Category Archives: Yoga

Part 4 of Winning the Fight Against Fat: The Emergent Sylph



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sweaty swan

Many children are dancing now. By child, I mean, anyone who has not reached adulthood, their final (ever-changing) post-adolescent body proportions, has not reached their full height, width, girth, started or regularly encountered their period, and anyone who is changing or growing constantly. These people need to be doubly cautious when it comes to providing enough and varied nutrients in their diets, and enough cannot be said here about this. It is a parent’s responsibility, and not only the child’s to make sure food is eaten, what and when. Weaning is gradual and in dance may need to be watched and continued until much later on because there is little time for student, dancer, teenager to make or prepare, shop for and eat all of the right things. Some people continue to grow into into their twenties, and men and women can fill-out later in life, and the body is always changing, going through new life cycles so there are adjustments to be expected aside from actual dancing regimens.

1) don’t cut calories drastically. instead, eat slightly smaller portions and better foods. you need your energy, otherwise you could injure yourself or just be too tired to work at your peak level while dieting. females should not cut calories more than 200-300 per day. that is, if you are eating 1500-1600 per day, you can safely go down to 1300-1400 to begin with. at the same level of exercise this will reduce you fat gradually, and

2) aim for many meals per day 5-6 at least over the course of a 10-12 hour day. you can lose more fat because more meals burn more calories [by increasing thermogenesis, the production of heat, in the body]. divide how many calories you expect to consume during the day by the number of meals you can schedule in and try to spread them out evenly.

Some things we are born with a certain amount of and we lose, and these things need to be nourished to continue to grow in our bodies and starving our bodies can result in their premature loss or depletion, such as protein and estrogen-one is short term and one long. Example, proteins which are eaten should frequently be “complete, and hormone replacement therapy is one option to low-estrogen. It is almost impossible to replenish certain things with food, just as wheat germ cannot really be “organic.” In the case of dancers, estrogen, and minerals may be on the decline or are lost with vigorous dancing. Water. Sugar. Fat. We need it, or some, to survive. We do want to try to choose our fats as often as possible, so I do not recommend eating prepared foods. it is one sure way to make a promising diet attempt a flat failure.

3) drink lots of water during the day. make sure you are thoroughly hydrated by consuming about 4 16 oz bottle of water per day or 2 32 oz ones. Take a vitamin supplement regularly and make sure to get your vitamin C, especially during cold months or at the onset of symptoms of a cold.

4) Some people swear by whey protein powder which is consumed in small amounts mixed with water and shaken in a tumbler or other cup. One after heavy exercise does reduce pain and speeds up muscle healing time. One would replace a protein portion, say in the afternoon snack period. Some food products naturally contain whey protein, so be careful not to overdo your protein: ricotta cheese, milk, yogurt (Greek of course), all cheeses (especially the cheap American variety). Sweet whey comes from the process that makes cheeses like cheddar, mozzarella, swiss and other cheeses made with rennet enzymes that coagulate casein. Most cheese-makers consider whey a waste product, according to “Whey to Go” by Liz Campbell. She says that the Norwegians and Greeks continue to process whey further to make brown or Mysost “whey cheeses” like Gjetost.  http://www.livestrong.com/article/254097-which-foods-contain-whey-protein/

Many foods and meal plans or choices exist which provide the needed essentials, tasty food choices and lots of options for different types of bodies, different or changing regimens, but which ones are suitable for dancers? What do dancers actually eat?  They will (almost) never divulge their dieting secrets or truths. What about the dancer who tours or performs part of the year and then is off? What about the dancer who performs more of the time, but different parts, such as a corp dancer compared to a soloist? What about the young dancer who is building her body to the desired form, or the dancer newly wedded with grueling performance and rehearsal schedules, student by increasing level, change of program, type, or dancer returning to classes and performance after injury or time off? What about the competition dancer? The varied genre dancer? The athletic dancer who runs and does cross-training to mold or sculpt? The student or university dancer? What about a new mother who gives birth and then returns to dancing? What about the older dancer or non-dancer who returns to dance or begins to take classes? All of these different people, different bodies, different genres, ages and styles or situations are different mainly because of their levels or types of activities, and many other variables.

lean muscled man

5) creatine is a naturally occurring fat burner, and is usually obtained via supplement because of the amount of food one would have to eat per day to get optimal levels of it for fat burning purposes, i.e., 500 g raw meat or fish every day. Since this is not realistic, supplementation with creatine is both prudent and advisable. Vegetarians and vegans do not get any creatine from food sources. Creatine levels in blood plasma are very low in these populations and it is one of the issues with vegetarian diets. How much is enough is debatable since you can’t get enough anyway. What is is most important about creatine is that athletes and dancers bleed it out. Whether you take a creatine supplement or not, is up to you, gauging whether it assists you is often the best way to find out. For those interested in reading more about it http://www.myfit.ca/foods_high_in_creatine.asp   . You decide.

6) increase you vegetable consumption-i did not say “fruit.” Vegetables are nutrient-dense, meaning they pack maximum nutrition value with minimal calories, leaving you more full on fewer calories. Consume five servings a day of veggies, whether as a snack, on a sandwich or on the side of a chicken breast. Order your next grass fed beef, lean chicken or turkey burger with fresh vegetables instead of french fries. Vary the vegetables you eat for maximum nutritional whollop. Check a chart if you have questions about what vegetables are sources of which vitamins, minerals and other things that are good for you.

In varying degrees some of these situations run to the similar, but each one and everyone is unique for many different reasons, and it isvery difficult to not group people into similar categories, without making specific allowances for each. But to start with there are obvious differences which can be accounted for. Good foods and bad foods for a start, but face it, when you are starving, there is not really any bad food choice. So, don’t starve yourself! These other varying differences between dancers are, in accountable for in ballet specifically, and in those persons desiring to be professional dancers, certain distinct differences which can be used for comparison are abundant, but do not really change the diet composition much, or what it should be. They may need more of some things or less of others, but the food stores should be basically the same, failing personal taste. Age, to me is important. A child needs more to grow into healthy adulthood, and I will say, “womanhood.” Our bodies need to have stores of certain things to grow into fertile and healthy women. We need to mature and pass through adolescence and puberty, and at this time, when our bodies are doing many natural things they need to do, it is unwise to alter the needs of the body without being an expert and especially starve it.

7) Don’t use commercial fat burners without exercising, and don’t rely on them to burn fat without following a healthy eating plan.  They are  more likely to cause or add to harm, as they, like all vitamins, too are supplements and do not replace actually nutritional value.

8) Consuming fiber makes you feel full, provides slow-burning carbs and lowers insulin to aid in lean muscle creation. Try to have 20-30 grams of fiber in your diet per day. refer to nutritional details for information. Bran cereals, oatmeal and beans are good sources of fiber.

Further, unless there is an unusual set of ethnic or economic conditions which exist to limit these dancers diets, or ability to lose or gain weight, the circumstances or food may remain fairly static and is determinable. Habits which begin to develop in adolescence may take part of a life to change or control or omit without assistance. In some foreign countries rickets, and many other diet deficiencies are present (gradually less so) and deformities have occurred over centuries of malnutrition. Until about 30 years ago, no one looked at ballet activity and even thought that it varied from any other activity, researched dancer stress, strain or diet, or compared it to that of other semi-professional or professional athletes, or considered that the needs or habits of dancers were entirely different, and truthfully there is a paucity of well-thought out or researched information that is up-to-date or readily available to help dancers, specifically.

9) Eliminate ALL junkfood. Pizza and hamburgers have some nutritional value and can be consumed once in a while. This includes SWEETS-if you want that form!

10) Eat the right amount of protein. Protein will be converted to fat if overconsumed. About 1 gram of protein per pound of your weight (not the desired weight) is adequate. Keep track. If you do overeat protein, do not be terribly concerned, just lower it to the correct level if possible the following day. 1.5 grams of protein per pound is not going to hurt you or cause you to put on weight unless it is consumed over a long period of time. This provides sufficient amino acids to maintain muscle mass, while keeping your total calorie count under control. A lot of dancers do not ingest enough protein, making them have less muscle definition. Others might consume too much and be bulky or muscle-bound. It is definitely a visual thing.

In later life, aside from the dangers of messing with the above-mentioned and more obvious issues, are old age, and as women, what we begin to lose as we get older, how we remain healthy and prepared for those inevitable changes and losses, and even in early age many things can occur, but get worse or become more obvious as other hormones are depleted, so it is extra important for female dancers to educate and demand information about these concerns, but also to plan ahead. Those accumulated losses can accrue and devastate the female body well before old age. Some very healthy people exist out there who would belie this fact, and there are others whom are prone to certain diseases. Brittle bones, lost teeth, cancer, haggard appearances, etc. it is all based on how we treat ourselves over time and genetics, so we need to be good to ourselves because as women, teenagers, and children. We need to be prepared to withstand a lot.

11) Remember those healthy fats? Eat more. They are underutilized by people trying to shed fat. You have to reduce calories to get rid of body fat but you cannot cut out healthy fats completely. They take longer to break down in your stomach and help control blood sugar levels leaving you feeling more satisfied and reducing food cravings. Again, avocados, fatty fish, like salmon and tilapia, olives, nuts, and oils such as olive, flaxseed and canola are good heathy fats to introduce into your diet. I recommend mixing one-half serving of butter to one tspn or more of olive oil until you become accustomed to reducing the level of butter in your diet. it is great for cooking, you know you are cooking with half the good fat and it practically never smokes! This works in recipes as well (most). Also, Wildwood brand vegenaise is absolutely delicious and as it comes in several flavors there is no need to risk adding ingredients for your sandwiches, dips or salads. Ask your grocery store to carry it or look for it at Sprouts retailers. They usually order it by the case and it is in the cold section. I do not recommend replacement of mayo, for those diehards like me, but this is a delicious alternative.

12) Share your cheat foods, but eat some, too. That way you do not feel cheated and you get some of the flavor while not consuming the whole pie. You are doing everyone a favor.

The history of each body is important, and its age, in determining proper needs and nutrition, but also important and calculable is its activity level, patterns of use, and wear and tear. I have said before how important it is to treat your dancer body well, pamper it as often as possible, use good care, hygiene, and do not overwork it. Work smart. In short, do not add stress to it where enough stress is already occurring. Good diet should relieve stress not contribute to it. Adequate rest is very important and most dancers at a pre-professional or professional level do not get enough rest. Proper nutrition, I mean really good nutrition, for each dancer, is often not evident in many dancers, particularly young ones, and this is disturbing to me. Why is more attention not paid to dancer health in schools? Why do any children in this country not have access to good medical care and planning when so many diseases can later be attributed to the lack of it? With all of our advances, we are not able to measure each persons general health adequately. Most people only begin to be concerned about their health when they are older and we worry, kind of like the old finding God or being repentant just before death and not before. It is not how we lived, but how we live, that is important. Each day, each choice, each change.

13) Eat breakfast! Balanced. Full. It is the most important meal of the day for a dancer and one who is dieting because it contains everything you need (a good start) and will most likely be burned off. Your body, whether you know it or not, has been starving all night long and it deserves to eat. Not eating breakfast will negatively impact everything you do all day, including your technique and dancing. Eat a goodly amount of protein for breakfast, too, about 1/4 to 1/3 of your daily intake-spread the rest over the other meals and snacks. Eat a complex (slow-burning) carb, like otameal or a whole grain waffle or pancake, and start with a piece of fruit (right when you wake up), even before breakfast to get your metabolism revving and provide that much needed surge of energy, before your day has begun. Start off right! Since this is the best time to consume sugars, maple syrup (real) or other sugar incorporated into your breakfast occasionally is fine, as they will most likely burn off. Remember to keep your portions normally sized. Larger portions (hoarding) will only cause your body to store fat. This is where discipline comes in-it does. But you can have an extra egg white or yolk, and don’t forget the option of having additional egg whites during the early part of the day, or at breakfast. You can actually have a lot of eggs at lunch and as snacks. Spinach and kale in your omelette are also good for you as well as throughout the day! Mushrooms and other breakfasty type veggies can be eaten now as well, safely. try to consume one potato in its skin per week instead of other types of potatoes. Yams provide completely different nutrients and are not really necessary during the dieting phase, but can be consumed after your optimal weight/shape is reached. 🙂 You will normally burn off most of this by mid-morning snack, except the slow-burning carbs which will continue to be used until well into the afternoon.

14) Dancers and people in general, should avoid any food that lists corn syrup in the ingredients.

A teenager has different diet requirements than a young adult or an older, mature woman, or an elderly person. Having dealt with the elderly, those dying of cancer and other illnesses, middle-aged women, younger women, teenagers, children, babies, athletes and dancers, I have had the experience of knowing they are all very DIFFERENT but all respond to good diet. We would all be in a better position, later, to watch sodium, sugar and fat, now. But comes the thought that you cannot worry all the time about food and you cannot necessarily afford the best choices or everything that would benefit you. Psychology of the woman, teenager, adult or child, is also a very big factor impacting personal eating styles, tastes and goals. Bad habits excluded, we all develop eating patterns that appear simple but can be quite complicated just the same. Just as the person who fails on a diet and gets fatter, suffers a blow to their ego, blames themselves for a fad diet not working, the person who never appears to have diet issues can be seriously malnourished and fall prey to eating disorders later if they gain an ounce, or they may have to eat to build strength or gain weight. People’s motivations and experiences, vanity, and self-loathing and love of ourselves all play a part on our diet and eating habits, right or wrong and you need to account for them, too. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and demand that others are respectful of your body differences and eating requirements. No one is going to do this for you-you have to be your own best advocate and discipline comes from yourself.

15) Sugar consumption. Taking in simple carbs (which is sugar) should be limited, especially the first week you are dieting. They should be eaten in a very limited quantity after that as they are stored as fat. Right after you exercise, or as stated above, before breakfast, they provide quick energy, replace depleted glycogen stores in the liver and replenish muscle. Since they are much abused and anticipated, it is important to give yourself some. Satisfy your sweet tooth occasionally with a piece of fruit, chocolate less often and soda NEVER! You can have tea, coffee, waters or diet soda (if you must, but it is really bad for you). Once your desired weight is reached, and lean muscle is overwhelming flab, you can safely have the occasional hot chocolate, mixed drink (1), or beer, as well as the occasional random dessert. But for now, give yourself a week, and then keep track of them ALL. They are your culprits along with breads-you know the crusty kind….

16) Rotate your carbs. What does this mean? It means, for dancers, that some days are not as exhausting as others. It means on lower energy days it is best to reduce the number of slow-burning/carbs you eat, because you don’t use as much energy, therefore what is not used will be stored as fat. If you consume 100 carbs per day (100 pounds) on some days you might eat 120-140 and on others you might only eat 80-100. You still need energy, but not as much, and mental activity (homework) requires carbs, and energy, too. You cannot starve your body, but try to reduce protion size, eating as many meals per day with perhaps lower serving levels, or cut out that handful of nuts at snacktime, or yogurt in the afternoon-maybe the whole afternoon snack, because on slow days, meal times may be longer, meaning your meals are better enjoyed, definitely have room, and may be enjoyed. No dash and run snacks, but make sure your spread you meals out over the same number of times if possible. that way when your body comes to expect the snack, it gets something, just half, etc….or only the protein. Also, don’t carb-load, for any reason without following the guidelines of carb-loading, particularly. http://m.runnersworld.com/nutrition-runners/carbo%E2%80%93loading-rules-run  It is not highly recommended for dancers. Another rule is to try to stop eating all carbs (if possible) after 4pm. THis does not include veggies with dinner or your usual bedtime snack, just slow-burning carbs, like most grains.

Besides psychology and age is activity level and this can varies in all dancers. Are you lethargic, energetic or do you conserve your energy or expend it all very quickly? Do you give 110% to your regimen, barre, allegro, variation, or performance. Do you go the extra mile or leave off after the first combination. Do you mark the exercises, sit-out? What are your habits? Good or bad, they account for calories and may be the difference between burning fat or other carbs, never getting to the fat. What is your level of consistency each day in the number of or type of dancing classes/performances or exercises that you do? When do you expend the most energy? At what point do you become tired, peek, or have to stop and why? What did you eat today? What is your level of activity, cross-training or aerobic exercise out of class? Are you prone to putting on weight or do you have to eat just to keep it on? Are you recently losing or gaining weight due to increased/decreased activity levels? Are you battling with other health issues, poor thyroid, cholesterol or salt? Are you diabetic? What time of the month is it? All of these factors combine to make your body chemistry or system completely unique and also affect how it loses or gains weight and builds muscle or mass, uses fat, carbs or glucose, etc., and how rapidly it tires or becomes apparently or not, worn out. It is possible to improve other areas of your dancing or techniques regardless of diet, for a better, more focused workout-try this-http://www.pointemagazine.com/issues/augustseptember-2011/your-best-body-defy-your-dna

17) If you like caffeine, drink one cup of coffee before your classes and another later in the day, say before rehearsals or a performance. It is known to enhance a workout. It causes the body to rely on more fat for fuel, rather than glucose. The effect of it, however is lessened when you consume it with, or on top of a high-carb meal. Try to consume it well after breakfast, but before class and eat it with healthy fats or protein if you are eating with or near it. Skip cream and sugar with it always and do not overdo it or drink it at other times of the day as you will develop a resistance to its fat-burning qualities.

18) Reduce or omit starchy carbs. Potatoes, rice, pasta and breads (especially consumed at the same time or meal) provides your body with more than it needs for energy and glycogen stores so what is leftover will be stored as fat. You do not have to eliminate them completely, and whatver your consumption of them, it should be spread over the life of your diet, and not omitted just for the diet. It is eating with purpose and good sense which results in permanent weightloss and not binge eating. You should, however, really omit or cut back on them while trying to reach your desired weight and shed body fat. They are the main problem with mismanaged carbs (sugars). Whether dietin gor not, limit their intake to 3-5 servings a day where most needed and as I said before, none after 4pm. A serving size is 1/2 cup to 1 cup per rice, pasta or sliced potatoes. Obviously, the rice is closer to a cup and not a cup of potatoes! Pasta servings should be fairly small when eaten and I do not recommend it if you want to see immediate results. You are what you eat.

I will attempt to post additional meal plans and advice as I come across it, adding additional parts to this article, so that some people can have a goto menu plan perhaps when they are too busy to plan or lose interest or imagination. Also, I would greatly appreciate comments and feedback on this as it is for dancers and any little bit of practical advice really helps people as long as it is related and in keeping with the idea of the piece. The best sources of diets for dancers are dancers themselves and though no one wants to interfere with their money-making, a little advice goes a long way from a professional  or a novice, and it is just mean to keep it to oneself. Mean and shallow. Why hold on to something that is useful knowledge, hurting lost people in the process, and then writing a book or doing a paid interview, expecting them to then buy it? I would more likely buy the book of someone I liked who helped me previously than I would someone who jealously guarded it until someone offered them money for it. So, don’t be stingy with the knowledge, not every idea or meal plan merits a book.

So, due to their complex nature, I am not going to deal with many more of these medical and scientific (but related) issues because the article content and my knowledge would have to be far above my ability or qualifications to guide or assist those affected in their thinking, and is not intended as a practicum or rulebook for those with any other issues such as the ones listed. These are factors to consider when dieting, how much, portion size and that after 6 meal or snack, whether you need additional carbs or not, and to make you start thinking about what and when you eat. We even use energy when we are sleeping but are you choosing what energy and components you use while sleeping? Or is your body just depleting stores of energy and nutrients you need.

Obviously, any issues need to be taken into account and treated by a professional medical practitioner and/or nutritionist. Instead, I am approaching this from the point of view of any dancer who is basically healthy and eats clean and simple, but who wants to turn their fat into lean muscle, wants to make their body the best asset it can be and this is not about exercise, this is about eating foods which give energy, provide options and flexibility, and protect you from injuring yourself, while trying to obtain your best body appearance as a dancer.

If you have been told that you should wear a long skirt until your are “ready,” struggle with areas of resistance, would like to have leaner legs, arms or abdomen, you might be very close to your goals, but you will have to have a leaner diet with slow-burning carbs, less sugar and likely more protein, so be careful not to mismanage your carbs. Understand simple and complex. If you have lost a lot of weight recently, or are still losing it, gradually, but have so far not been able to discern much muscle, want to control how you lose it or appear, and despite continued efforts at dancing, then you might also want to add cardio to one of your workouts daily, and manage your carbs and protein better, this article might be useful for you, but I would be more concerned with eating enough, healing and making sure I got those extra vitamins and minerals and didn’t lose too much weight than changing my diet completely. Chances are you are doing some things right! If you are weak, skinny and no muscle tissue is discernible, than you have to build muscle and strength, this diet probably might help you to learn what you can add safely, though your purpose would not be to lose weight.

If you want to begin discovering yourself underneath a very small layer of fat, seeing your muscles, as they are naturally, with a rigorous program of ballet in place, then this method might help if you have the discipline to stick with the meal ideas, make small goals and stick to your guns, follow the advice and stay constantly on the lookout for better foods for you which meet roughly the same criteria.  It might be safe to say that after one year has passed since reading this article, you come back and share your experiences and knowledge and story.

This article is not about dieting, it is about eating. If you want to see slow but perceptible change and begin a path to an improved image in front of the mirror, then there is going to be change which is visible, but not plenty here to motivate, inspire or sustain that journey as it is about a life of commitment and not a fad diet-but may it especially be a continued one for a long and healthy life of self-love and self-accomplishment. It is your body and is never going to look like someone else’s body no matter what you do! No diet is ever going to reveal another body-just yours, but you might be surprised of what you are capable of….and the body you can reveal by eating right. This article also assumes you dance at least 10 hours per week in a serious ballet or dance program, but it is written for someone who is newly dancing everyday for 6-8 hours or more per day every day. And, oh-take one day OFF.

Keep on Dancing!

Part 3 of Winning the War Against Fat: The Emergent Sylph



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When I was growing up, people did not say that dancers were disciplined, but it was true. You could see it in their form. Also, it was much harder and more expensive to obtain organic foods, locally grown foods, or to find food without dextrose, sucrose, or corn syrup. Packaging was not very helpful and we did not have the Internet. Dancers were still seen somewhat as freaks, and so were yogis, health ‘nuts’, etc…. and now they are acceptable, but dancers still are, to some extent, still seen as freaks, trading a normal lifestyle for one of sacrifice, discipline and commitment, whether in a studio, on a stage, as a general fast, cleanse, eating regimen or health nut. At best we are acceptable as athletes, but this is not really what we are, is it? But when a dancer is judged, they are judged on the body, on the line, on what they can do on stage, in under 2 minutes, to a much greater degree than any other athlete. It behooves a dancer to have a healthy outlook and a positive one on the benefits of good food and a healthy lifestyle, because you have to be strong and resolute. It’s a matter of doing the best you can with what you’ve got. If you are starving your instrument, your art will suffer, eventually, because YOU will. The audience, judging public, professional or otherwise, has already decided what level of discipline you are based on how you look that quickly, too. I know many a very lazy dancer who is very slim and some very hard working ones who are not, but they will generally cast the slim ones-not always. Competition is fierce.

But, it is definitely how you appear, as a performer, and also what you do, so it is not uncommon for a choreographer or company to cast on body type, then teach teach teach the work or variation to a less accomplished dancer because they want a certain look. Artist has a much different connotation than dancer. It also implies age , maturity and wisdom, but you do not have to wait to eat smart. To begin with, size even determines what roles you get or don’t get and what you are permitted to or encouraged to wear, and this is largely based on how the choreographer or director or public perceives you or will perceive you (and how many costumes they want to keep on hand of various sizes) or how much sewing they reasonably want to do. As many factors as they can control, they do attempt to control and if you are a ballet dancer, you will have to control what you eat for longevity, health and appearance. No one has bought a ticket yet to see Sumo wrestlers perform ballet, but they have (regrettably) bought tickets to see a fashion show, where a skeletal body is the norm for hanging ballet clothes, and then these bodies typify what we as dancers, expect to see at a performance of actual dancing or in ourselves. Not fair? Who cares if they can’t dance, or can’t dance as well? Sometimes we are surprised that dancers are never like supermodels and when you see a real company of dancers, they are all muscular and few are starving. Well, some are very thin, but they do exercise more than average dancers and their calorie intake can be higher, also their basic metabolisms might run hotter more often. The first step is to reach that plateau, and then deal with adding calories, changing or inspiring your metabolism to work faster, and dancing all day and all night. La!

Sometimes we are even more surprised at the amount of actual energy required (and food) to perform variations, a full-length ballet, and support the work that goes into it, or more understandably how tired we are after a private, rehearsal or performance. The week after performances a lot of people are out. To remain healthy is a big job and the most important one. Sometimes time must be taken off to let the body heal, restore and replenish-rest. Sometimes that is just not possible and we have to be as fit and prepared for that inevitability, as dancers, as possible. Fit for dancing. Individual dance performances and exercise are short bursts of energy repeated after resting, usually, but any dancer who has just walked out from her half-hour private, will have the look of exhaustion and she is just working on a 2 minute piece. It takes some getting used to, building up for, and effort to sustain dancing for that long and you just do not get that at the barre. Even greater stamina is required for actual full-length performances, tours, seasons, and professional ballet in general. It is a constant juggling act, so I think food and dancers must be sympatico, because there is just too much on their plates already.

So, importantly, there are all exercise levels in ballet, but some must be obtained regularly to lose FAT. At your level of dancing this may not be possible, so you might have to crosstrain or get on the elliptical or spin or whatever to lose weight, just so the calories you are eating to work as hard as you must, do not exceed the calories you need, and are ingesting (fats, carbs and protein). Mostly you want to reduce your store. Be efficient, clean house. That has to be balanced against going home, sleeping, time off, illness, sabbaticals, and school, largely sedentary activities for a dancer. Dancers do not like to sit. Rather, you prepare the muscles at barre for the way they will be used in dancing and that is simply not fat burning exercise! So you have to eat less of certain things for now.

Slow-burning carbs are good choices for dancers, especially early in the day http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/list-slow-carbs-lose-weight-12116.html  These would also include oatmeal (steel cut), and quinoa. For other kinds of energy, such as a pick-me-up or morning activity, and lets not forget the other kind of fast burning sugars/carbs for energy after sleep for instance, when your body is depleted of it. http://www.muscleandbodymag.com/10-carb-commandments/     of which canteloupe, an apple, orange or pear might do the trick, given time to work, and then followed by a normal breakfast of protein and slow-burning carbs for your classes. Many meals in the day provide constant energy and nutrients, which a dancer needs, and sustains them for long days of varying kinds of movement intensity. The idea is to keep fueling your body when you need it, and then to heal, regenerate and continue to burn fat and use energy you provide, even when it sleeps. Late night snacks are not verboten, just controlled-the same as dinner after 6. A midmorning and afternoon snack are just that, not meals, and anything from a piece of small bagel and water or yogurt and blueberries to some lentils and quinoa (pre-made) with tomatoes and chicken broth can do the trick, or cottage cheese, milk and a small serving of peanut butter, or meat. Just make sure your food is clean and wholesome with no added fats or sugars. Healthy fats are numerous and should account for about 20% of your daily intake of fats: avocado, olive oil, even butter can be healthy fats, but there are many to choose from. a characteristic of healthy fat is that its polyunsaturated fats fat count is much higher than either its trans or saturated fat levels, discernible from-reading the package or from a nutrition source. Also, avoid deli meats if at all possible, or within the “fat” rule, as most deli meats contain things you do not want and “oven-roasted is always better than any other kind as the meat is probably just rubbed as opposed to soaked in brine etc., before it is baked. But make sure. Cured or uncured does not necessarily connote this.

krave snack

 

As performances for the novice, pre-professional or recreational dancer, just do not last that long, or come that frequently, there would seem to be little if any change necessary in diet, but as you go you do increase your caloric intake because you need more energy, such as for that variation, not less, and there is gap with regard to dancers who are new to this and virtually no help in understanding or dealing with it available. There is almost no mercy for students, because that is going to be displayed and no matter the age, they look at the package-how well you dance, pose, and what you look like. Sometimes there is device and trickery, but there is almost always a moment of truth for a dancer, when all is exposed and the fat shows or lack of lean muscle shows. The result of working so hard everyday should be visible, the labor, the effort, the pain, but it does not always meet our expectations and you cannot fathom why or what is causing it. Sometimes there are only minor things about ourselves that we want to change and as dancers we know that requires work-another small part of our attention focused on that trouble area to fix-no matter what we do, it is always going to be a juggling act. Learning to eat healthier is the first step to controlling the weight and to seeing a leaner you.

It might be our backs, the space right at the top of our thighs where there is a little bit of fat (legs rub together), it might be calves, arms, bosom, or torso, but it is usually there and looking right back at us when we look in the mirror, or noticeable to people onstage. Chances are, when we put on our clothes, or take them all off, everything fits, looks beautiful and is fine, and we love ourselves, so we say, “I am just fine.” We work on other things and we cave in to hunger cravings, and that is an important word, c-r-a-v-i-n-g-s, when we get a break. That is why we do not want to get caught out not having edible food, which we have prepared, or accounted for, handy. We eat whatever is available or easy or we have prepared to eat, but is this what we need to build the body we want? We have to teach ourselves what is right and acceptable for our own body chemistry and activity level and for every woman, this is a job, it is habits and discipline, and knowledge of ourselves, and time to develop. We have to work on it, sometimes inch by inch, because as dancers, our bodies are observed very closely, judged and they are our tools. Dancers later into life deal with other issues. So this project sometimes never stops, particularly if we have been unsuccessful in our dieting attempts, suffer from low self esteem, believe we come from FAT people, have big bones, are large, are flabby, and in fact, some of these diets can result in extra fat stores being accumulated just in case we decide to diet again, compounding our problems. Or if something is working, we often don’t change at all, but our bodies DO, making that diet ultimately wrong later on. The truth is, the body fights back!

The body is a survivor. It is the perfect example of the survival of the fittest. Fat people or people’s bodies who respond normally to having food taken away are healthier, stronger, fitter, champion bodies, because they have come across this before and determined to survive and keep your health, keep you alive, they fight back in a warrior-like and genius way. Bodies that disintegrate and lose weight, starve easily, or as a way of life, are probably not all that healthy-they don’t have a safety switch that turns off when they have depleted their bodies important store of nutrients. So take some comfort in your body working perfectly. They take what they need to survive, and they sort out the contents, nutrients, and various chemicals later, as their first mission is to inspire you, urge you, to eat. They might overeat to protect you, to prepare you, they are greedy. They are a force to be reckoned with. You cannot win that way.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/162703-healthy-diets-for-dancers/     If this is a fairly good diet for dancers who are not working on toning and making leaner muscle, then the diet has to be modified slightly. Very slightly, because the thinking is sound. Some actual dancer meals from Ballet Austin http://www.balletaustin.org/blog/?p=2810  (again, they do not specify DIETing), but good so far and these I focus on as lunch. A dieting dance needs to eat just the right foods after her dancing day is done or after 4pm and 6pm and 8pm (if she eats at all-and she will). High energy snacks include http://www.danceinforma.com/USA_magazine/2014/06/03/high-energy-snacks-young-dancer/    and http://pointemagazine.com/issues/augustseptember-2012/dance-bag-diet   Remember to keep portions of snack very small. Dinners typically include protein and veggies, no grains for dieters or fruit (sugar) and certainly not past about 4pm. A late snack before bed can include some healing carbs and protein, preferably casein such as found in milk and cottage cheese and other snacks which might promote healing and energy creation during the night of the leftovers and chosen. I refer to this very cautious article for dancers attempting the sylphlike body of a ballet dancer, as it addresses and precipitates eating disorders which are caused generally by this attempt. http://www.contemporary-dance.org/dancer-diet.html

Depending on your level of activity, you need to balance your caloric intake with a healthy diet, and most importantly one that provides energy, builds muscle, and enables you to carry on the endurance activities that professional or semi-professional dancing requires. Also, it needs to be palatable food, nutritious food, and you need to replace vitamins and minerals that you lose while dancing or exercising rigorously. Any student that takes a break from dancing can put on weight. Expect it. First, it is water weight and then it is fat. When you return to dancing the process starts all over again. The body re-adapts. Unless you have come off a starvation or carb or other diet where your body has been denied what it normally uses for energy, and it is in a recovery mode, hence storing up more glucose and fat for later use (and it will redouble its efforts each time), you are in a pretty good place to get to where you want to be, eventually, at that point in time. You may not think so, but you are. Any diet should start from a baseline approach, meaning eat what you eat normally beforehand for a few weeks. If your body is in shock and working to replenish those lost supplies, then you had better approach your diet in a more patient and less demanding way, anyway, because it will win if you try to trick it, starve it or control it too aggressively-that is a built in response. The real trick is to give your body exactly what it needs in terms of nutrition, water, fats and sugars, so that it doesn’t try to compete with your sylph. That way you both win.

Part 2 of Winning the War Against Fat: The Emergent Sylph



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I found this on a dance diet Pinterest page, which is interesting to gander at when you have the time, but contains slightly different foods than I would expect to see listed for dancers-namely, the purple highlighted section toward the the bottom says “Foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar.” NO. Definitely not.  But it does show a lot of information being gathered in an attempt to discover the sylph as well as eat enough of the right kinds of food for dancing long periods of time, and as well underlines the need for information on this subject which is available for all dancers in one place.  This search by dancers, on the Internet, most visibly, underlines the need for good advice and guidance in this area. You can check it out here http://www.pinterest.com/explore/dancer-diet/

eat healthy plate

 

In recent media, we would be told to believe that barre exercises alone will work those trouble spots, sit-ups and leg lifts will out those little fatty pockets, giving us six-packs and a space between our legs you could drive a truck through, but especially that “anyone can have a ballet body”, by just following a ballet regimen or ballet barre-dancers know is just NOT TRUE, no matter the specious facts which support it. I would find the references sited in this article useful possibly, rather than the whole question (and certainly not her answers) posed by someone who is evidently struggling with the concept at best. Yes, this information is published in a magazine (!) Yet, her sources could have answered some of her questions (some of them), but all dancers know this is full of absolutely false information and theorizing. Almost no facts. No facts. Be careful what you read on the Internet! I do not want you to think I am just dissing on dieting folks writing around the web, I am not-this is a random (more or less) search and find on dance dieting articles which I have come across and I am pointing out the benefits of researching further, not being afraid to be skeptical and of listing those questions you might have as you read, so that your answers become part of your own solution. But you can read the article here:

 

The fact is, the more you run, exercise, spin, aerobicize, yogasize, or do pilates, you can lose weight, build muscle, adapt, change, and the body will continue to adapt, if you starve it, or low-carb-it, or paleo it, and these things = big money for their progenitors, but do not work for everyone all the time or at all for some people, depending on many factors. I would say if you spin all day and do yoga you will lose weight, but you will not have a dancer’s body. You will also lose a lot of muscle, and information stating that yoga leads to a ballet body is also false. Weight lifters do not have ballet bodies. Much of this information is fad dieting and touts a weight-loss promoters form of diet and exercise as the best form of diet and exercise for everyone. Again, not so! Take a look at a 104 year old yogi-does he look like a ballet dancer to you? I am not saying crosstraining and yoga are not good for you, they might be, but for some people they are not necessary for losing weight or building lean muscle. In our case, yoga is good, certain kinds (Vinyasa, especially), for opening up the hips and stability, but I think if you are a dancer, you dance, primarily, because that is what you have time for. If you do other things, it benefits you, but it is a small part of your regimen.

http://youtu.be/AUgFtJZS1MI

For dancers, some workouts and diets may do more harm than good, and some diets may be extreme, actually dangerous for some people, and result in loss of muscle (skeletal, too). There is a lot of talk about cleanses, and purification, and in my day this was Ex-lax, enemas or diuretics. Fasting might be good for some people and they might swear by it, but if you are not basically dirty, eat well, are young, and don’t drink or smoke, then what exactly are you getting cleansing? Well, for starters, water, and lots of it, is absolutely necessary for everyone. So you must drink what you need of it-that is not dieting or cleansing-that is common sense. Muscles are 70% water and the rest of our body needs water, too. Naturally, we consume water, so to lose water weight, which will all be gained back, is not the best way to “diet”, and a lot of diets, a lot, start out by causing you to lose water and this is cheating and lying to yourself and your body-it knows, maybe you don’t. Too much sodium will cause you to drink too much water, so a low carb (all fat and meat diet) could make you very, very thirsty, but when people go on them they usually have trouble with raised sodium levels. No wonder! Can any diet that prevents you from pooping seriously be good???  Again, common sense. Ideally, you are supposed to pee out the FAT globules (in a perfect world). You can do so many things on this diet to mess it up,  a lot of people fail on it anyway, and gain back all the weight (and water) in under a year, so that each time it is attempted, the end result is some weight loss, a sense of failure, and then inevitable weight gain. Carb dieters report that the first few days you are very tired and unenergetic (duh). This can be really detrimental for a dancer who needs all that strength and power to lift her leg and hold a pose! She could get injured horsing around like a drunken dieter (carb dieter alert-get out of the classroom, you could be detrimental to everyone else’s heath and safety! ) That euphoric feeling of fasting or starving could be like an alcohol or drug high.

So, where can a dancer get enough carbs, fat and protein (as well as all the vitamins and minerals to keep her healthy) while dieting and keeping or creating a superb form? The differences in diets may be like a sound board, where you increase the bass, treble and volume, and other incidentals, or lower them, ever so slightly, and the sound changes. While the layman may not readily hear, see or be able to quantify these minute differences, to the trained ear or eye, those changes will be discernible, and the proof is in the pudding or the product. In reality, little modifications to diet are very big changes to your system. Are you tired, worn out, malnourished, hungry, fat, too thin, lethargic? Only dancers can answer these questions about themselves and dieting is highly personal, too. Everyone has habits, psychological failsafes, and patterns as well as different personal taste, but only by EATING can you discern what you like.

barre barI am not downing dancer industry I quite like (Irina and Max’s Booties), and dancers do go-to bars for a meal in a bite, but I have my doubts about whether Lara Bars, or any other product, actually provide enough sustenance and protein for dancers, and they are all very high in sugars. They are a snack, so stop treating them like a meal! The last thing I do thinks about bars are even though their ingredients may be wholesome, are they combined, what you need? Why not eat the ingredients clean?  By clean, I mean, 7 walnuts, a half a dozen almonds, a fig, a date, rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, cinnamon, chocolate and agave syrup, when all you really need is one yogurt and a handful of blackberries/blueberries right now, especially if you want to lose weight. A bar of any kind is all these ingredients rolled into one and equals a healthy candy bar. It does the same things, it weighs a lot, it has calories, carbs and fat, but not much protein. and if you want protein why play around? Get protein. Get it straight from the source. Those extra CARBS in that bar are excessive, not slow burning, may not be worked off in one classroom or technique class, and are most likely eaten at a time of day when you do not need that kind of energy-unless you are performing. It’s like dancers who eat nothing but ice cream for the casein protein I suspect. It has sugar! Tons of it and the alternatives to straight ice cream, like sorbet, or Ices, have as much sugar and virtually no protein, so are not healthy. If you want milk drink it, but drink organic because it has loads more (70%) omega-3 fatty acids because they feed them grass and “grass-fed usually means: Cows were meant to eat grass, not grain. But nearly all milk producers, including those that sell 100% Certified Organic, exclusively feed their cows grain. Studies are currently underway on the health benefits of dairy products produced from the milk of grass-fed cows. This much is known: grass-fed dairy products contain an increased amount of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid)”. Nearly six times as much. Is this bad? Decide for yourself http://www.natural-by-nature.com/milk-organic-myth.htm

Eat healthy, but keep in mind that not all information is required to be on labels (for your protection) and in advertising, companies tend to try to sell product on the merits of it, but may omit other details which may be of significance to you. I will not say they lie, but most cannot tell the complete truth or their products would not sell. Sometimes just eating the best foods you can find, cleanly, is the best way to lose weight and eat healthily and you do not have to spend a fortune doing it. It is an elitist concept that “rich” or expensive foods are necessarily better. Sort of like the Emperor’s New Clothes. You can study all of this information later when you have lost the weight and are making decisions based on your new more lovely appearance and attitude. Not all of the facts about health foods are out yet and this is not about agriculture and industry as much as it is about you liking what you see and eat, and being able to afford to maintain an eating habit.

Dancers eat and train, they don’t diet and exercise. This stress, diets, constant vigil, trying to find things to eat that are readily available, rather than what you choose or plan, other exercises, aerobic exercises, can take that extra weight away, whittle it away and expose taut lean muscle of the Gods, alone, is a fallacy. Stress alone adds fat. All that expended energy doing crosstraining to burn fat can wear out your instrument, make you old, make you fat, and make you just plain give up and eat whatever is available. Largely, what you eat determines, chemically, what happens that you cannot see and there is no adequate measure for it, except the mirror, and your physical self, so I tend to advise not looking at scales very often. Anyone who has struggled with issues, like I have, will know it defeats you when you expect to see numbers but you don’t understand them and no amount of starving yourself lowers them. Losing weight and toning depends on diet, activity, genetics, body chemistry and desire/discipline but the scale can be a friend, eventually. I have lost more weight not dieting than all of the conscious efforts of someone who watches their weight. I use the scale now (when I diet) to check one aspect of the process, but completely ignoring it can provide better benefits to some people and less stress until you are communicating with your body intelligently and that means listening to it. It is like Google translate-the scale understands the weight, but the context of the conversation is lost in translation! It is the right diet that is important and staying on it until you begin to see results, the right diet of food! Eating enough, not less of the right things, and more caloric intake, rather than less is usually necessary, and which is ultimately important, should increase the more or harder you work. How many hours per week/day do you exercise? How many times do you nourish your body per day? What time do you slow down? Stop eating carbs? What kinds of slow-burning carbs are you eating and when? Protein? And do you allow yourself rewards or cheats? Do you pick at least 20% of your fats per day? Are they good fats? Do you drink enough water?

while in france

And for most of you, who think French food (or Italian food, or British, or Russian) is healthier, it depends on what you eat and when you eat it. These ingredients, bought on a shopping trip, would reflect the appetite of a cyclist racing across Europe, and not a tiny dancer. Why? You tell me. Even in Fre! nch, I can recognize the word “lard”. Canteloupe is one of nature’s only fruits which contains fast-burning carbs-but it is not a dinner item for a dancer trying to build lean muscle, because carbs should be eaten when we are or are going to be active-and sugars, especially, in the early part of the day, say before 4pm, or earlier. It is not suggested, when dieting, to have them later in the day or to subsist on fruits rather than certain veggies because there is a carb chart of veggies, just as there is for fruits, and variety is important in both, but you just should avoid fruit for weight loss and fat loss because all that sugar does is turn into fat. One reason carb diets work is because you are allowed true fats, butter, oils, whipped cream, fatty meats, in short all of things by nature you should know to avoid, they tell you to eat, because chemically our bodies do not turn fat into fat-we make our own-Out of sugars! But you are to starve your body of healthy foods to lose weight! These items were turned into this meal_

Dinner at farm

Which for many reasons, not alone the time of day eaten, a dancer does not need and should avoid. It is fine for a cross country cyclist, though.

Most people would say dancers are disciplined. Not necessarily. If they are professional, they must learn to be. Many of them possess a lot of incorrect information and subsist on that, starving themselves to eat their favorite things, and eat lots of things that they don’t like “to be healthy.” 1st of all, if you do not like something-take it from me-you will eventually reason yourself out of your diet unless you can find a way to make that food palatable, which usually involves putting something you do like into it anyway, thus ruining (possibly) the good of it. Making your own food is key to enjoying it though, and liking it, and being a lot more healthy.

We tend to argue larger portions of the foods we like balanced (?) by smaller portions of the ones we don’t and announce that we ate healthier. Some people need to completely revise their thinking about food and find good reasons for not eating things that are bad for you. Most of these foods are readily available, everyone else eats them, but like smoking, you have to try not smoking before you can say food tastes better and you should just avoid smoking for the health reasons. It is the same way with soda-I have never liked it, just the occasional small sip is enough to remind me that it is just too sweet, and a lot of times, when you train yourself to eat less sugar, less salt, you find later, when eating something pre-prepared that it is too salty or too sweet.

You have adapted your eating habits and are subsequently requiring less salt and sugar, or other things to satiate you, and the inevitable finickiness thereafter is rewarding to you. When you eat good things, bad things taste, well, bad. You have to try it to see if foods are naturally salty, naturally sweet, or whether butter is truly better than healthy fats, to get used to it. It doesn’t sound palatable necessarily, but some things are actually better when they ARE healthy. Feeling good is also about eating healthy and the more you do it, the better you feel.

For some people, adjustments alone, require that dieting may take longer than one expects-like for me. It takes time, but even small results are immediately noticeable. You may feel better, be more energized, and begin to get in tune with your body. It is pretty easy to get healthy foods anywhere now, and with the whole population going Whole Foods crazy, we forget that some things in cans, in cupboards, and frozen are still healthy. Health foods could put a world of good companies out of business forcing up the price of groceries by fulfilling demand for so-called healthier foods.  Natural foods are a good thing and I have always known when I had too much meat in my diet because I tended to make less and eat less. But this is more psychological than nutritive or fact-based. Our bodies tell us something and we have to learn to listen, but that doesn’t mean we have to be food snobs to be healthy. http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20121203,00.html

time food snobs

x

Part 1 of Winning the War Against Fat-The Emergent Sylph



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Lean muscled bodies Sarah Lamb

Lean-muscled bodies in dance-that is what we have come to expect to see-in the media, at a performance, at competitions, on Instagram, on the Internet, in the movies, on So You Think You Can Dance, in the classroom AND in front of the full-length mirror, at home. Riiip! Stop right there! Not perfect, not seeing what you want to see? Not what others see? You are what you eat, and if you do not see that desired image in the mirror, you might feel somewhat of a failure. You might think that no matter what you do you are not ever going to succeed, improve or be the  image you have in your mind that is perfect-usually. Your body may get in the way of your seeing yourself as the best dancer you can be, and feeling good about yourself inspire confidence. Aside from that, it may have nothing much to do with your ability to dance. Getting the body you want is not the same as not being able to rock a hairstyle, bodies are usually obtainable, believe it or not. But, you might be guilty of projecting someone else’s body onto your own.  If anyone tells you you cannot achieve what you want to, prove them wrong!

You are unique. You have to believe that, but you are also capable of being the best that you can be, and the most healthy and strong dancer you can be. To me, and to a growing number of companies who invest large amounts of money in training, and lose dancers due to injury, this is also very important to succeeding in a professional career in ballet. Posers who do photo shoots might just be that, and it is possible that they are not as good a dancer as you are! A career lasts at least 20 years. What you do now will definitely impact the longevity of your dancing career as well as a competition in 4 months. So, you must make a commitment to eat right for the rest of your life and not just to lose weight, only to gain it back again, up and down and so forth.

Therefore if you are gearing up for the winter and you are a dancer you might want to try this plan:

old fashioned winter menu

NOT! Let me say again NOT!

It speaks of holidays and comfort foods and lots of starch and fat and sugar. But what is wrong with it? You say. “I am a dancer and I burn off calories-that is what I do. Well, for every calorie you burn off, another ten of these above turn into fat while you sleep. It isn’t just the sugar, it’s that all the right foods are there, hidden in gravy, butter, marmalade, cheese, sauces, and taters and other foods which you will have to eye cautiously over the holidays and during the winter, because this is what people eat. Regular people, not dancers!

In front of the mirror at the first self-assessment, any women or teenager might say,”I need to lose weight, maybe 5-10 pounds.” In the real life of any woman, every 10 years that need to “go backwards” goes up by 5 or 10 pounds, after you stop wearing the little tiny black dress, your brother’s jeans (with no butt), after babies, surgery, loss of work, a change of regimen, a more sedentary lifestyle, drastic change of lifestyle, health conditions, anything-you develop a bosom and may be lugging around more “desirable” fat, but it’s still fat and weight and adds numbers to the bathroom scale you can’t fathom. Also, we cook, and when we cook, we taste, we nurture and feed others, and have to shop and you know never to go shopping on an empty stomach. Everything looks good, but one benefit of having Madonna’s personal trainer is the likely aspect that she shops for you, puts it in your fridge and guards you from eating outside of your diet. She also works your butt off. Renee Winhoffer is her name. She is a dancer, too. In her words, “I plan and pack all my foods – and if I’m on tour I work with the hotels and cater ahead for specific foods. I often travel with my box of steamed vegetables and lean protein so I don’t get caught out. If I eat out, I make a special request for a green salad with some grilled fish or chicken and a little olive oil. And any time I have a hunger urge I drink 10 gulps of water and then wait 10 minutes.”  She also states that if you want to see results in a week try not eating before your midday snack to attack the fat stores immediately in the AM. You can read more advice by her and other fitness gurus, here, http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/article/TMG9785991/Workout-and-diet-secrets-of-top-fitness-coaches.html .

However, I find that in doing research including that article one has to look at whether they tell the whole truth, do the same number of exercise hours per day as any given dancer, the same type of dance and dancing as you, and realize that one article and a few tips does not a meal plan make. There are plenty of questions I would want to ask, more on the technical side. Men differ from women, so I try to look at a diet that is good for women, too.

In reality, it might be fat you need to lose, or weight, most people have some, but it might be that more muscle needs to be developed (and are being) or exposed to best display our body’s assets and we have to give this process TIME and the right nutrients to help it along. We may be long of limb and tall, frail and tiny, or somewhere in between, but we can all be the best we can be. All women can relate to this, not just dancers. We all experience this self-doubt and analyze, and it is especially difficult for anyone, for any reason, in any case, and even those who have heretofore had perfect bodies, so no ones difficulties are less important than anyone else’s, whatever they are.

It is sometimes much later in a women’s life that she just asserts herself and accepts this body as her own, or decides to make it the best she can, when she is finally tired of ignoring it or trying to make it something else, feeling guilt or shame. I blame the media, Instagram, men, and sometimes families for making women feel they are less than perfect, and women for listening to them and not being strong and believing in ourselves. To be honest, ballet dancers must make a decision, and that is whether they have the discipline to eat only enough to maintain their exercise level, turn fat into lean muscle, and strive for the weight level required in partnering. It is not fair to maim your partner because you have to eat a cake. Just have to. For this reason, and for the body-beautiful a ballet dancer must be slim, as slim as is reasonably possible-maybe a bit slimmer than is reasonably possible, and she also has to eat right. Luceat lux vestra! But let your own light shine!

 

Foot and Ankle Injury Prevention Tips for Dancers


Dance Injury Diagram-The Foot
Dance Injury Diagram-The Foot

About now dancers in pre-professional programs, those starting back from a lazy Summer, or those simply not accustomed to the new level of pointe or technique they are experiencing will begin to feel pain in different places when dancing. It is no fun sitting out, but the wise dancer checks herself to see what is wrong and tries various remedies to heal the pain. It is human nature to do so, and those who ignore it could be in for some less than trifling troubles later. An unchecked injury, whether from overuse or a real problem, rarely gets better on its own if you dance through it. Anything to stop you is enough to verify the cause of. Who wants to wince with pain during a classical variation?

Foot/Ankle Injury Prevention Tips for Dancers

1) Proper training and teaching are essential to allow dancers of all ages to develop their skills without injury. If your school is having you overdo it then you have to watch out for yourself. That means make sure you are doing the exercises correctly, not repeating combinations twice or more a day because of duplicate classes, even if it means talking to the teachers and explaining to them this is all new for you and you need a little time to work up to full throttle. Proper training and teaching would encompass this rapport with your teachers-who else knows more about it than they? Talk to them. It is your instrument and they cannot replace it breaks and it is up to you. There is no warranty with your equipment-no customer service either!

Rest Ice Compression Elevation= PRICE (Precaution)$$$
Rest Ice Compression Elevation= PRICE (Precaution)$$$

 

 

2) Take adequate rest to allow the body to heal itself from daily wear and tear. If yours is a particularly rigorous schedule, rest often, do nothing in between, ice, soak, massage, apply cremes, take ibuprofen, use epsom salts, pamper yourself. No one else is going to. It gives your hands and fingers a workout. Try heat and ice, or hot water (as warm as you can stand it), then as cold to increase circulation and healing to the area. Obviously don’t do that which hurts you. Take it easy if you have a second portion of the day as rigorous as the first. Build up slowly and bring issues to the attention of some people who care so they can be thinking, researching and trying to find ways to help you, too. Don’t stay quiet about it. Cry if it helps. Dancing is not easy. You deserve to be pampered. The squeaky wheel gets the oil.

3) Maintain energy levels by eating and drinking adequately. No nourishment, or little nourishment, in dancers is a common cause of injury. Lack of nutrients causes the lessening of the production of Estrogen in the body and can lead to injuries. Better eat right! Take your daily vitamins (at least) and don’t forget to eat MEALS. Drink plenty of water.

This feels good-do it!
This feels good-do it!

4) Conditioning and strengthening of the leg muscles that support the arch are crucial. Yes, on top of dance, you need to ask your teachers for exercises that will increase the strength and flexibility of the muscles you are using everyday, so as to try to keep up with what will be expected of you. Ask your teachers for foot strengthening exercises. If they hurt, it is probably a sign that you are weak and need to strengthen. Flexibility and strength in the foot of a dancer is critical, wouldn’t you say? I mean you can’t dance without them-that would look funny. Use a tennis ball, rotate them, point and flex them, put them under the bed, sit on them-DONT’ BE LAZY.

5) Try to avoid dancing on hard or uneven surfaces, which could cause injury. What surfaces are you dancing on everyday? walking on? Where is the impact being absorbed? This is pretty hard to prevent, but perhaps classes should be held in the studios with raised flooring, but those are often not available. Wearing pointe shoes and even tightly fitting ballet shoes all day takes its toll. Shoes that are too tight, too narrow, or do not have proper arch support can also lead to increased problems, swelling and even fractures. Try to reassess all you are doing before you blame the floors. Chances are something will cause improvement, if you try. Are your straps or ribbons too tight? Are you releveing properly? Are you sickling? are you using your plie in your jumps? Landing properly? Check everything. Keep track-keep notes, dates and times, so you can look back and say, “during this class this happened and after class I felt this way.” Then you begin to see a pattern of activity, or action, which cause pain, or relieves it.

Naughty no-nos and Dancing-DOS!
Naughty no-nos and Dancing-DOS!

6) Take care of your shoes! Wet and worn out shoes are not supportive, and without support and on pointe for long periods of time, any dancer will experience pain. Stress moves to other soft tissues when a dancer compensates, causing injury to those areas as well. Keep them clean and dry, adding alternating pairs to your collection as needed for rotation. Always put your feet first! Skip the new leotard-better get shoes! Try different shoes for different classes. Sometime a higher vamp might be necessary for extended dancing as the foot can strain with overuse. Support, support, support!

7) Dancers should adopt new training schedules slowly. This is the number one ignored reason for overuse injuries by students because they AND teachers press forward, into maxed out training schedules, failing to accommodate for rehearsals, competitions, etc. Too much, too soon, can result in an injury and especially when taking even one day off, but especially a few, take it easy when you return, stretch as opposed to dancing hard even if you risk insults, it is better than injuring yourself just to keep up. How are you going to have a career in dance if you injure yourself permanently???? I never think returning to pointe on Monday is a good idea, but after a week off no pointe should be taken for a few days. You have to build up again. after a Summer, WELL! what do you think? Get plenty of rest at home. Even if that means going directly to bed after supper. Feet up. Soak, Massage, Eight hours. Why do you think professional dancers like to sleep late? And they DO!!!

8) Not everyone can have custom-made dance shoes. Although not always possible when dancing, but more so off stage or out of class, wear supportive footwear, and if you need to wear orthotics, wear them as often as possible. I recommend a wide variety of gel arch/foot supports, shoes and ZUMIES (AT CVS) for walking around the house. As important as the surfaces in the studio, are the street, sidewalks and concrete flooring found everywhere. A dancer lives on their feet and especially sore, they feel everything! Put your feet up. Try wrapping your feet to see if that stops or relieves the pain. But always, wear special and comfortably supportive footwear out of class. NO PAYLESS GARBAGE. Good shoes. Not always sneakers either because they do not have enough support on the sides. Finding good shoes should be a number one priority and just another example of how you should treat your feet. Would you put a baby in those shoes? Your mothers did not and how dare you treat yourself less well and carefully than they would!

Pronation and fallen arch foot pads. All dancers have impact to their feet. Fact.
Pronation and fallen arch foot pads. All dancers have impact to their feet. Fact.

 

9) Although I have already expounded on this in other articles, I will say it again: If dancers perform excessive pointe or demi-pointe work one day, they should focus on other types of work during the next workout. Try skipping the second technique class. Move your schedule around to try not repeating movements or overusing certain muscle groups. If you are doing variations, repertoire, privates and rehearsals-you do not need a second technique class everyday. Try jazz and modern, yoga, pilates, anything but a repeat of the same exercises you already did once in the morning. I have heard some dancers attribute their superior technique to 2 technique classes per day. On some level this might be okay, such as during Summer, or when other classes are not available, or when the opportunity arises (such as master classes), but one has to be very careful not to overdo it everyday. Repeating exercises with the hips, tendus, feet and other movements can cause overuse injuries in dancers that have not built up the stamina and strength to do this. at any rate, we are all just like the Duracell Bunny-at some point, there is a limit. Don’t let that happen when you are so young! Make an effort to work on different muscle groups and not repeat the same exercises.

Don't wait for a f.l.y. guy or your MOM-massage your OWN feet!
Don’t wait for a f.l.y. guy or your MOM-massage your OWN feet!

10) Most importantly, early recognition of symptoms is key to understanding the cause. Stop activity if pain or swelling occurs. If the pain persists after a few days rest, consult a sports-medicine physician or preferably a dance therapist or doctor. It is sometimes worth traveling to see one as opposed to getting the wrong advice. Work to break bad habits: leaning in one’s hips, poor posture, not pulling up on point, sickling. Left to chance, these might throw off all of your good training, creating areas of weakness and poor alignment which can literally stop a performance career. Fix these things now, and never look back on them, don’t keep nursing them. They are easier to correct than the one million ways they can cause you more problems in the future left unattended. Keep on Dancing!

Hip, Lock and Key or Sylph Perception


I always liked  to do this:

Hip wave

There are many ways of doing it, not just the pose in the picture which may be wrong or right. What always seemed important to me about doing it, and many other modern dance positions-I’ll call this one the “hip wave”, is that they “align you.”  You will find this (probably better explained in many modern dance technique books.” I recommend two (2)-On The Count of One and The Dancer Prepares (I am always recommending these-there are many more), just two classics. I am classic-that is another way of saying older.

The exercise: It is sort of like wearing a blindfold and smelling, tasting, hearing and feeling stimuli, without the use of sight-let’s us not forget that sixth sense of (sylph) perception. Lying on the floor can help you with many problems-immediately note the amount of curvature in the spine, translated into not feeling the lower back (or any other part of the back!) resting on the floor. Breathing will help with this-another post. Feel the part of the back that receives more pressure (and is doing more work) which will be tighter and uncompromising-this is what you need to focus on relaxing into the floor. Part of any dance technique, ballet included is communicating with your own body-before you can communicate to others, you have to have control of the self. If your body is not doing what you tell it to, order or demand it to, then it is time to start some serious investigation into your sylph, and find a way to reach your body, just the way you might try to reach someone else. Why try less hard when the stubborn party is you! More reason to be able to teach it….be successful.

In this position (above pictured), as in other positions of modern dance, at first you will possibly feel completely disoriented. I am not talking about gymnasts, handstands or other “set” movements that may be a part of your everyday routine or circumspect. I am talking about isolating what makes you feel uncomfortable and why, then reworking it, or controlling it, to get it to work for you-find out what is so great about it/not so great, by experimentation. I could steal other writers and bloggers and websites information and give this information to you in boring technical terms, sports terms, but it would not really reach most dancers. Dancers are visual and sensitive creatures frequently who learn best by delving into self exploration, diagnosis and psychology-and they are right. I am asking you to assume this position and let it control you, in a way. The dancer above is in control of this position, but in being so controlled, she is losing out on the many possibilities of the position and assuming just the one rather tense/practiced one we see. It looks alright, maybe too perfect, to some teachers, absolutely incorrect modern. The purpose of this position for say Isadora Duncan or Doris Humphrey might have been freedom, letting go, discovering one’s range of movement. In isolating this aspect, we simply increase the tension in order to control the pose-not what will be helpful, in short-more harm, useless.

What about letting the leg go where it wants initially, playing with it, and then possibly, letting the leg fall naturally in a 360 degree circle, bringing it back up each time after it falls to its maximum ability to do so? What is wrong with falling, letting go? The muscles of the rest of the body will act to protect you, let them. See how they do this. Trust them. Don’t think so much about thinking so much! Raising and lowering the leg in a relaxed fashion, is much more difficult in this position than it seems because you are fighting the natural use and range of your muscles. It’s funny how gravity pulls the leg “up” and our instinct is to pull it back down (up). It feels very unnatural and there couldn’t be anything more natural about it. Imagine being in space-anti-gravity.

Watch a child do it-there will always be one who spends a lot of time in this position-dancer. For whatever reason, this child knows this is funny and will often laugh to himself because you (adults) do not get it. They immediately understand why this is not “normal” as if they have discovered something no one else has, giving them power over their elders. They will try various things in this position, trying to emulate an “upside-down person”, a “backwards” person. They will try to walk and run backwards after this, and do other things the opposite way, realizing that not only are unexplored ranges of movement challenging, they are the antithesis of moving forward, possible, interesting. Life moves you forward, the coach yells “go” and you do not move backward-this would be seen as retarded to middle-school students, dumb. It is the joke in many Disney and related children’s movies, slowly reaffirming silently to children acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and it is the slow progression of “speeding up,” industrialization, which prevents many people taking the time to sit through a ballet or dance program. What child or any human, left alone, does not find the movement of motion pictures fascinating in reverse? This era knows the dvd, but what of the vcr, microfiche-or the pages of a book read backwards?  Of course, once we explore this range we forget its initial curiosity, take it for granted, and continue to move forward the rest of our lives, but the truth is you can get to the same destination by turning around and walking backwards-but we lose the sense of where we are going, because we are not trained, so dependent are we on our eyes, to proceed without them leading us. If our other senses are engaged more frequently, they become better honed and more useful. Doing it “with your eyes closed” is losing meaning in today’s society. But life is busy and hurried and we do not take the time to “look back,” so even more oftentimes, it is hard to see beyond….

When in this position for the first time, do not use a mirror to check your progress or how you look. Try to adjust yourself to your surroundings-yourself and the planes of space. The ceiling is now the floor-or is it? Actual dancers spend much of their time in the air, being suspended by a partner, and diving or jumping-all leaps of faith and it is very important to get used to having  to realign yourself without two feet planted on the floor. Close your eyes if necessary to block out external stimuli and find your center of balance. Then raise your leg as high as you can comfortably. Comfortably is the key word here. Do not lock your hip. Use your toes and back and arms. Forget what you have learned in ballet or dance class-it does not help you here. Move your leg around in a complete circle-not all at once, and slowly. Floor-range, at every conceivable angle and degree. Then try the other leg. It may be necessary to “come up for air” as this is fatiguing and when fatigued, we grip, we try to hold on, keep it up. Not yet. let it fall! Don’t grip your hips. Once you start to feel the movement within your hip, you will also begin to notice the muscles that naturally are in use. These are the muscles that will be strengthened with this exercise. and your mind. You are letting your body teach you where your range is, and this is it, really, naturally. You begin to see the strength of gravity and how much a leg actually weighs! Quit a lot. You see how you have trained those muscles to teach that leg to do everything from an upright position. How you are not uniformly strong-how naturally weak those muscles are in reverse. Interesting.

You can strengthen back muscles from this position, too. It is a natural trait for the muscles to try to lift the leg and you will find this is what is most fatiguing this exercise or position is, as apparently we all have really weak backs in different positions. It is rare to find a person unilaterally trained. As you adjust to your new range, you can increase strength and turnout from this position, too. You can gradually rehabilitate your hips and isolate problems with your usual alignment from this and other unusual positions. This tricks your body into “starting over” putting your body and your sylph back into control one step at a time, one exercise at a time, one day at a time. You can learn to “tilt” into and out of this position and to increase your range of movement front to back, side to side, and all places in between. You will find muscles in your sides that are not strong, not being spoken to, not trained. Forgotten. its possibilities seem almost endless if you are willing to discover them. You can attempt it on releve. It is just one point of discovery, but it is a good place to start learning where your actual turnout is, how you can gently improve it, and whether you are forcing turnout all around. Since there is no place for you to lean, or rest against, although you can try that too, one is relying on one’s own body for support and one’s mind and tendencies for instinctual directions or fixes. Try to do this bending one leg, or both, turn, scoop, and a whole new plateau of movement will appear, a level, literally, not experienced by most classically trained dancers or grown-ups. I think this might have been how modern dance technique was discovered. What are we not doing???There are six strings on a guitar, 12 on a classical. A dancer should have use of all 12 strings of his/her instrument, not half or a third, or one. Right? I have known guitarists who can get nearly all of the same notes out of a six-string guitar, but it quite a bit harder on the instrument and the guitarist. It is more work.

Although the common issue of hip pain when forcing turnout can lead to other injuries, particularly fractures of the femoral neck, bursitis, tendonitis, etc….even actual displacement of the hip (yup), finding your correct turnout is like a key and a lock. Every mechanism is different. You cannot put your key into the grooves of your lock like everyone else-you have to find the groove that will allow your leg to rise comfortably, turnout comfortably. It is not the dancer with the perfect flat turnout it is the dancer with the comfortable turnout, beautiful turnout, that catches our eye. If your key will not turn in the lock, chances are, you are trying to move your leg against the cup-shaped acetabulum, hitting it against the mechanism, just like a key in a lock. If you train the muscles and ligaments around that area to “force” the leg through unnatural poses, it trains the muscles to repeat this exercise even when you tell it to do the right thing-muscle memory. It is akin to walking into a wall-you will either directly hit it like a bird on a sliding glass door, or you will scrape and careen off it, damaging the bursa and the cartilage in the joint. It should be a smooth transition with no bumps or scraping. If you notice these feelings when doing this exercise, the best thing to do is to see a doctor. If you are still in the preliminary or early stages of experiencing this problem no permanent damage might have occurred, at least not irreversible damage (possibly), and id instructed by your doctor, you could then see a physical therapist for exercises to do for increasing the correct usage of the surrounding muscles and ligaments as well as for strengthening the leg in the socket and increasing mobility in the hips.

Repeated forceful attempts at trying to put the key into the lock the wrong way will damage the hip, lock and key. Remember a key always should move easily in the lock. If it doesn’t, that is a possible congenital disorder of too little lubrication, or a sign that bursa are already damaged, engorged or inflamed. I do not recommend the use of cortisone injections to decrease size of swollen bursa-the best medicine are anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen (taken once or twice), and then complete rest. Other medical symptoms and explanations of bursitis are available here:

http://www.onhealth.com/bursitis/page2.htm#what_are_bursitis_symptoms_and_signs

 

Another symptom of gripping the hips is that your derriere will get bigger, or appear to, because the muscles are tight. There is a stretch called “the triangle” to help remedy this condition.

Probably stemming from yoga exercises, this will help loosen your gluteous maximus muscles after a workout. As long as you are warm, this exercise can be done often, but try not to sit in it too long (15-30 second holds, building up from 2-5 times per leg).

Strong, supple gluteal muscles keep the legs, pelvis and torso properly aligned. When your glutes are too tight — from excessive working or over-training, your alignment can be affected, leaving you with pain in the sciatic nerve, knee or lower back. A curved back is one indication of the need for this exercise. Forced turnout is also a possible culprit. Use a triangle stretch to retain or regain gluteous flexibility and counter soreness, stiffness and pain in your lower half and the aforementioned caboose enhancement. Do this stretch daily, and after each class, if your butt muscles are particularly tight.Advice before doing:

Warm up for 5 to ten minutes at least to increase circulation in the areas you are going to stretch do that the exercise has a maximum benefit to those targeted spots-you will feel it if it is working and it will not feel as keyed in if you do not-you will learn the difference. A brisk walk will suffice if you are not dancing. It works best after a class, especially one in which you lift your legs a lot and this works well after pointework.

First pose:

Sit on the floor facing a “front” with your spine perfectly straight, shoulders down (correctly) and slightly back. Extend your legs extended in front of you. Keeping your legs together (ankle bones touching preferably), start to bring your knees up to point toward the ceiling, sliding the flat feet toward you buttocks a few inches off the ground-not up by your chest-you are going to put the left leg over the right-stacking it so to speak. When knees are pointing directly at the ceiling, feet flat on the floor and back straight (shoulders down)….Second Pose:

Begin to slide your right foot more toward your buttocks (and up toward your chest), keeping your position aligned as before (spine, flat feet, ankles together, shoulders down). If you need to, use your hand to put your leg into a position closer to your body-after practice, you will not need to “assist”. Your right leg will be forming a “comfortable” triangle with the floor. Picture the next pose, which is to bring the left leg up and over the right, when preparing to position yourself.

You will be aligned with the right knee directly in front of or “square,” with your pelvis.

Pose Third:

Now, pull in or “retract” you left leg, until it is also in a triangle and put it over your right leg. Slide your left foot along the floor, resting it alongside your right hip and forming a triangle with your left leg. Make whatever adjustments are necessary to “stack” your left knee directly over your right. Press your inner thighs together gently. You should feel a little tension in your outer left hip. Also, there is a tendency for the left hip to raise, the right hip to press into the floor and the alignment to go awry. take a moment and find a comfortable but correct position with the hips “square,” both as much on the floor as possible, back straight and shoulders down.-this is a continual battle and part of the “fun.” This natural and correct alignment will do wonders for your stretch and your pose-almost no one doesn’t have stretching going on somewhere in this and those especially “out of shape” or incorrectly trained, will have much to grapple before becoming fluent in this pose and able to control it for the best stretch.One problem with people who believe they have control of this stretch is the tendency to grip with their hips, the floor and use the stomach muscles to “scoop” the leg into position. It is the back, straight, which gives the support necessary to relax the leg and for “crossing over” the other leg.

4th Pose:
Keep your back long and extend forward from your hips, placing your fingertips on the floor in front of you for support. When you feel moderate tension along your left buttock, hold the position for up to 30 seconds, breathing normally. Return the torso to an upright position and then repeat the forward hinge up to four times, then reverse.
Keep on dancing!
This link has some of the information here and a “training program” available online, although all of this information is generally available elsewhere.

http://www.theballetblog.com/article/improving-technique/training-turnout-part-2-isolating-your-true-turnout/

If you live in NYC-OUT THIS NUMBER IN YOUR CELL PHONE NOW!

212-598-6022-Harkness Dancer Clinic

They have a One-on-One Injury Prevention Assessment Program ~FREE~

The Harkness Center offers one-hour, free-of-charge injury prevention assessments for dancers. During the injury prevention assessment session each dancer is seen individually for an hour by a therapist who reviews the dancer’s complaints, medical and nutrition histories and performance during a battery of tests. The screening is designed to evaluate the risk the dancer is exposed to and to discuss the dancer’s concerns before an injury occurs. At the conclusion of the assessment the dancer is given an individually tailored injury prevention exercise regime with recommendations for modification of their technique, training strategies, footwear and/or dance environment. The aim of the screening is to maximize each dancer’s potential for wellness. Thousands of dancers have participated in this program and have rated it 3.9 out of a perfect 4.0 for its relevance and helpfulness. Harkness has educational programs for dancers!

For additional information and to download an individual assessment form:

http://hjd.med.nyu.edu/harkness/patient-services/injury-prevention-assessments-and-workshops

If you have specific question email: harkness@nyumc.org

 

Keep On Dancing!!!

What Snapping Hip May Say About Your Dance Training | Dance Advantage


What Snapping Hip May Say About Your Dance Training | Dance Advantage.