These past couple of weeks have been a little on the hectic side. Not only have I increased my own training in preparation for the Australian Dancesport Championships (a big competition in Australia for those of you not in the dance scene!) but I’ve also been helping students in their prep also. Throw in a couple of Christmas floorshows and a quick TV appearance on top of that and it’s no wonder why I’m sitting here post competition absolutely knackered and putting off unpacking! So this is why I wanted to post a little blog on recovery and it’s importance, but also I thought it seemed appropriate considering the stressful times that have been the last few days! I shall explain..
Let’s rewind back to last Wednesday morning. The Aussie Championships were 3 days away, we were flying down to Melbourne for the comp the following day, all was well and we felt fit and ready! That was up until Steve got out of bed and couldn’t put any weight on his right foot without being in 7/10 pain. Slight Drama.. talk about throwing a spanner in the works!! Being a head strong male he decided to still head to work for 3 hours of teaching to see if it would “go away” (I know, don’t even get me started!). After about an hour and a half he couldn’t hack the pain anymore and so he cancelled the rest of his day of work and went home. Now let me say at this point that cancelling work and going home is a big deal for Steve, so I knew immediately it wasn’t looking good. He rested a few hours and thought it felt a bit better so after a big fight I finally gave in and decided to let him see if doing some practice with me would “stretch it out”. BIG FAIL. All our practice did was make it worse and ended up leaving him with a limp when he walked. I thought there was no chance we were going to be dancing that weekend.
With our sports masseuse having no time available we spoke to a few people and figured it might be plantar fasciitis which is stemmed from tight calves and hamstrings and overuse of the feet, common in dancers and marathoners. What we also found was that there is nothing that can be done to make it go away, you just have to deal with the pain, stretch that bad boy out and rest. Rest wasn’t really an option in the short-term so we did everything we knew of in terms of active recovery to make it bearable for the coming weekend. In the end we ended up being able to dance at the competition with most people probably not even knowing that there was a problem so it just goes to show how much this stuff works and can really help! So here are a few of the things I swear by:
- Rest: This one is pretty obvious I know and isn’t always an option but I feel it’s the most important! People dont prioritise rest enough when it comes to a training regime and can easily end up burning out or creating an injury. If you rest well you can come back the following time you train so much stronger and clearer and it’s less likely you will lose determination. So keep that in mind when you aren’t feeling 100%.
- Stretching: This is something I never really did when I was younger as I never had it drilled into me nor was I ever sore! But.. after you hit 22/23 I think that’s when you really start to feel sore and old haha! Well that’s when I did anyway. What helped me was getting into Ballet Beautiful because it made me realise how much better my body felt after a good stretch. Also if I go into the studio feeling tight (every day!) then I always try to stretch and warm up my muscles before going head first into it! Tight muscles can pull on other muscles which can then lead to injury. As Steve said to me this weekend after learning he really needs to start stretching “I’m really not getting any younger am I!!”. I definitely feel the older we get the more important stretching becomes 🙂
- Foam roller: If you are a semi active person and you don’t have a foam roller then its time to invest in one! If you’ve never heard of foam rolling then click here! They are the best for rolling out any excess lactic acid in the muscles and releasing tight muscles in your legs, butt, back and shoulders. I love rolling out my ITB’s on the foam roller and always look for it when I’m feeling stiff and sore. Probably should be rolling on it right now rather than typing this to be honest!
- Massage Ball: The massage ball/trigger ball is one of my favourite travel essentials. I use one with spiky ends but you can use any type of ball really. You can try using a tennis ball, rubber ball or even a golf ball if you’re game! It’s the best at getting into those tricky spots and working on those knots and twinges. So just find the points that are aggravating you and literally roll that on the ball. I like to lay down on some carpet and get the ball into my hips and psoas muscle. It’s also great to roll your feet on after a long day of standing. This was actually one of the things that got Steve through the competition this weekend, rolling his foot out on the spiky ball!
- Ice Baths: Ok, so I have to admit I’m still a bit of a newbie when it comes to ice baths and at the moment I’ve only tried it on my feet. I know that a lot of athletes use ice baths for their whole body for fast recovery and it was actually suggested to me from my Sports massage therapist. All you need to do is fill up a bucket (or wheelie bin for full body!) with cold water and chuck in around 20-30% ice. You don’t want too much ice that you get freeze burn but you also don’t want just a couple of cubes floating around there either. Then try to stay submerged for roughly 8-10 minutes. Like I said I’ve only attempted feet and its pretty darn painful the first time but once you get used to it it’s not so bad. Also the benefits you reap afterwards are addictive! You will feel like a new you I’m not joking!
- Anti-inflammatories/gels: This isn’t really active recovery but they are more so a when all else fails type of thing. I love gels as I can apply the product directly to the area I need it and it gets to work almost immediately. Also taking Nurofen isn’t my favourite thing in the world but like I said when you have no other option they do work. I always try to have some form of gel and tablet on hand just incase!
So I think the best advice I can give on this topic is to listen to your body and try not to turn a blind eye to what it’s telling you! A few years ago I sprained my ankle quite badly and never got it properly checked by a doctor to see if I had done serious damage. I let it rest for only two weeks and was pressured into getting back into my dance shoes and on the floor as soon as possible. Now after getting it properly checked out it turns out I did ligament damage and because I didn’t take at least 8 weeks off and let it heal properly I now have scar tissue. Silly me and even sillier me for listening to other people’s un-expert opinions rather than listening to my gut!! My ankle is now going to be something I constantly have to manage and have looked at because if I don’t it will just turn into a club foot.. haha not what you want as a dancer! I have to crack it everyday otherwise it starts to feel stiff and it’s just a nuisance really. So my advice is look after your body, trust your instincts and put time into recovery!!
If you have any more questions please feel free to ask in the comments below! As I’ve said many times these are only my opinions and things that have worked for me so keep in mind that they may not be right for you 🙂
Love, Rachelle xx