Summer sunshine! A time for pools, hikes, ice cream, hangouts and sunscreen. Maybe you take time off, find an inspiring intensive or fill your weeks with workshops. Yet the one thing we pretty much all have, at least in the northern hemisphere, and especially in NYC, is heat! And I bet that if there is one thing you love about heat is that it helps with your warm-up and feeling stretchy!
You probably already intuitively knew that being warm is really important for getting more stretch out of our muscles, so you can totally take advantage of the warmer weather and get a jump start on sweating it out and getting your heart rate up to prepare for dance! But what are some other things to keep in mind to get the most out of your stretch? Here are a few things to think about for your best summer stretching!
#1. Still go through the routine.
Even though you’re already warm from being outside, make sure you’re still actually warmed up before you dance. You want to get your heart rate up and get those joints moving in preparation for the dancing to come.
#2. Don’t copy others.
We often do new things in the summer and are around different people. If you are around dancers who have different flexibility than you, learn from one another but don’t just copy one another. You might have different levels of flexibility, and people with less range who force themselves into a position could end up hurting themselves.
#3. Bring your warm-ups.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds! Obviously, you still need to warm up, but also if you’re in air conditioning, you could actually get pretty chilled, even if it’s just your skin. And if you’re still sweaty when you leave, the benefits are twofold: if it’s humid out, the fabric will help wick moisture off your skin so you can stay cool, and it’ll keep you from getting chilled by a breeze or a freezing subway car.
#4. Be cool and keep your cool down.
After dancing, it may feel impossible to cool down since it is so hot, and you may want to run to the nearest air conditioning! But you should still try to cool down slowly, get your heart rate down, and also take advantage of being totally warm to work on your flexibility! Speaking of…
#5. Hold static stretches for an effective duration.
Once you’re nice and warm, you can do static stretching, which is where you hold a position rather than moving through it. How long you hold a stretch depends on what you want to get out of it. If you are working on increasing your range of motion, then you’ll want to hold the stretch for longer, about 45 seconds to one minute, and to do it after class. But if you’re in the middle of class or rehearsal, you won’t want to hold a stretch for too long because it can actually decrease your muscles’ ability to create power. So, in the midst of dancing, you’ll probably just want to hold stretches for about 15 seconds, and not right before you need to use it for power, such as in a jump or battement.
#6. Use dynamic stretch in your warm-up.
You can use dynamic stretch, when you move through positions rather than holding them, and take advantage of being warm to go through a larger range of motion with control. Once you’re totally warm, make it more ballistic, using speed and momentum such as with leg swings, but still use your muscles and keep them active to stabilize and control the movement.
Bonus tip: Drink water! When it’s hot, you’re going to be sweating more, so you’ll need to drink more water, too!
By Leigh Schanfein of Dance Informa.