videos on YouTube or Instagram…but it won’t be the same VIP experience of having a specialist guide you along on your personal, bespoke path of development.
This path will be different and unique to every single person, and it will change as circumstances in your life change.
To give you an example from my own life, I've had to adjust my personal health & performance goals going into this new year. With all the changes that have taken place due to COVID restrictions, I’m now approaching 10 months with a severe decline in my usual workload as a dancer and athlete. And, I’m really starting to feel the effects, despite my best efforts to take care of my body. So, time to adjust.
Where my usual cross-training revolves around the goal of enhancing strength, I now find myself with other goals needing to be addressed – things that are usually covered and maintained through rehearsals, ballet classes, and performances. So, with those components missing in my dance career, I have to approach my fitness in a different way, adding a focus for stamina, mobility, & flexibility.
Now, here’s where most popular exercise (a.k.a. almost every generic workout you find online or on Instagram) gets it wrong – they attempt to address all of these goals with a single workout. When you multi-task like this, your progress ends up suffering. You can’t devote quality attention to each goal all at once, so essentially what happens is you get half-ass progress everywhere. A more effective way to achieve your performance goals is to focus on one aspect at a time.
So for me, that means identifying my specific performance goals – strength, stamina, mobility & flexibility – and then attacking each separately with my exercise program. Here's an example of my weekly plan of attack going into January 2021:
2021 Peak Performance Goals
- Mobility & Flexibility (these two are closely related so we can address them together)
Weekly Plan of Attack:
- Monday: STRENGTH focus
- Bulletproof Ballerina workout (example: BB - LEVEL 1)
- Tuesday: FLEXIBILITY & MOBILITY focus
- Simple stretching, self-massage and foam rolling to address sore/tight/stuck areas
- Wednesday: CORE STRENGTH focus
- KEY TO YOUR CORE workout
- Thursday: MOBILITY & FLEXIBILITY focus
- sport-specific muscle activation exercises for enhanced range of motion, theraband foot/ankle exercises, banded hip distraction techniques to unlock my hips, specialized spinal manipulation
- Friday: STAMINA focus
- Saturday & Sunday are reserved for recovery and the very necessary mental components of self-development
***Side Note*** This plan isn't even getting into fat loss and body aesthetic goals...as that mainly involves diet. So you can bet I'll be digging into my FAT LOSS GAME PLAN in the weeks ahead to counter all the Christmas cookies & hot chocolates I indulged in over the holidays. (#noregrets!)
I might not follow this exactly week by week. I always take into consideration how my body and mental state are upon waking each morning and adjust accordingly. If you listen closely enough, your body tells you what it needs. That’s the whole crux behind my BB system. But, this plan gives me a good foundation to start pursuing my goals.
Putting your full attention on one goal at a time will always get you better results than multi-tasking. Worse yet, most workouts don’t even have a goal in mind. They are the equivalent of busywork for your body – which might leave you exhausted, tired, and feeling “worked-out”…but at the end of the day don’t gain you any real positive advancement. That’s brutal and essentially just wear and tear on your body. As a dancer, your workouts need to be so much more strategic than that. You don't have the luxury of wasting energy or putting needless mileage on your body. If you want a long dance career, you need to preserve your body while you enhance it. That takes knowledge, thought, planning, listening to your body…and breaking free of what the rest of the world advertises as “exercise.”
Trust me…I used to treat my workouts much differently, beating my body into a pulp every day, thinking the more it hurt, the more I'd be rewarded for my efforts. That method left me feeling like a 90-year-old needing a hip replacement when I should have been in the prime of life. Now, with my experience and adjustments, the older I get the better I feel.
All this is a long way of saying your peak performance requires you to listen to your body, adjust to your needs, and then pursue the sh*t out of your goals. I don't know about you...but I've got goals for the year ahead. I'm not letting all these restrictions & shutdowns stop me from leveling up and living my life to the fullest. Let's take charge of what we can so when the dance world opens up again, we can feel confident in our bodies and abilities!
Here's to living life out-loud in 2021! Happy New Year!
PC: James Diaz Photography