In preparation for difficult end-of-year performances, summer programs, and casting for next season, early summer should become your biggest time of year for cross-training. This is something that every dancer should focus on before heading away for the summer.
The physical demands of summer programs are intense; and having a foundation of strength, agility, and stamina will help you be able to build on your technique and become a better dancer. It is difficult to improve if you are worried about “just getting through this class.”
Therefore, I urge you to try out some forms of cross-training this summer before you head away. That said, this task can be difficult because of our schedules; dancers tend to have classes every day, and are still dealing with school, graduation parties, and other events. Finding time for extra training amidst these obligations can be challenging.
One of the reasons for this is dancers’ tendency to be perfectionists and want to follow a strictly-designed routine for cross-training. Yes, this is helpful if you want to see direct progress toward your goal, but in the end, having too rigid of circumstances for your training can make you mentally resist it, and also have to force your way around other summer activities in order to fit in.
This summer, we should try a different task that helps us be more efficient and actually stick to our training. Having a looser regime, and general goals to work toward rather than a set path, will free up your mind and your schedule together.
But, nothing will happen unless we set some groundwork. It is always good to take a 1/2 week to a week off (or even more) after dancing for such a long period of time. So, work that into the first part of your summer, directly after you get done. Feel free to stay active with hiking, swimming, walking, or intense ice cream licking (and other regular summer activities.)
After that, I would recommend that you begin to slowly add training back into your schedule. Don’t take any ballet classes for another week or so, but add anywhere from 2-4 gym sessions in that next week. If you have more time between the end of your season and the start of your summer program, extend these weeks over a longer time, beginning with 2 sessions, and adding one progressively over time. 1-2 weeks before the start of your summer program, I would start up dancing again. Maintain your 2-4 gym sessions to keep your muscles strong.
Remember that this whole time, it is smart to have a regular set of “nightly exercises” to help build consistent strength. For example, this summer I will do a set of thera band exercises, plank, and calf/quad stretches to stay limber. Adding a few roll-out sessions in every now and then is also helpful.
With this basic groundwork, our summer cross-training can be successful and beneficial. Work hard, but also work smart. And eat plenty of pizza while you’re at it. 🙂