Food to Fuel - Nutrition for Athletes
|Posted on February 21, 2020 at 1:55 PM|
So, what the big deal about nutrition? Food is food, right? Not quite; what you eat is not only about the clichés of growing healthy, but it also impacts the way your brain functions, the way your body works, and how you feel. I’m sure you can think of a time when you were up late studying and the next day, you want to eat all the candy and soda, well that’s because your brain didn’t get the reset it needed to clear out the fog, so it is tired and is telling your body “I need a quick fix now!” Enter cravings for processed food and sugar. Or you look in the mirror and see a zit the size of Montana decided to pop up overnight, well that is also your body telling you something. When we eat foods with a lot of chemicals and added sugars, it’s like ancient hieroglyphics to your body and it cannot decipher the code and therefore, your body revolts and fights the unknown, often causing fatigue and other undesirable outcomes; such as acne, dry skin, and poor hair quality. And let’s talk about the dreaded F word…FAT. Fat is not the enemy, in fact, fat is kind of a beauty hack, a life saver, and a regulator, if it is the right kind. Healthy fats keep our skin glowing, moisturized, and soft and our hair smooth and shiny. Healthy fats are needed for the proper functioning of hormones, which tell our bodies what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Healthy fats provide protection to our organs so if you get a jab in the gut, your organs have a cushion to prevent internal damage. Basically, what I’m saying, is fat gets a bad rap, but it’s just because it’s been misunderstood for so long.
Fueling our bodies right is challenging and being an athlete adds even more complexities to get through rigorous classes and demanding competitions. I’ve never really been a competitive athlete, but exercise has always been a passion of mine. Maybe you are different, but in my opinion, there are three things every athlete needs; Focus, Muscle, and Energy.
It takes a lot to keep focus, whether it is focus to study or focus to perform the dance. A big impact to your focus is sleep. Sleep is the time for your brain to flush out that brain fog so you can focus. As I alluded to earlier, when your brain is tired, your body just wants to get it the energy it needs, so it craves the quick fix; sugar. Reducing calories can also affect your focus by cutting the energy supply to your brain and impacts brain functions. It’s hard to focus when you are hungry, so instead of cutting calories, change where you get those calories. For example, replace high sugar calories with some healthy fats or whole carbohydrates for long term energy.
Clearly, muscle is important to any athlete. With extended classes and long competitions, muscles break down and are sore. The cure? Sleep and water! Sleep and water promotes muscle recovery and minimize muscle soreness by flushing out lactic acid that builds up in muscles. When muscles break down during exercise, they need to be rebuilt with replacement protein. Keep in mind that your body cannot use the extra protein during teen years, so no need to overdo it.
Lastly, you can’t get through long nights of classes after a full day of school without energy. There are two main types of energy; long term endurance and quick energy. Long term energy comes from healthy fats and carbohydrates and should be consumed 2 to 3 hours before exercise. Sugar is a source of quick energy 30 – 45 minutes before exercising, but let’s be clear here, you have two options for sugar with two different side effects. You can opt for a candy bar or gummi bears for a quick burst of energy and then deal with a sugar crash minutes later, or you can pick a natural sugar, like fruit, that will give energy without that crash. It’s up to you, but consider that processed foods and added sugars are kryptonite for endurance and energy. If you don’t know what the ingredients are in the food, your body doesn’t either, and therefore, will cause fatigue as your body tries to figure out what to do with it.
I will be the first to admit it, nutrition is confusing, especially with fad diets and Instagram. There’s conflicting information everywhere! Bottom line, your body is made up of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and water, so to be an optimal athlete, it is important to fuel it with what it recognizes. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying not to eat candy, chips, cookies, etc, because I will be the first to say chocolate is life for me. You need to enjoy your life and not depriving yourself is part of enjoying your life. What I am saying is fueling your bodies right for long classes and intense competitions is critical to be the best athlete you can be and you deserve to shine!
Quick Snack Ideas
• Nut butter on whole wheat toast/bread – add honey for a little sweetness
• Nut butter with celery or apples or banana
• Hummus and carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, cucumbers, or any other veggie that you like
• Guacamole with veggies and a couple of tortilla chips (choose corn or whole wheat over flour)
• Yogurt and berries with granola
• Chocolate milk – really great for recovery after exercise
• Any fruit - banana, orange, berries, pears
• Lunch meat with cheese on whole wheat crackers (like Triscuits)
• Handful of walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds, peanuts (Keep in mind that some people may have a sensitivity to certain nuts even without being allergic; if you get gastric issues after eating a certain variety of nuts, you may want to try a different variety).
• Fruit and Veggies chips (made with just the fruit or veggie and maybe a little oil, check ingredients) – sweet potato, beets, apple, banana, mango.
• Hard boiled eggs
Preparing for Pointe Dancing
|Posted on April 27, 2018 at 3:15 PM|
Written by Brittany Miller:
Close your eyes and think back to the first time you watch the ballet. Tall beautiful ballerinas gracefully lifted over men’s heads and lightly placed on to the very tips of their toes as they magically seem to float away on stage. Pointe shoes are every young ballerina’s dream, but what does it take to get there and how much training does your dancer need to have?
First, knowing the history and mechanics of a pointe shoe are crucial in understanding the importance of your dancer being ready. Pointe is an extension of ballet in which the ballerina wears a specially designed and fitted shoe that allows them to dance on the very tips of their toes. It makes an already elegant and graceful style of movement more ethereal and delicate by adding lightness and length to the ballerina. In 1832 Marie Taglinoi is credited as being the first ballerina to dance en pointe. Pointe shoes have come a long way since her first pair of shoes which were nothing more than satin slippers darned to help hold their shape. The shoe offered no support so dancers had to rely on their feet and ankle strength for support. Now pointe shoes are made out of new lighter materials that keep the dancer safer and prolong the life of the shoe but the physical readiness has not changed.
What age is considered appropriate for pre-pointe?
Dancers ages 11 and older are when your child’s ballet teacher may start to begin talking about pointe shoes with them. This is a great go to age as most dancer will have danced for a few year previously allowing them to have the necessary repetition, vocabulary skills, and technique needed to make pointe an extension of their ballet class. In addition to maturity and experience, your dancer must also be physically ready. Your child’s dance teacher will ask for them to get okay by a physician or physical therapist before they can participate. This is to make sure the dancer’s foot is more than 75% grown and will be capable of handling their entire body weight on their toes.
Why does my dancer have to take pre-pointe? Can’t they go right into it?
Pointe shoes are very uncomfortable the first few times a dancer puts them on. Pre-pointe shoes are a great way for dancers to get use to the feeling of a pointe shoe without risk of injury due to low ankle or foot strength. In pre-pointe your dancer will learn vocabulary skills, exercises to strengthen the foot and ankle, how to physically work the foot in the shoes, and take a test to make sure the dancer is fully ready for pointe.
Why does my dancer need to take a test to tell if they are ready for pointe?
Taking the pre-pointe test tell your dancer’s teacher everything they need to know about your dancer. If your dancer studied we can see that your dancer has a great maturity level and can be trusted en pointe. There is also a physical portion of the exam where the dance teacher can see if the dancer can physically handle the incredibly hard work it takes to be en pointe. If your dancer does not pass the physical portion or exam this does not mean your dancer can never go en pointe, it means your dance teacher cares enough to make sure your dancer doesn’t get injured and will do everything to make sure they are safe.
Should my dancer take pointe?
First talk with your dancer and their instructor to see if they are willing and ready. Next as a parent make sure you are ready for the financial responsibility of shoes. Pointe shoes cost $60- over $100 per pair and a dancer can wear them out every month or once a year. You will also need to get your dancer new shoes if they grow. The correct shoe fit can make all the difference in the world to a dancer.
Excellence Through Repetition
|Posted on April 9, 2018 at 3:40 PM|
By: Brittany Bearer
“It’s like riding a bicycle!” We’ve all heard the phrase, but what does it really mean and how does it relate to your dancer? Riding a bicycle is just another phrase for the term, muscle memory, describing a once difficult skill that has now become second nature. The muscles’ themselves have no literal memory, so the term muscle memory is a misnomer, and should really be called the subconscious memory. The subconscious memory stores information in the brain that is readily accessible by the non-conscious mind, and that turns into the involuntary muscle movement we all know such as walking or going up and down steps and the key to it is repetition.
Repetition is important whether your study for a test, driving a car, or twirling across the room. Repeating the same movements consistently every week allows your young aspiring dancer’s mind and body to master and repeat the same quality of movement. The more consistent the repetition the faster they can learn and apply corrections.
Repetition is also important as your dancers learns more choreography in preparation for performance. When your dancer rehearses multiple times a week, this allows the dancer to master the choreography and frees the mind to work on other important aspects of their dancing such as stage entrances and exits, emotional performance quality, props, and dancing in large groups.
As your dancer gets older you may ask why it is necessary for my child to continue training so multiple days a week? It is important to understand that your dancer is still growing and learning new, more complicated steps and patternings everyday and expecting them to pick up the movement without repetition can set a student up for failure. Old habits from our everyday lives or learning the newest, most popular dance move they saw online, can disrupt our technique and training, so it takes a lot of repetition to change and why you hear your child’s dance teacher say, “again” so many times!
Take advice for pro-tennis star Billie Jean King when she said, “champions keep playing till they get it right!”
Why Tap Dance? by Jennifer Aichele
|Posted on November 16, 2017 at 4:15 PM|
Tap Dance is defined as a step dance tapped out audibly by means of shoes with hard soles ` or soles and heels to which taps have been added. Fairly simple concept right? Well little does your dancer know they are learning so much more than just making sounds with their feet!
Every child is born with a rhythm inside of them and tap dance helps bring out that natural rhythm! Tap dance is all about feeling the beat of the music and helps strengthen musicality skills. Each step makes a noise and each noise has to fit within the music. In learning this high level of music awareness your dancer will be stronger in keeping time in all genres of dance.
Tap dance takes a TON of coordination and balance! Not only do we focus on musicality and timing, your dancer is learning to quickly transfer their weight between their feet. Tap dance teaches a higher level of control their bodies with making intricate movements with only specific parts of their feet. Balance is also a key factor in tap dance as most of the movement is done balancing on the balls of the feet, on one foot, and transferring between feet. Coordination and balance are so important for a dancer in any genre.
There are many health benefits of tap dance as well. It helps build strong muscles in the legs and the feet and it is a fantastic cardio workout! Tap dance also helps improve the flexibility of the ankles, knees, and hips. And let’s not forget the emotional benefits! Dancing releases endorphins which reduces stress and pain and it can also can help build self-esteem.
But the most important reason to take tap class is because it’s FUN!
“Perhaps of all the most basic elements of music, rhythm most directly affects our central nervous system” - George Crumb
Nurturing your child - how to help build confidence and security in your little one and integrating into class.
|Posted on August 14, 2017 at 10:10 AM|
by: Amy L. Aichele-
As parents of toddlers and pre-schoolers, you do everything to help your child navigate through the ups and downs of childhood and survive with self-esteem. You praise their every accomplishment, and encourage them to discover the world around them through play and activities. At some point many parents will decide to sign their child up for a more formal activity, such as dance. This will encourage them to make friends with other children who have similar interests. By doing so, your child will continue to grow and learn through play and movement.
Prior to the first day of class, much time is spent getting the necessary materials that your child will need, and talking about their first dance class. The excitement mounts the closer that the “big day” gets, until finally that day arrives.
To help your child build confidence and make their transition into the classroom smooth, here are a few tips to help both the parent as well as the child.
Register and choose/purchase needed materials early
It helps to come into the studio prior to the first week of classes with your child. Meet the staff and some of the teachers. Ask any questions that you may have and walk around the facility. This will help both you and your child to acclimate prior to the hustle and bustle of the first day of class.
Arrive early on the first day
When you walk into the studio for the first class it is o.k. to come a little early. Use the restrooms as well as meet some of your child’s fellow class mates, their parents, and the assistants who will be working with your child. These are going to be some of your dances first friends, outside of family, and some may be in their life for a very long time.
Stay with your child until class starts
There may be other classes that are going on at this time or will be changing while you wait. It is essential, especially for younger dancers, to remain close to their parents and patiently waiting for class to start. The moments before they enter the classroom can become a bit overwhelming for our youngest dancers as the older dancers quickly exit or enter their classrooms. Additionally this is part of the preparation to achieve focus before class begins.
Meet and say hi to your child’s instructor
Once the teacher enters the classroom, the assistant teachers will help the dancers to line up and enter as well. They will assist them in bring in any needed shoes and dance bags. This is essential. Not only does it help the instructors to keep class running smoothly, it also helps the dancer to learn responsibility for their items.
Parting with your child
As hard as it is as a parent to part with their child that first class, this is an extremely important step in helping your child to gain confidence that they are in a safe and secure environment. The more efficient that this process is, the instructor can then get the class started and your child’s focus will be onto the activities at hand. Please know that it is natural for a child to be excited for class and then once entering the classroom start to cry. This is especially true for younger dancers. Often times the tiniest of dancers just don't have the vocabulary to say “wait a second, I thought that you were staying too”, or “hey, who are all of these new people”. This uncertainty may be expressed through tears.
Work with the assistants and instructor
It is important to work with the assistants and instructor to assure that all is o.k. You will be right outside the door or observing from a viewing window. In doing this you are showing your child that you trust them as well as the instructor. While this may be difficult at first, this is a huge step in empowering your child with self-confidence. The crying will diminish over time as your dancer gains confidence in the teacher and themselves. Additionally, self-esteem increases when a child feels confident in the classroom.
Follow up with the assistants and instructor. In doing so you are not only learning how your child is doing in class, but also showing your child that you are a team that is there for them and that cares about them.
While progress may appear to be slow for some dancers do not feel discouraged. Trust and self-confidence take time. Some children will jump right in while others may be more visual learners, needing more time to take things in as well as adjust to new activities and people. Over time your child will learn about trust, develop interpersonal skills and friendships, of which are key to their personal growth and development.