I'm going to say it, and I don't want you to get mad. We just need to be honest with ourselves and face this thing head-on... WINTER IS COMING.
Don't get me wrong, I do love the beautiful white snow and the chance to bundle up and build snow forts (ps- FYI, you're never too old to build a snow fort, here's a useful link if you find yourself in the mood for being awesome: http://dethroner.com/2007/02/27/how-to-build-a-badass-snow-fort/). Sipping ... ok gulping.. hot chocolate while cuddled in your blankets or sitting by the crackling fireplace are all wonderous wintertime activities. BUT - for anyone who is very physically active, especially we dancers, the cold weather can be a difficult thing to get past when preparing to exercise your body.
It is so so very important to warm up, especially when it gets cold out. Cold weather decreases circulation efficiency in your body and without sufficient blood circulation, your muscles cannot perform their best. Things you might normally be able to do with ease could become quite difficult and even dangerous if you attempt them when your muscles do not have adequate blood flow. The last thing we want to hear is the dreaded "pop!" or "snap!" of a limb that wasn't quite ready to dance. SO, let's prevent that painful experience by getting our muscles ready to go.
Here are some great ways I have found to warm up before rehearsal or a show:
1. Plank Position
Have to warm up QUICK? This is perfect. The plank warms from the core out. All you do is hold the push up position for as long as you can (i would suggest 20-30 second intervals depending on how strong you are). You can choose to balance on your hands or clasp your hands together and balance on your elbows. Either way, it's a great way to get your blood flowing quickly. Make sure you don't let your tush droop or pop up!
2. Releves through forced arch
Ankles are very fragile, so make sure you don't skip them in your warmup. I like to do ankle rolls in parallel and turnout. You simply demi plie, lift your heels to forced arch, rise to demi point, and lower. Then you can cycle through the reverse direction (releve, lower to forced arch, lower heels to demi plie, and straighten legs).
3. Sun Salutation
If you have ever taken a yoga class, you have probably done one of these. It's a pattern of movements and stretches that really helps to start integrating your muscle movements and gets your body ready to start doing more complicated stuff. It would be really long to describe in words here, so I am providing links to a couple websites that show the pattern. http://www.yogasite.com/sunsalute.htm and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQ3rd5vAx0g&feature=related.*(Sun Salutation is also quite useful as a calming and centering exercise before going onstage!)
Taking deep breaths alone will increase your rate of blood flow through your body and it will also help you focus in on what your body needs at that time.
5. Abdominal Workout
If I still feel like I still need a little umph to get me going, crunches usually do the trick. Once again, it works your core, gets your blood flowing, and you'll hopefully be a little sweaty by the time you're done!
Hopefully, if you warm yourself up well, you won't have to deal with injury. However, just like the cold weather, injuries are something almost all of us must face at some point even if we do all the right things before we dance. In that case, there are a couple every day remedies you can try to get yourself back on your feet quickly.
1. Tiger Balm/Icy Hot
If your injury is something small like a muscle strain or just soreness, heat rub creams can be a source of temporary relief. I personally love the smell of Tiger Balm, but Icy Hot works just as well. The active ingredients in both of these rubs are Menthol and Methyl Salicylate.
Menthol acts as a local anesthetic (which will help to dull the pain your are feeling in your muscle) while the Methyl Salicylate dilates the capillaries in the area, thereby increasing blood flow. This is why heat rub creams are not only effective in reducing pain in an area, but also in preventing further injury.
Both of these creams are available at drug stores such as Walgreens for about $8.
2. Wrap It Right
If you have a joint sprain or strain, make sure you minimize the motion of the joint by wrapping it PROPERLY. Always wrap from the distal end of the joint to the medial end (farther away from you toward you). Here's some more links! wee! http://health.yahoo.com/musculoskeletal-resources/applying-a-compression-wrap-for-a-sprained-ankle/healthwise--zm2802.html and http://www.ehow.com/how_2300844_wrap-rehabilitating-knee.html
You may think you can work through your injury, and you probably could! But if you don't let yourself rest, you will only delay your healing process and risk re-injuring it, which effectively makes your healing time 3X longer than it would have been and possibly giving you long-term or permanent injuries to deal with instead of recouperating quickly from your original problem. Basically, just let your body take the time it needs to get better. :)
Ok.. so I think I have effectively used up all the space on the blog page, and I think I've shared all the wisdom I have for today. (Don't worry, I'll have more by next time.)
There's a billion more things you can do to warm up and help yourself heal.. I just threw out a few that are some of my faves right now. Come take a peek into the beginning of one of EEEs rehearsals and I can tell you confidently that you will find us rubbing that Tiger Balm, breathing those breaths, and holding that plank.. anything we can do to get our blood flowing so we can be the best we can be For Sports Sake!!