A Dancer’s Guide To Self Care

As a teenager and throughout college, I knew I was supposed to take pristine care of my body, but I seldom did. As is the norm around that age, I ate unhealthy foods, stayed up late, skipped warm ups and cool downs, and for the most part there were little to no immediate consequences. Even after graduation, as I taught fitness classes and wrote articles about how important it is to take care of the body, I rarely heeded my own advice. That is, until I started working with Dance Waterloo. Outside of the comfort of a dance studio with sprung floors, my limitations became increasingly self-evident. Dancing in ever-changing conditions on uneven terrain left me in serious need of some “me time.” I completely overhauled my wellness routine. And while much of it is tailored to my specific needs, some of the takeaways I’ve learned in the process of creating the routine are applicable to just about anyone. So, I’d like to share a few nuggets of wisdom!


Stay Hydrated

There are a ton of different philosophies on how much water you should drink in a given day. But I’ve found the best, and simplest, method is to drink when thirsty. However, sometimes you don’t even realize how thirsty you’ve been until there’s a glass of water in front of you. For this reason, I recommend keeping a reusable bottle with you at all times as a reminder. Refill it each opportunity you get. As an added bonus, if you have a water bottle with you when grabbing a quick mid-day bite, you might be less tempted to order a sugary beverage with your meal. Win-win.

Pro Tip: Sometimes our bodies’ mistake thirst for hunger. So if you feel hungry at an odd time, try reaching for your water first to avoid unneeded snacking!


Get Some Rest

Getting enough sleep is essential for the brain to function optimally and for the body to recover from the day’s wear and tear. Each adult needs somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. But sleep alone is often not enough for the busy, modern American. That’s where rest comes in.

Try implementing 15-30 minutes of constructive rest. Lie supine (on your back) on the floor with your lower legs propped up on a chair. Ideally, do this in a dark, quiet space and listen to your breath. Physically, this posture optimally aligns the spine and enhances blood flow from the legs back to the heart. Mentally, it is a form of meditation and if done in the evening, it reduces feelings of restlessness when going to bed later on. While I do this just about every day now, it is especially helpful on the days you’ve spent excessive time on your feet, had a vigorous workout, or are having trouble settling your mind.

Pro Tip: On particularly strenuous days, I sometimes add a heating pad to my lower back.


Pamper Yourself

It is really easy to put yourself all the way at the bottom of your priority list, especially if you have a demanding career, growing family and/or prominent social life. But every once in a while it’s important to treat your mind and body as well as you treat your friends, colleagues, and pets! For me, this often looks like Epson salt baths, self massage, watching a good (or sometimes really bad!) television show or sitting by the pool. Determine what makes you feel relaxed, pampered and important and go for it!

Pro Tip: You should literally schedule these activities into your life – that’s right, I’m talking about writing it down in your planner. If you allot a specific part of your day/week to pampering yourself, you’ll be less likely to put it off until “later” (a magical time in the future when everything you never end up doing is often sent).   


Implementing these three practices – hydrating, resting, and pampering yourself – will have you feeling energized, healthier and more in tune with your body. But finding time for all this may seem daunting. If that’s the case, start slow and pick just one tip to focus on. Once you’ve incorporated it into your routine you can add the others at your own pace. Tell us how you plan to take care of yourself in the comments below!

Laura Merkel


Dance Waterloo

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