Now that St. Patrick’s season is here, most Irish dancers will be performing a lot, often multiple times per day. It’s easy to end up tired, sore, and even injured after so much dancing, so here are some tips on preventing injuries and recovering faster after performances.
Warm, loose muscles are more resilient and much less likely to get injured. They also recover faster afterward. So take a few minutes before your performance and do a quick dynamic warmup, like Dance Master Paula Goulding demonstrates here on Diddlyi. This is especially important if you will be performing on less-than-ideal surfaces like tile, concrete, or carpet.
Right after you perform (while your muscles are still warmed up), do some quick stretches for the main muscle groups you use in Irish dance: quads, hamstrings, calves, and ankles. Doing a little stretching after each performance will help you feel better during your next show.
At the end of the day, treat your muscles to a hot bath, a hot shower, or a heating pad. The heat will help your muscles relax and lengthen, making you feel less sore the next day.
If your feet and/or ankles hurt at the end of the day, try a cold bath: put some ice in a bucket and then pour cold water on top of the ice. Put your feet in the cold bath and sit there for 10 minutes. The cold helps reduce inflammation and swelling, helping your joints rebound more quickly from a long day of hard shoe pounding.
Massaging your muscles at the end of the day will also help work out any muscle soreness. You can get someone else to give you a massage, or you can do some massage on your own calves, quads, and feet.
A massage stick (also called a massage roller) is a great tool for giving yourself a massage, either between performances or at night. Massage sticks are lightweight, inexpensive, and portable, so you can easily tuck one in your dance bag. Look up “massage stick” on the internet to find stores near you that carry them.
You can also use a golf ball or tennis ball to give yourself a massage. They feel especially good on your feet: place the ball on the floor and roll the bottom of your foot around on the ball for several minutes. Try putting the golf ball in the freezer first to get a combination of massage and cold therapy.
No matter how tired you are, be sure to stretch before going to bed. This will help your muscles recover and feel less sore the next day. If you’re not sure which stretches you should do, watch Paula Goulding’s flexibility video for some ideas.
Take your bath or shower before you stretch, or do a very light warmup like walking around first. Warm muscles stretch better and resist injury, and after driving home following your busy day of performances, your muscles will be cold and stiff. They will thank you for warming them back up a little before doing your final stretch of the day.
Finally, read Ally Giannini’s blog post on staying sane during St. Patrick’s season in the Diddlyi Blog here. She’s got a lot of great tips on keeping your body happy, healthy, and energized.
Photo credit: Flickr User Laurie Chipps
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