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Why Even Dancers Need Rest

I recently heard that business people benefit from ‘free days’, a 24 hour period in which they not do or think anything about their business. After trying this myself, I confess I felt rejuvenated, more focused mentally, and ready to tackle the week’s dance lessons more then ever. But how often, or how long do we really need to rest for our body to fully recover?

Short-Term VS Long-Term Recovery

Short-term recovery is the immediate steps that are taken to cool down after or during any intensive activity like dancing. Rest in this context is usually meant to relax the muscles for a short time so they can re-energize. If you work out or dance intensively on a regular basis however, that would warrant long-term recovery, which includes days of rest to allow the body to recover. Dancing frequently without rest days gradually over-drafts our energy reserves, and can be the underlying cause behind traumatic or repetitive use injuries, as well as psychological effects like depression and irritability.

The Benefits of Rest

We are generally not very kind to our bodies. Our daily activities cause small tears to develop in our muscles and soft tissue, and waste chemicals to accumulate in the body and brain. Resting our body gives a chance for it to heal and flush out these harmful by-products. Studies also link rest with increased endurance and resistance to the stresses of life. If we keep pushing our body, it will continue to break down, and increase the risk of a more serious injury. So the negative side-effects of rest-deprivation can be seen less as a result of ‘over-training’ and more due to ‘under-recovering’.

How Often Should we Rest?

Here’s the fast answer: Studies suggest the body needs between 30-60 minutes of rest after hitting the dance floor with maximum muscle effort. However, our practice time generally doesn’t involve using everything we have, so we can probably take less time than this to recover. Also:

  1. If your body is more adapted to the current level of activity (you’ve been doing it for a while), you’ll be able to recover faster.
  2. Your body can adapt faster if the intensity of training is gradually increased: Resist the temptation to try doing it ‘like they do on TV’, if you’ve only a few lessons under your belt.
  3. If you are wearing out faster then you were last week, it’s likely a sign that you need a longer rest to recover.

A personal trainer can be a great resource to helping your body strengthen without fatigue or injury. Or you can DIY the situation by keeping a log book of your mood and energy after dance practice. Either way, just remember that our bodies are all different – pay attention to yours, and err on the side of caution.

Next week, it’s time to look at some exercises that can strengthen our bodies so they can move us for longer without fatigue. Or, if you want to learn about the foods that can fuel our strengthening muscles, click here.


Dance Comp Review

Dance Magazine


National Centre for Biotechnology Information

About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for almost 20 years, and is a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance and his endless seeking for ways to reach new audiences eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches ballroom at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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