Think of your body as a high-performance sports car. I know most dancers are not car enthusiasts (including me), but bear with me here. Let’s just pretend you own one of these $100,000 souped-up, luxury cars. Obviously, it is going to be very precious to you. You spent a lot of money on this thing and want to keep it as pristine as possible…for as long as possible. How would you take care of it?
You are going to take special precautions to keep it safe and tuck it away at night to ensure it doesn’t get damaged. Not that you’ll keep it covered up every day to the point where you are paranoid to enjoy or use it, but you definitely won’t expose it to unnecessary risks by being careless about it.
You only get so much mileage out of your car before it starts to break down, parts need to be replaced, and problems arise. So, you aren’t going to burn the engine out on excessive trips around the block…you are going to save it for special occasions to prolong the life of the car. You aren’t going to push the pedal to the metal to test its limits frequently, either. If you run the car into the ground, instead of purring like a kitten and gracefully cruising when you rev the engine, it’s going to putter and clunkily chug along.
You are going to get regular tune-ups so that it runs optimally. If any one part gets out of alignment, you’ll risk the whole machine not performing properly while its gears grind down. Plus, continually modifying the car with top of the line material ensures it is efficient and operates at its top performance capacity.
You are going to fill it with high-octane fuel to maximize its performance. Anything less than high-quality fuel will clog the system and slow things down.
This is how you want to think of your body – as a high-performance sports car. As a dancer, you require more from your body than the average human. You need a powerful engine with a streamlined exterior and sleek lines that allow for grace, speed, agility, and control. Your body needs to be modified for extreme performance…and that requires you to take care of it like the luxury object it is:
While you don’t want to limit your life due to unnecessary fears and restrictions, you don’t want to expose yourself to things that are sure to cause damage to your body or vibrancy, either. When you are sick, you hunker down to let yourself rest and your body heal. You value recovery time as an essential part of maintaining pristine condition.
Regardless of how invincible you may feel when you are young, you don’t have an infinite amount of mileage in your body…and it will eventually wear out. Once your body starts to break, it’s already too late - the damage is done and you’re in trouble. You only get one body, and while you can get replacement parts and surgeries, you’ll never quite work the same as your original framework allows. So, you want to preserve that for as long as possible. Instead of carelessly running it out with excessive exercise every day to appease your over-achiever mindset, choose your workouts wisely. Go for quality over quantity. Instead of grinding and yanking your joints to achieve extreme flexibility, learn to work with your body and the natural limitations you may have in your genetic structure. Be aware that every move you make and physical stress you put on your body wears it down a little further…burning through your allotted mileage that much quicker.
While you want to avoid wearing out your body uselessly by spinning your wheels, you do need to challenge it in a way that causes your body to transform. As a normal human, your body is not optimized for peak performance. Your body is naturally efficient, or “lazy,” on its own as a survival mechanism. You need to do all kinds of upgrades to reach your full potential. And, if you want to perform a physically demanding art like ballet, you need some serious upgrades. Giving your body those upgrades without grinding it down is key to your long-term success in your art. Intense exercise that gives you the muscular/physiological benefits that will elevate your dance technique and give you confidence and coordination in your body will give you this optimal performance capacity.
Giving your body high quality nutrients while minimizing the “junk” is key for energy absorption for max performance. You don’t want to eat processed food that your body has to work hard to extract the actual nutrients out of. You need high-octane fuel - real food that won’t bog down your system while delivering all the key ingredients needed for muscle & tissue recovery, optimum energy for performance, and health and vibrancy.
Neglecting to take care of your body in any one of these aspects could not only mean that you don’t reach your peak performance potential as a dancer but that you’ll also have to deal with your body breaking down well before its expiration date. The better you take care of your “vehicle,” the longer it will last, and the more extreme performance you will get out of it. Don’t wait until things start to fall apart and need replacement. Start your peak performance optimization now. Treat your body like the most expensive, precious, rare, high-performance vehicle there is - because it's the only one you get.