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Healthy Dancer

The Home Studio

Training at home is not the same as in a studio, so take precautions to prevent injuries and maintain strength By Dr. Blessyl Buan
  • Photo courtesy of Canva

While physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s challenging to recreate the in-studio experience at home. Several factors are important to consider when creating a makeshift studio space and setting up a new dance routine. 

Flooring 

Your floors at home are likely not sprung. They can also be slippery and have uneven surfaces that can damage your skin and your footwear. Many injuries are caused by unforgiving floors. One solution is to modify. For example, tap dancers can use a tap board to protect their flooring and their joints. Pieces of Marley-like flooring can also be placed over rubber mats to prevent slipping and improve cushioning. Alternatively, you can improvise by dancing on carpeting that is secured with a non-slip backing. To address shock absorption, modify your training to reduce jumping. Consider wearing running shoes instead of dancewear or bare feet to protect your soles and your joints. 

Repetitive strain

As a result of limited dance space, repetitive strain issues can emerge. Achilles tendinitis, jumper’s knee, stress fractures and muscular strain are some of the potential injuries that can happen when joint alignment is poor and shock isn’t absorbed correctly in the body. When you start to feel pain, embrace rest periods and don’t feel pressured to keep up with training schedules that aggravate your pain. 

Poor motor learning 

Dance educators and dancers may not realize the detriment of marking movements during online classes. Not consistently going full out while dancing develops new motor learning patterns that will affect your ability to move efficiently and safely while performing. Be aware of what movements are not possible right now and focus on basic movements that will transfer to performance when the time comes. 

Intention behind training schedules 

Because the projected date to return to normalcy is unknown, preserving fundamental dance skills will be the key to returning to normal performance levels. Think like an athlete. Athletes train differently at home; they condition with sport-specific exercises that transfer to their game. 

Training smarter

To avoid deconditioning, focus on exercises that will challenge your ability, agility, joint mobility and flexibility. During these days when you are mostly sitting, it’s also important to focus on the muscles in your posterior chain (think glutes, hamstrings and back) to counter tight hip flexors and maintain the strength for jumps, turns and arabesques. Incorporate the principles of plyometrics (quick, high-energy and burst-like movements) for jump training and speed. Resistance training maintains muscle mass; training in parallel improves lower limb alignment; and multiplanar movements (varying your body shapes in space) challenge dynamic core stability. 

Mental health 

Wrap your training in self-compassion. Acknowledge that training during a pandemic and being isolated from your friends and family is challenging. Mourning the loss of opportunity from upcoming auditions and performances is real, so allow space for that as you continue your training. Focus on your “why.” Are you dancing for joy or out of habit? Recalibrate your goals and adjust according to your energy levels and your mood. 

This time in isolation is temporary. Focus on sustainability, and the artistry will be so much deeper when it’s time to hit the stage again. 

Check out Dr. Buan’s at-home exercises on Instagram.

This article will appear in our July/August 2020 issue. If you’re not already subscribed, click here to receive our bimonthly issues in your mailbox.

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