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The benefits of rest

As the festive season approaches and schools and studios close their doors for a brief time, it’s understandable that dancers may feel slightly anxious about taking a break from their training. You’ve been working consistently hard, making good progress; don’t want to lose what you have achieved, be this in terms of flexibility, strength, co-ordination, or worse still fall backwards, right? Well, this post is written, not only to counter these fears, but to help you to appreciate just how essential rest and recovery is to a dancer’s continued progress, playing an essential role, in performance enhancement and technical accomplishment, and a vital role in dancer health and wellbeing. You may have auditions coming up in January but it’s still important to take rest.


When we talk of rest, we may be referring to complete rest which, when combined with good quality sleep habits “helps repair damaged tissue and improves efficiency and performance output” (Quin et al., 2015, p. 94-95). It could be a complete day off from dance and physical activity, or it could be a longer period of time away from training, such as over the Christmas break. With complete rest significant repair and recovery can take place, including repair to the soft-tissues (muscle, tendons, ligaments and fascia). An example of active rest could refer to the dancer taking a break from their dance training but remaining physically active, perhaps engaging in another form of physical activity; but this is likely to be at a lower intensity and less strenuous than their normal training. Active rest can offer an opportunity to pursue other interests and genres, perhaps in a less pressured way, and has the potential to bring about both psychological and physical recovery and repair. 


So why refer to rest and recovery? When we speak of recovery to what are we referring? Adequate nutrition and hydration are the components to which we refer for they, alongside rest, are essential in the development of effective recovery.


Research around distributed practice (providing longer rest periods within the dancers training schedule) suggests that, contrary perhaps to our commonly held fears, rest actually enhances learning (Batson & Schwartz, 2007) particularly in relation to acquiring and retaining motor skills (Schmidt & Lee, 1999). It has the potential to contribute towards the improvement of many areas of physical fitness, including cardiorespiratory gains, whilst also reducing fatigue and improving one’s mood profile (Koutedakis et al., 1990).


So, don’t feel anxious about taking a break over the festive period; perhaps take time to evaluate the benefits of rest within your practice. At BBS we wish you all a very Merry and restful Christmas, and look forward to seeing you in the New Year!



References:


Batson, G., & Schwartz, R. E. (2007). Revisiting the value of somatic education in dance training through an inquiry into practice schedules. Journal of Dance Education, 7(2), 47-56. https://doi.org/10.1080/15290824.2007.10387334 


Koutedakis, Y., Budgett, R., & Faulmann, L. (1990). Rest in underperforming elite competitors. The British Journal of Sports Medicine, 24(4), 248-252. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.24.4.248 


Quin, E., Rafferty, S., & Tomlinson, C. (2015). Safe dance practice. Human Kinetics.


Schmidt, R. A., & Lee, T. D. (1999). Motor control and learning: A behavioural emphasis, 3rd edition. Human Kinetics.

Image: Two dancers resting - Edgar Degas