How to recover faster after long hours of dancing
We have all experienced soreness, fatigue, and aches after dancing full out for hours and even days on end. This reduces our ability to perform at our best and in some cases can increase our chance of injury.
There are countless benefits to speeding up recovery after dancing or rigorous training. A few of these benefits include improved performance on the dance floor, reduced muscle soreness, increased flexibility, and perhaps one of the most important… reducing your chances of injury.
Get Plenty of Sleep
I’m sure it will come as no surprise that getting proper rest each night is one of the most effective methods to help your muscles recover from stress activities such as dancing. While sleeping your body will produce the necessary hormones to aid in muscle growth. This allows you to recover quicker, perform better, and reduce your risk of injury while dancing.
Water is essential to nearly every aspect of your health, including improving muscle recovery time. Many dancers will require two liters or more of water each day to replace the electrolytes lost from sweating. Hydration is not only critical to muscle recovery it is also responsible for many other aspects of your overall health.
You may hear about sports drinks and nutritional supplements that will assist with replenishing electrolytes and offer improvements to the hydration water offers. Some of these may be effective and offer benefits for muscle recovery. We recommend speaking with a nutritionist or doctor before trying unknown supplements or drinks to make sure they are right for you and don’t have unknown side effects.
Eat a Healthy Diet for Your Activity Level
Eating a healthy and balanced diet is critical to speeding up your muscle recovery. A healthy diet with plenty of Protein, Carbs, and vitamins will also have benefits of improved strength, energy, reduced recovery times, and will generally keep you feeling great. It is important to remember a healthy diet doesn’t mean eating as little as possible and always feeling hungry. Instead, a healthy diet means consuming the right amount of nutrients for your activity level. If you have questions, speak to your doctor or other health professionals about your diet.
When you are between meals, or at competitions/performances where you are unable to eat a complete meal, snacking on healthy foods will greatly improve your ability to quickly recover and perform at your peak.
Some recommended foods for between meals include:
- Protein shakes
- Nutrition or Granola bars
- Dried fruits & nuts / Trail Mix
- Blue Berries or Strawberries
- Low-sodium jerky
Everyone’s nutrition needs vary slightly, but good guideline for a healthy diet includes:
- Plenty of fruits & vegetables
- Protein (does not have to include meat)
- Avoiding foods high in refined sugar
- Minimizing overly processed foods
- Balance of complex carbohydrates
- Limiting trans-fats
Foods effective at speeding recovery time:
- High Potassium foods – Reduce muscle soreness and cramping. Bananas, oranges, and melons all have high levels of potassium.
- Pineapples – Naturally high in bromelain, which is a natural anti-inflammatory and helps prevent strains and sprains.
- Cherries – Studies have shown cherries an excellent anti-inflammatory food. They also contain natural antioxidants.
- Fish & Omega 3 fatty acids – Great choice of food for joints and muscles for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Massage Your Muscles
Massaging has been cited as one of the most effective techniques for reducing soreness and perceived muscle fatigue (see here). Massaging improves circulation and brings the required nutrients and oxygen to your muscles allowing them to quickly recover.
The benefits of massaging is not limited to reducing soreness and speeding recovery time. Massaging will also reduce inflammation, tightness, and decrease the risk of cramping. Massaging before and after dancing will increase your flexibility and range of motion, further improving your performance on the dance floor.
Using massage tools like the portable massager from Dance Buddy, foam rollers, or lacrosse balls make massaging before and after performances much easier and increase the benefits of massage.
Similar to massaging, compression clothing has shown to have benefits to improving circulation and reducing recovery time for your muscles.
Warm Up & Cool Down
Not enough things can be said about the value of warming up before you go full out on the dance floor. Warming up improves your flexibility, strength, reflex time, and a long list of other things that will reduce your risk of injury. Many of the benefits for warm up will also reduce muscle soreness, which improves your muscle recovery time.
Taking time, even 5-10 minutes for a cool down potentially saves you a lot of pain later (literally). Cool down exercises and stretching have been shown to reduce the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Cool down exercises and stretching will also improve your flexibility and range of motion.
This article from the Mayo Clinic gives additional details about the benefits of warm up and cool downs.
Recommended actions during warm up & cool downs:
- Low intensity stretching
- Massage with foam roller / portable massager
- Light dancing and exercise
- Resistance band stretching and exercise
- Brisk walking
Stretch Often & Before Sleeping
Stretching should be part of your warm up and cool down routine. Working stretching into other parts of your routine will also improve recovery time for your muscles. Stretching will reduce tightness and allow blood, oxygen, and nutrients to flow through your muscles more efficiently, reducing recovery time. Stretching will also improve flexibility and reduce your chance of injuries while performing.
Stretching is often combined with massaging and foam rolling to increase the benefits of stretching. Many dancers will perform stretching exercises with resistance bands to maximize their strength and flexibility.
Stretching prior to bed can also assist with falling asleep quicker and also producing a more restful sleep. This is due to the relaxation, improved blood flow, reduced tightness, and alleviation of muscle soreness. All of these things are related to speeding up recovery time for your muscles.
Bonus Tip: Cold Bath or Cryotherapy
While dancing and working out your muscles will experience swelling, inflammation, and soreness. Taking a cool bath/shower will reduce the inflammation and reduce swelling. These will also reduce soreness in your muscles and improve your recovery time.
Whole Body Cryotherapy will expose your body to extremely cold temperatures for a short period of time. Studies have shown Whole Body Cryotherapy may improve muscle recovery time from minor damage caused by stressful activities like dancing. If you happen to have access to a Cryotherapy chamber it is worth checking it out if you’re looking for ways to reduce muscle recovery time.
- Massage & Performance Recovery: (read full study)
- 6-day intensive treatment protocol for refractory chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome using myofascial release and paradoxical relaxation training: (read full study)
- Warm Up & Cool Down: (read full study)
- Effects of Foam Rolling: (read full study)
- Take a Rest Day: (read full study)
- An Evidence-Based Approach for Choosing Post-exercise Recovery Techniques to Reduce Markers of Muscle Damage, Soreness, Fatigue, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis: (read full study)
- Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Acute Skeletal Muscle Recovery after Exercise: (read full study)