If you constantly find yourself reaching for a foam roller, you’re not alone. “Dancers’ hip flexors are very often tight because of how much they use them every day,” says Michelle Rodriguez, founder and director of Manhattan Physio Group. Each développé devant and cambré forward fires this set of muscles, so it’s no wonder why dancers complain of the chronically tight spot. Here, Rodriguez offers her tips for a proper lunge that stretches not only the tensor fasciae latae, psoas and iliacus muscles, which all help flex the hip, but also the quadriceps. “Ideally this stretch should be done every day, even on your day off from dancing,” says Rodriguez. Save it for after barre when your body is warm, or at the end of class or rehearsal.
Hip Flexor Stretch
1. To set up to stretch your right side, kneel on your right knee. Rodriguez says you can position a towel or legwarmer underneath to cushion it if necessary. Place the left leg in front of you with your knee bent to about 90 degrees. You can place your hands on top of your knee, or hold on to the barre with one hand for balance.
2. Firmly squeeze your lower right gluteals, and zip up your abdominals from your pubic bone to your belly button. “By activating these muscles, you will be able to place your pelvis in the best position to maximize the stretch,” she says. You should now feel it in your right hip and thigh.
3. Throughout the stretch, keep the thigh you’re kneeling on vertical. “A very common mistake dancers make is to go too far into a much deeper lunge,” says Rodriguez. If you use a larger range of motion, you risk getting less of a stretch in the tensor fasciae latae, psoas, iliacus and quadriceps.
4. Once you can maintain the shape with proper muscular engagement, only then should you slowly lunge forward, says Rodriguez, towards the end of the stretch.
Repetitions: Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat on the other side. Do two complete sets.
When Should I Replace My Electrolytes?
It all depends on how intensely you’re dancing and how much you sweat, says Heidi Skolnik, a certified dietitian and nutritionist who works with dancers at The Juilliard School and the School of American Ballet. While sports drinks and waters infused with electrolytes, like sodium, potassium and magnesium, help with fluid balance and muscle function, you probably don’t need them all the time.
Generally, if you’re taking a 90-minute technique class, the electrolytes you get from eating healthy foods should be sufficient, and drinking water before and after, and maybe during a break, should take care of your hydration needs, says Skolnik. “But if you’re taking back-to-back classes or it’s an intense rehearsal where you’re running a piece again and again, then you might benefit from a drink with electrolytes,” she says. If it’s been a few hours since your last meal, the carbohydrates in sports drinks can also rejuvenate you so you have more energy and focus to dance.
The other thing to pay attention to, says Skolnik, is your sweat. “If you have a white line on your leotard, that usually means you’re a heavy salt-sweater.” In this case, when you dance strenuously, your body is losing the sodium it already has, so it’s a sign you need to replenish that electrolyte. Dancers who have very clean diets may also need to replace their electrolytes sooner than others. Even if your food choices are typically healthy, they may not provide the sodium that you need.
Power Up with Flowers
This Valentine’s Day, consider treating a fellow dancer—or even yourself—to fresh flowers. Aside from their obvious beauty, research points to several positive side effects: One study by Rutgers University and La Salle University found that not only did women express a genuine smile upon receiving flowers, but they still had elevated moods three days later. If the chilly temps have got you down, some roses might just be the pick-me-up you need to boost your mood and, in turn, your dancing.