It doesn’t matter, if you have a fractured bone or just caught a major cold– we dearly hate everything unpleasant that forces us to stay off the competitive floor. Involuntarily taking days off from practice, makes us and our partners (who, in the meantime, have to hit the dance studio all by themselves) even more nervous before the upcoming competitions. But don’t worry, the time you spend healing, can be used for the good. Here is how:
Be positive, patient and set new goals
It’s okay to be sad if an injury or illness keeps you from practicing, but make sure that negativity doesn’t overflow you. Nothing is lost, when you are not able to practice for a while. Try to focus on the healing process and believe in your body that you will soon be ready to dance again. Above all, it is important to be patient. Getting back onto the floor too early, may actually cause you to go back, possibly with even worse complications than before. It is also of great importance to reset your goals. This doesn’t mean that you should forget about the goals you had before the injury or infection, just postpone them a little bit. For example, if your original goal was to reach the semifinal in the next competition, change it to feeling safe, secure and having fun, no matter what the result would be. The instant you have gained back your primary confidence in your body, you can move on and follow your previous plans.
Incorporate strength training or, if possible, attend group classes.
If you have the flu or some other systemic illness (like fever), dancing or any kind of sport is not definitely recommended. If, however, you have an injury in one body part that does not prevent you from completely missing out on a practice – go for it. In case of a fractured bone in your wrist, for instance, you can try working out your legs by doing squats or doing balance work. If you are in doubt, what you are able to do, consult with your doctor and/or your trainer first (best option: ask both). Most importantly, be safe! If you are healthy enough, you can also go and watch group classes or other couples taking lessons with your coach. Be aware though, that not being able to participate might make you sad 🙁
Analyse your own dancing and try mental practice
The healing time can also be used to really think about your own dancing. Make time count and focus on your mental skills. All mental training is based on a psychological-physiological phenomenon – the Ideomotor response. Or, also know as the “Carpenter” effect. This effect described as the fact of “thinking” or “imaging” a certain movement sends the same signals to your muscles as actually doing the move. Therefore, the Ideomotor link can be used to practice movement skills in situations where the physical execution is just not possible. Go through your routines mentally, practice the steps in your mind and improve your technical skills by laying in bed or sitting on the couch. If you still think that mental training is boring, try making following variations:
- Go through your routine in your head without music, form the beginning to the end
- Silently or Out Loud count your through the same routine
- “Sing” your routine by turning the imagined movements into noises… (This will make you look like a total fool, but it’ll do wonders in improving your rhythmical skills!)
- Play music of your choice with different tempi and go through the routine in your mind again
Of course, practicing mentally can not replace the actual physical practice, but it’s scientifically proven that it can really make a difference in your performance!
Watch Amateurs & Pros Dance
Based on the same Ideomotor principle as described above, looking at other people dance will actually improve your own dancing. “Ideomotor” actually means that, an idea of a movement leads to the initiation of muscular action, in such low intensity, that it happens unconsciously. Hence, watching the pros dance will improve your own ability to execute the steps with higher quality. This is a form of learning through “Imitation”, which should be nothing new to us. This is a little reminder that you are working on your own skills, by watching YouTube videos or sitting in the audience. Following lecture videos is also a good idea to increase your knowledge. Interestingly, observing beginners will improve your own dancing as well. You are asking how? Your brain will develop processes for error detection and correction. And you will be able to practice these processes for yourself, just by looking at someone who is doing them “wrong”.
Get the right kind of motivation for the future
Naturally, an injury or illness makes us feel a little down. In order to keep our spirits high, we sometimes need to get some inspiration. An unfailing source of encouragement is watching motivational movies. Films that remind us to keep our chins up through all the struggle and to never lose hope. Best examples for such movies are “Rocky”, “The Blind Side”, ”The Pursuit Of Happiness”, and for us – dancers “Save The Last Dance”, “Billy Elliot” or “Flashdance”. Go grab a bowl of popcorn (or apple slices, if you want to go for something healthier) and get your portion of motivation, relaxing yourself watching one of Hollywood’s best. This will leave you with that certain tingle in your body, ready to give your all as soon as you are back in the game!