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Instep Dance Magazine Articles

Reprints of monthly column as first appearing in Instep Dance Magazine (no longer in print).

August 2003

Stretching Before and After Dance

Presented by Rick Allen, DC

"Better health leads to better dancing."

One of our local dancers, Miranda Willis, who is also a talented flutist that played at Sharon and my wedding last month, suggested that I review tips that help make dancing more enjoyable and with less chance of injury. So let me start with a simple question:

Would you like to avoid that tired, achy feeling you may have experienced 24 to 48 hours after vigorous exercise?

Technically, it is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. Here are four simple suggestions that can help you instead feel great the day after any athletic activity, including dancing:

Warm up -- Start with a slow warm up. A foxtrot will do nicely. Cold muscles suddenly put to work are more likely to become damaged than ones that have been warmed up properly. Warming up gradually will increase your heart and breathing rates, increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles before you begin to work them hard. In addition, your joints secrete more synovial fluid and become less stiff. The body is properly adapting to the demands of exercise.

Stretch -- Between dances, do a bit of stretching. You can do some beneficial stretches unobtrusively even when dressed nicely. Slowly bend down, reaching for your toes. Hang forward, counting to 15. Let gravity do the stretching. Don't force the stretch. Then lean over to each side, making a giant letter "C", again for 15 seconds. Then bend your knees and shift from side to side, stretching the groin muscles. Lastly, roll your shoulders around a couple of times. Now you're ready for more vigorous dancing!

Drink lots of water -- During the dance, be sure to drink lots of water. Without enough water, your body doesn't function optimally. You "wilt," much like a plant that needs water. Avoid alcohol, which is a diuretic, stealing water from your body. The same goes for coffee or soda with caffeine.

Increase your activity gradually -- In general, do not increase the intensity or duration of your dancing more than 10% in a week. Do not increase both intensity and duration during the same week. Allow your body to recover properly and adapt slowly to improved performance levels.

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