Building Strong Bodies for the New Year: Better Performance and Injury Prevention

In case you missed it: An article by Greenstone Belly Dance founder, Siobhan Camille, was featured in the January 2020 edition of Zameena magazine! Read on below for a sneak peek, and check out the full article here.

The New Year is upon us!

And for 2020, I’d like to propose a different sort of New Year’s Resolution.
One that doesn’t focus on the size of our bodies, or on avoiding certain foods. One that doesn’t focus on how our bodies look in a bikini, but rather, one that focuses on how our bodies function and feel during dance and life.

Dance allows us an outlet to express ourselves whilst keeping active at the same time. However, too often as dancers we spend all our time loving the dance, and neglecting to maintain the condition and strength of our bodies to keep up with our graceful, strong, and at times athletic movements.

I’ve met many young dancers who are secretly nursing niggly injuries that they try to ignore, and older professional belly dancers who tell me they wish they had taken better care of their bodies when they were younger. Whether you’re a professional dancer, or just dancing for fun, you can help reduce your injury risk (and improve your dance stamina and technique) if you put some time into looking after your body.

As part of my work, I conducted the first ever scientific study examining injury incidence in belly dancers. From the results of this, and combined with almost a decade of experience working in injury rehabilitation and athletic performance, I have some ideas on what we, as dancers, can do to look after our bodies.

To ensure you’re dancing strongly into 2020 and beyond, here are my 4 quick tips for happier, healthier bodies!

  1. Be active outside of belly dance

In our study of 118 female belly dancers, participation in non-dance-related exercise was associated with a significant decrease in injury rate.[1]

This may come as no surprise to some of you, as it’s well known that training in other types of exercise has been found to reduce injury in professional dancers of other styles.[2]

Working on your strength (think bodyweight exercises like squats and push ups, or using weights or resistance bands), and aerobic fitness (with activities like swimming, cycling or jogging), can be beneficial as it can help make your body more resilient, and better able to deal with the demands of dance.[3],[4]

My personal motto is that I always want to be stronger and fitter than my performance or teaching schedule actually requires, so I’m less likely to experience injury.

Be easy on yourself if this is your first time incorporating non-dance exercise into your schedule. If you’re not exercising at all during the week apart from belly dance, jumping into 5 days of training will be both unrealistic for your motivation, and perhaps even lead to an injury from such a sudden change in your training load!

Start low, progress slow: Aim to add in just one 20 minute strength session per week, or start getting off the bus or train a stop earlier to work and take a brisk walk the rest of the way. Look for places to sneak in just 10 minutes of continuous exercise into your day, then build from there.

Want to read the other 3 tips? Check out the full article here in Zameena magazine!

References:

  1. Milner SC, Gray A, Bussey M. A Retrospective Study Investigating Injury Incidence and Factors Associated with Injury Among Belly Dancers. J. Dance Med. Sci. 2019 Mar 15;23(1):26-33.
  2. Bronner S, Ojofeitimi S, Rose D. Injuries in a modern dance company: effect of comprehensive management on injury incidence and time loss. Am J Sports Med. 2003 May-Jun;31(3):365-73.
  3. Koutedakis Y, Pacy P, Sharp NCC, Dick F. Is fitness necessary for dancers? Dance Res. 1996 Oct;14(2):105-18.
  4. Koutedakis Y, Jamurtas A. The dancer as a performing athlete: physiological considerations. Sports Med. 2004 Aug;34(10):651-61.

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