You know that feeling: At 2 pm, like clockwork, your energy dips and your hunger spikes. The “midday slump” can be a busy dancer’s worst enemy. Luckily, you can avoid it by managing your hunger over the course of the day with strategic snacking. We broke down the best times to satisfy your hunger—and what to eat to keep you dancing.
It’s… 11 am
In order to maintain your energy through a busy day of school, class and rehearsal, you should ideally be eating every four hours. If your stomach’s grumbling a few hours after breakfast, grab something like cottage cheese, string cheese or yogurt—each is packed with protein that will give you a boost in energy and keep you feeling full until lunch.
It’s… 2 pm
If you’re heading to dance class, it’s important to eat something that will stabilize your energy, but won’t cause bloating or cramping. Snacking on something light with healthy carbohydrates—a granola bar or a handful of almonds—an hour before you dance will fight fatigue and keep you full without weighing you down.
It’s… 8 pm
You might think it’s best to ignore your post-dinner hunger pangs. But if you eat dinner more than four hours before you go to bed, it’s okay to have a small snack, like a piece
of whole-grain toast with slices of banana. They’re both loaded with magnesium, which will help you drift off faster.
Back to school means back to dance full-time. But while you might be excited to spend every evening in the studio, your body likely isn’t—and it’ll let you know with some killer soreness the next morning. When should you push through the achiness and when should you take it easy? Dance Spirit looked to Natalie Imrisek, MSPT, CSCS, for advice.
Know the Type
“Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) begins to develop 12 to 24 hours after an increase in physical activity, and resolves itself in around 72 hours,” Imrisek says. “Acute soreness, on the other hand, is immediate, often accompanied by sharp pains, tenderness and swelling,” Imrisek says.
Know the Treatment
“The best way to alleviate DOMS is by progressing slowly into your activity, as
opposed to jumping in all at once,” Imrisek says. Cross-training in your downtime is a great way to prime your body for a full dance schedule. But some soreness is inevitable, so Imrisek recommends sticking to the following routine: “A proper warm-up before class, followed by stretching, foam-rolling and massaging after, and an Epsom salts bath once you’re home.” DOMS will fade after a few days of consistent activity and attention, and you’ll be back in the swing of things before you know it. Acute soreness, combined with a loss of function, can signify injury, so if you suspect you’ve hurt yourself, Imrisek says, it’s best to stop dancing and seek medical advice rather than push through.
Did You Know?
Dancers are constantly cracking their joints—from toes to hips to backs—and doing so is generally harmless. But your neck is something you should never try to pop on your own, no matter how stiff it may feel. According to chiropractor Aaron Jorgensen, cracking your neck can harm your ligaments, nerves and spinal cord. It’s a super-sensitive area that should only be treated by a professional. So the next time you feel the urge to get that kink out of your neck, consult your doc.
With summer comes sun-kissed skin—except when you’re in the studio all day! When you find yourself months into peak sun season with no tan lines to show, reaching for a bottle of self-tanning lotion or spray seems like the perfect quick fix. It’s easy, cheap, safer than broiling in the sun all day and convenient—you just lather it on and go, right? Not exactly. From streaks to splotches, self-tanner can go very wrong. If you’re worried about overdosing on the orange, don’t sweat (that’ll only make it worse!): DS rounded up the best tips to tame your faux tan.
Problem: Streaks and blotches
How to avoid it: Make sure you’ve fully exfoliated the areas where you plan to apply product. The pigments in self-tanner cling to dead skin cells, so if you’re dry and haven’t (gently) scrubbed your skin, the color will be uneven and streaky. As you apply the tanner, be sure to distribute it evenly. Apply a little less to your elbows and knees, as these drier areas absorb more pigment and will become darker faster.
Problem: A too-orange shade
How to avoid it: If you’re unsure how your skin will react to a specific shade or brand of tanner, mix it with equal parts moisturizer to dilute the color a bit. If you want a darker hue, slowly blend more tanner than moisturizer into the mixture.
Problem: Orange palms
How to avoid it: Wearing gloves to apply your tanner is one solution, but sometimes the gloves’ rough material can distribute the color unevenly (and you can end up with an equally strange white-glove look). If you prefer to apply tanner bare-handed, make sure to wash your palms with soap and warm water afterward to get rid of any residual product.
If you do find yourself looking like an Oompa Loompa, exfoliate your skin in a warm shower to help even out the blotchiness and remove excess product. If the tanner is especially stubborn, add a squeeze of lemon juice to your loofah—the acidity will help break down streaks. For blotches that run down your legs, try shaving and moisturizing, followed by another round of exfoliating.
Makeup Brush Maintenance
Nationals season means tons of makeup. And even if you’ve mastered a skin-care routine to combat the hours your skin spends covered in foundation and powder, you may be overlooking one important detail: your makeup brushes. The tools of your trade need cleaning, too! Dirty makeup brushes can cause a lot of icky issues, including acne, skin irritation and infections.
Luckily, brush maintenance is super-easy—a little effort goes a long way. Try these tricks:
Gently shampoo your brushes every three weeks with warm water and a drop of baby shampoo.
Lay the brushes flat to dry on a clean towel (bristles can fall out of brushes left to dry upright).
Keep an alternate set of brushes in rotation to extend the time between cleanings.
Brushes have a pretty long lifespan, and don’t need to be replaced often if they’re cleaned properly. But if your brushes’ bristles are dry and falling out, or if they’re not applying makeup like they used to, it’s time to toss them in the trash.
Did You Know?
While olive oil will always be the old standby, there’s a new trendy alternative in town—avocado oil! The fruit has always been a super-food, and its oil is no different. It’s rich in immune system–boosting vitamin E, and loaded with healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, which help maintain your cholesterol levels and keep you full longer—crucial for those long summer intensive days. It’s perfect for sautéing fish and veggies, or as a dressing. Try drizzling a teaspoon on your salad, or over a bowl of popcorn in place of butter.
Tape can be your friend when it comes to pain management—from chronic injuries, like plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis, to acute injuries, like ankle sprains. “When applied correctly, tape can help a dancer support and protect an overworked muscle, tendon or ligament by limiting its movement,” says Alison Deleget, a certified athletic trainer at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Medical Center. Taping can also assist in the healing process by providing compression and reducing stress on the injured body part.
Of course, tape isn’t a magic fix. It shouldn’t be used as a long-term treatment, nor should you depend on it as an everyday coping mechanism. “It’s just one tool in your recovery toolbox—in addition to rest, ice and physical therapy,” Deleget says. We asked her to share some dancer-friendly taping methods to get you back on your feet.
You’ll need: Elastikon
Three Taping Methods to try
•Deleget recommends wearing Elastikon only when you’re dancing. The adhesive can irritate your skin, so it’s not something you’ll want to wear all the time.
(Photos by Lucas Chilczuk)
Method 1: Arch Support
Good for: plantar fasciitis
Measure and cut a piece of tape to fit around the arch of your foot. The red line along the center of the tape should line up with the navicular bone on the inside of your foot, which you can find by sliding your fingers down and in front of your anklebone.
Stick the center of the tape to the bottom of your arch, then lay the outside flap of tape along the top of your foot.
Pull the inside flap of tape upward to give your arch a lift, then lay it down over the top of your foot.
Repeat with another strip of tape toward the front of your foot, overlapping the two pieces by half.
(Photos by Lucas Chilczuk)
Method 2: Ankle Support
Good for: coming back from an ankle sprain or coping with Achilles tendonitis
Start the tape at the top of your arch, with the tail of the tape going around the outside of your foot. Wrap the tape underneath your arch, pulling it at about 50 percent of its elasticity.
When you reach the inside of your foot, pull the tape upward to its full elasticity to give your arch an extra lift.
Follow the tape around your ankle so it forms a figure 8, again pulling it at 50 percent of its elasticity.
Continue the figure 8 until you reach the top of your foot again. Cut the tape and secure the end.
(Photos by Lucas Chilczuk)
Method 3: Bunion Correction
Good for: holding your big toe in neutral alignment (especially in pointe shoes) or reducing big-toe pain on relevé
Measure and cut a piece of tape to fit the circumference of your flexed foot—from the tip of your big toe, around your heel, to the midpoint on the outside of your foot.
On the big-toe end of the tape, cut a “Y” shape the length of your big toe. Wrap the two ends of the “Y” around your big toe, being careful not to pull them too tight.
Using the big toe as an anchor, pull the tape toward your heel, using about 50 percent of the tape’s elasticity. Once your toe reaches neutral alignment, attach the tape along the inside of your foot, around your heel and up to the midpoint on the outside of your foot.
To secure the taping, wrap an additional piece of tape around your arch.
Kinesio tape is designed to lift the surface of your skin to reduce swelling and inflammation and promote blood flow.
It’s thinner and more flexible than Elastikon, allowing full range of motion, and it can stay on for three to five days.
Kinesiology taping can help soften and release muscle fascia—such as the iliotibial band (IT band), hamstrings or calves, which tend to be tight in dancers. Here, Deleget explains a basic method for taping the IT band.
•Stand with your target leg crossed behind you, so your IT band is stretched. Measure and cut a piece of kinesio tape that runs from just below your knee to your hip. Round both edges of the tape with scissors so the tape doesn’t curl.
•Peel a few inches of the backing paper from one end of the tape and lay the tape gently at the base of the outside of your knee.
•Run the rest of the tape upward along your IT band as you peel the paper away.
•Before you secure the final few inches of tape, remove the remainder of the paper. Then gently lay the last few inches at your hip.
•Rub your fingers up and down along the tape to generate heat, which activates the adhesive.
The kinesio tape is pre-stretched, so don’t give it any extra pull as you apply it. It’s best to apply it 20–30 minutes before you dance.
Pas de Deux-licious
Want to make your healthy snacks even healthier? Turns out, eating certain foods together can significantly boost their nutritional value. Next time you feel your stomach
grumbling, reach for one of these power-couple food pairings.
Tomatoes + Avocados
Guac fans, rejoice! Avocados’ healthy fats help you absorb tomatoes’ lycopene—an antioxidant that may help prevent cancer.
Tuna + Kale
For strong bones, your body needs vitamin D and calcium. Back up the calcium in dark, leafy greens like kale with vitamin-D-rich tuna fish.
Lean Beef + Broccoli
Feeling fatigued? You may be iron deficient. The vitamin C in broccoli will help your body absorb the iron in lean beef.
Did You Know?
Taking ibuprofen right after you dance can delay muscle recovery. Inflammation is a necessary stage of muscle repair, regeneration and growth. As an anti-inflammatory drug, Ibuprofen interferes with this process—so only take it if you’re extremely sore.
Sports bras might seem like a grab-n-go kind of garment: As long as it’s tight, it fits, right? Not quite. According to Lori Kaplan, owner of NYC-based Bra*Tenders, “9 out of 10 women are still wearing the wrong bra size.” We spoke with Kaplan for some expert advice on what to look for in a sports bra—and why.
Sports bras and sweat go hand in hand, which is why a moisture-wicking fabric is key.
“This will ensure the skin stays dry and doesn’t chafe or develop a rash, especially under the bust,” Kaplan says. Moisture-wicking fabrics will also greatly prolong the life of your bra.
Contrary to popular belief, “a sports bra’s support comes primarily from the band around the rib cage, not from the straps,” Kaplan says. Make sure your band fits properly with a simple test: There should be enough room for two fingers to easily slip beneath the band, but no more. Kaplan also suggests looking for bras with adjustable straps, as the elastic stretches and relaxes with wear.
Cups are key if you want your top half to feel secure during long rehearsals or classes. “Cup-sized bras reduce movement, stress and strain on breast tissue,” Kaplan says. Regardless of how small or large your chest, Kaplan recommends that everyone purchase a cupped sports bra. “This will eliminate bounce and maximize motion control,” she says. However, if your costume calls for a basic design without cups (also known as a “compression” bra), “it should have adjustable straps, and should be snug enough while still passing the two-finger rule.”
A Bra's Life
Lori Kaplan, owner of Bra*Tenders in NYC, shares her pro tips on prolonging the life of your sports bra.
If you sweat a lot while wearing your bra, wash it after each wear so the sweat doesn’t break down the bra fibers. For moderate activity, only wash the bra every two or so wears.
Like pointe shoes, keep a few bras in rotation so you aren’t relying on only one to get you through a busy weekly dance schedule.
Keep in mind that the average lifespan of a sports bra is six months to a year with normal wear and tear. If you’re past that time frame, it might be time to buy a new one!
Chipped nails happen to the best of us, but they don’t have to mean the end of your manicure. Instead, take a piece of tape and place it diagonally or horizontally across your chipped nail, so that the portion with the chip is exposed. Pick a color that complements your original mani, and carefully paint over the tape and the nail. Let it dry for a minute, slowly peel away the tape, and—voilà! You’ve got a fun graphic fix to your chip-tastrophe.
Thanksgiving dinner is one of those moments where it's more than okay to help yourself to everything. And you shouldn't feel guilty, either—your dinner plate is packed with nutritional goodness that'll keep your body in tip-top dancing shape. Dance Spirit spoke with Peggy Swistak, MS, RDN, CD, of Pacific Northwest Ballet, about the bountiful benefits of the most popular turkey-day dishes.
A small portion of white meat turkey (sans skin) is packed with healthy, low-fat protein that'll give you the energy boost you need to hit the studio post-holiday.
If there are green vegetables on the table, Swistak encourages you to load up your plate! “Green veggies are filled with polyphenols," she says. These compounds, which are found in natural plant sources, have been proven to reduce inflammation and help prevent cancer. Don't know which veggies to pick? According to Swistak, one delicious option is steamed Brussels sprouts—they're a great source of immune-system–boosting antioxidants and vitamin C, and filled with fiber to help regulate your digestive system. Green beans are another tasty low-calorie, high-fiber choice.
Sweet potatoes hit the spot, and Swistak encourages dancers to enjoy one: “A roasted or baked sweet potato is high in fiber, antioxidants and vitamin A." White potatoes are another great option. They're filled with potassium to help promote muscle strength and
bone health. Make sure to keep the skin on—it's full of nutrients, too.
According to Swistak, a scoop of homemade cranberry sauce goes a long way. This superfood is a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants.
It's not Thanksgiving without dessert! Swistak recommends pumpkin pie, which is lower in fat than other pie varieties and high in vitamin A and fiber.
Running from school to the studio then home can leave little time for dinner—but that shouldn't mean skipping it altogether. If you're coming home at 10 pm with an empty stomach, don't head straight to bed. Dance Spirit has you covered with three options to tide you over till the morning, without filling you up too much.
1. Cherry Smoothie
Pour two small cups of kefir (a type of liquid yogurt) into the blender, along with 12 to 15 chilled cherries (don't forget to remove the pits!) and some ice cubes. Kefir's filled with digestion-friendly probiotics, and cherries are a great natural source of melatonin, a key hormone that helps induce sleep.
2. Cottage Cheese (3/4) Cup
Scoop out a 3/4-cup serving of cottage cheese into a bowl—the protein will help keep you full all night so you won't wake up #hangry. For some added boosts (and flavor), mix in a sliced half of a banana. It's loaded with potassium, which has been proven to reduce anxiety and stress, two much-needed benefits after a long dance day.
3. Breakfast for Dinner
A scrambled egg paired with a toasted slice of whole-grain bread is a perfect light meal that'll help ease you into sleep. The carbs found in the toast and the protein from the eggs work together to help your brain access an amino acid called tryptophan—crucial for triggering the good kind of drowsiness!
Pain… In your feet
According to Dr. Alireza Khosroabadi, DPM, “one of the more common dance injuries is Interdigital neuroma." These nerves run under your ligaments in the forefoot, and if they're squeezed too tightly (think pointe shoes), extra tissue builds up, resulting in nerve inflammation and swelling around your toes and the ball of your foot.
How to treat it: Wear flat shoes, stretch and roll out your feet, and, if you can, put them in a whirlpool (the perfect excuse for a pedicure!).
Pain… In your shoulder blades
If your arms have been getting a workout lately, either at the gym or rehearsing choreo with lots of upper-body movement, your shoulder blades absorb the brunt of the impact—shoulder nerves can become compressed due to overuse, resulting in a sharp pinch.
How to treat it: Alternate between ice packs and heating pads every 15 minutes to help reduce the inflammation. And, if possible, lessen your range of motion. Instead of performing crazy arm choreo full-out, try marking it for a few days until the pain begins to dull.
It's Unlikely, But…
If your pain isn't isolated, but rather running from your lower back and down your leg, there's a chance your sciatic nerve is the culprit. It's the largest single nerve in the body and, when pinched, can cause burning and tingling sensations everywhere from right under your bottom down to your ankles, usually only on one side of your body. Though sciatica doesn't often affect people under the age of 20, it's best to ask your doctor or physical therapist if you feel a similar pain.
Did You Know?
If you're in the habit of reaching for some ice cubes instead of ice water to cool off during a rehearsal break, you might want to think twice. Dentists agree that a constant ice-chewing habit puts you at risk for gum and tooth injuries. If you're in need of a cool crunch, try chilled baby carrots or apple chunks instead. But if your habit persists, talk to your dentist—it could indicate an iron deficiency.
It’s finally farmers’ market season! Every table is full of produce that looks perfectly delectable. But before grabbing one of everything, it’s important to know that even at farmer’s markets, certain fruits and veggies are fresher this time of year than others. We took the guesswork out of it and rounded up some of the most nutritious spring and summer picks.
Strawberries and oranges: Packed with skin-strengthening vitamin C, which help expedite wound healing (so you won’t be battling blisters forever!)
Peaches: Filled with bone-fortifying phosphorous
Watermelon: Made up of about 90 percent water, so each bite provides your body with an extra bit of H2O
Bored with your basic fruit salad? Try blending strawberries and peaches into a smoothie (with a splash of fresh-squeezed farmers’ market OJ). It’s refreshing and super-portable, so you can drink it while heading to a morning class.
Feeling adventurous at a summer BBQ? Throw a few slices of watermelon onto the grill—the smoky result is perfect for a salad with some goat cheese and balsamic vinegar.
Spinach and zucchini: Loaded with manganese, which helps regulate your blood sugar, so hunger and dizziness don’t derail your dancing
Asparagus: Filled with fiber to help regulate your digestive system and keep the bloat at bay while you’re wearing a leo
Bell peppers: Contains beta-carotene, an anti-inflammatory that can soothe strains and swelling
For a quick snack during a busy summer-intensive day, try cutting the bell peppers and zucchini into strips—they’re great for scooping up hummus.
You can’t go wrong with grilling asparagus—cooking releases the veggie’s antioxidants. Chop them up and throw them over a bed of spinach for a simple salad that’s bursting with nutritional goodness and fresh flavor, not to mention a perfect option for a dance bag lunch that you don’t have to worry about reheating.
Your Aches and Pains Addressed: Ingrown Toenails
Dancers are rightfully proud of the battle wounds on their feet! But not all bad-looking things are good. Case in point: ingrown toenails, which can be debilitating for dancers. DS spoke with podiatrist Dr. Bryan Hersh, DPM, of the Center for Podiatric Medicine in Chicago, IL, about this all-too-common condition.
What are ingrown toenails?
An ingrown toenail is the result of the edge of your toenail growing or digging into the skin next to it. “While your nails may have a natural curve where the edges meet the surrounding skin, ingrown nails occur when the edges grow too far, aggravating the skin and causing redness, swelling and pain,” Hersh explains. “If early symptoms are ignored, the area can become infected and filled with pus as the nail digs deeper.”
What causes them?
Ingrown nails are often caused by cutting the edges of the nail too short, as well as repetitive stress and pressure on the toes and nails, especially while wearing tight shoes. It’s no surprise that pointe shoes are a common culprit!
How to Deal
If the pain is bearable and there aren’t any warning signs of an infection, Hersh recommends home remedies, such as soaking your feet in a bath of warm water and Epsom salt bath for 20 minutes and applying an over-the-counter antibiotic cream. However, if the condition doesn’t improve, or if the nail appears to be infected, Hersh advises seeing a podiatrist for professional treatment—severe cases could require minor surgery.
Did You Know?
Caffeine isn’t the only thing that’ll replenish your energy when you’re running on empty. Studies have shown that the color red is a natural mood booster and increases your ability to concentrate on detail-oriented tasks. So the next time you’re feeling sluggish, throw on a red leo!
(Photo by Josephine Daño)
After an especially long workout or grueling rehearsal, there’s a good chance your energy’s completely drained. And with errands to run, dinner to eat and homework to do, what’s the point of changing out of your leo and yoga pants? They smell fine and are oh-so comfy (not to mention pretty trendy these days!). But don’t be fooled—there are a number of nasty scenarios that could unfold if you lounge around in your sweaty dance clothes for too long.
Acne and Folliculitis
Dancing equals sweat—and, if you don’t take care of your skin properly, sweat can equal acne and folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles). Athletic clothing tends to hold sweat closer to the skin, which means there’s more friction against your pores and they’re more likely to get clogged. Most dancewear is made with synthetic materials designed specifically to wick moisture away from the surface of your skin—and into the clothing’s fibers. So even if it feels like your clothes are dry and sweat-free, all that sweat is still in close contact with your skin. And don’t think acne only appears on your face and back—dermatologists have seen a rise in the dreaded butt breakout (“buttne”) because of sweaty, tight workout and yoga pants worn for extended periods of time.
Icky buttne isn’t the worst of it, though. Dirty workout pants go hand in hand with another gross (and serious) issue: yeast infections, which occur when your body chemistry “down there” is suddenly thrown off, causing too much yeast to be produced. One of the main causes? You guessed it: damp, sweaty workout pants. If you’re fresh out of the gym or a Pilates class, your pants are essentially the equivalent of wet bathing suit bottoms. Prolonged exposure to the moisture trapped in their fabric is the perfect scenario to trigger a yeast infection. If you notice any itchiness or discomfort, it’s best to consult with your doctor for a diagnosis—and ditch the 24/7 yoga pants uniform.
Every Day Is Earth Day!
Believe it or not, even the smallest choices can help the planet. Luckily the dance world has tons of eco-friendly products to choose from.
For Your Face
(Courtesy Juice Beauty)
Makeup is a dancer must-have.
But many drugstore options are tested on animals and contain chemicals that can irritate skin. Opt for makeup products enriched with antioxidants or minerals, like bareMinerals or organic brand Juice Beauty. They’re eco-friendly—and your skin will benefit, rather than suffer under another pancake layer.
(Courtesy Sara Neal)
For Your Feet
All dancers deserve a little foot TLC. And while it’s easy to pick up a generic brand of foot powder, it’s not always easy to know where the ingredients came from. Pointe Snaps Ballet Products is a dance product company that takes the guessing out of it. They’ve got plenty of certified organic options to keep your feet as pristine as possible, including pointe powder, to make sure your shoes stay fresh, and a sea-salt foot soak that soothes everything from achy arches to bunions.
Did You Know?
That humble bottle of apple cider vinegar in your pantry? Turns out it’s great for you! Not only does the fermentation of the vinegar aid digestion, but ACV can also give you a power boost before an intense performance thanks to its acetic acid, which helps your muscles process carbs more efficiently. While straight vinegar can be hard to stomach, you can enjoy ACV’s benefits by adding one or two tablespoons to a glass of fruit juice, or by mixing it with honey for a sweet-tart salad dressing.