Weekly Challenge for 1-27-14
This January has been especially brutal. Bitter cold, lots of snow, and now back to bitter cold here in Chicago. This type of weather can be challenging for dancers, especially if we have to be out in it before we get to class or a gig!
It is super important that dancers take care of their bodies, especially in cold weather. We are more susceptible to injury due to cold muscles and improper warm-ups (especially at gigs, where we often don’t have the time!), and also illness if we don’t take care of ourselves.
So this week’s challenge is all about staying warm (which believe me, with these wind chills, will be difficult!). But not just staying warm. Your challenge this week is to take care of your body and warm up PROPERLY in order to prevent injury. Try it for a week, and see how it feels!
If you are a student, work with your teacher to find a movement-based warm-up that focuses on gentle and expansive movements that get the blood flowing to all parts of the body. If you are a teacher and/or performer, you owe it to yourself and your students to warm-up properly before class and before gigs. Even a five minute movement warm-up is better than nothing, though 15 minutes is considered ideal (especially if it’s cold!)
- Stretching is NEVER a warm-up, but it is especially dangerous in the cold. You can do harm to your muscles if you immediately start an intense yoga session or stretching “warm-up” straight out of the cold weather. Keep yoga at the end of your practice, especially if you are not used to doing yoga all the time. Many yogin forget that not all of us are super-bendy straight out of bed (or out of the cold…or at all…) and lead us through challenging moves and positions which can be dangerous for muscles. Talk to your teacher (in private) if you are concerned that their stretching warm-ups might be harmful. Always be your own advocate; it’s YOUR body, YOU must take steps to take care of it!
- Warm up even before a gig. I’ve seen a lot of dancers get ready, get dressed, and then hop on stage without even so much as a thought to warming up. Wouldn’t it be especially embarrassing to hurt yourself during a performance? Don’t tempt fate; warm up before you perform.
- Use movement exercises that are gentle and build up in intensity instead of stretches (e.g. start with small shoulder rotations, then as your muscles warm, move up to larger shoulder rotations, then full arm rotations).
- While waiting for class to begin, start your own warm-up, so that you start warm even before your teacher warms you up.
- Wear layers! I usually start with socks and a close-fitting long-sleeved shirt over my normal dance wear. They can be removed once I’m a little warm. If the room you are in is cold, though, don’t take the layers off until you feel warm enough to do so.
- Find a studio that’s heated! It’s not worth the injury risk to dance in an unheated studio! Bring space heaters if it’s really bad or just cancel class. It’s not right to put your students (or put yourself, as a student) through a freezing cold session!
- Listen to your body. If you start to hurt while dancing, you might need to back off, or warm up some more before going into your dance. Muscle cramping can be common in the cold, because we all sort of shrivel up and knot instinctively to keep our core warm. Leg, back, and shoulder muscles tend to suffer in the winter, so pay special attention to them in your warm-up.
Have any other ideas for warming up in the cold? Share ’em! Let’s all keep warm, and keep our bodies safe this winter!
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