Thursday, 28 February 2013

Supplements use in dancers

Dietary supplements are taken by athletes to supplement their existing nutritional intakes and address any insufficiencies or deficiencies that may affect their health or performance. While some are taken for performance and others for health, others are completely pointless, occasionally dangerous, and all cost a considerable amount of money. Individuals with low caloric intakes may need to consider supplementation in order to ensure their nutrient intake is adequate. As many dancers use calorie restriction in an attempt to control weight and body composition, they are an at-risk group for nutrient insufficiencies/deficiencies and so it is worth considering where insufficiencies may arise.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Disordered Eating in Dance

When it comes to discussing eating disorders in dancers, I seem to spend all my time either trying to convince my non-dancing friends that the majority of dancers do not have an eating disorder, or trying to convince my colleagues who do work in dance that it is a serious problem that needs addressing. While to non-dancers the image of the anorexic ballet dancer is at least familiar if not cliched, to many dancers there is a denial regarding the degree to which disordered eating is a serious and wide-spread problem and there is a sense of many people and companies being in denial about the severity of the issue. In reality the scope of the problem sits somewhere between the two outlooks - disordered eating is a serious problem for a significant minority of dancers.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Research Update: Vitamin D status in ballet dancers

A new study carried out by Roger Wolman of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, along with colleagues at the University of Wolverhampton, has looked at the vitamin D status of professional ballet dancers in winter vs summer months.

(c) Koji Aoki  
The 6 month cohort study contrasted high sunlight months (summer) against low sunlight months (winter). The study looked at 19 professional ballet dancers within the UK and considered their vitamin D status through serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels within the body, as well as recording parathyroid hormone (PTH) and blood serum bone turnover markers (CTX and PINP). The dancers all danced 6-8 hours a day, for 38 hours a week. The Company's doctors recorded injury instance over the 6 month period.

Significant differences were found in levels of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, PTH  and blood serum bone turnover markers between summer and winter months. Although levels of 25-hyrdoxyvitaminD were higher in summer months, only 3 of the 19 dancers achieved "sufficient" levels during the summer period, with the rest being considered either insufficient or deficient in vitamin D. All dancers' vitamin D levels were found to be insufficient or deficient in winter months.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The importance of dance-specific medical practitioners

If you're a dance student, working freelance, part-time or recreationally, or indeed if you're aligned to a company that does not have it's own physio, podiatrist or osteopath, you've probably had some mixed experiences going to see medical practitioners about dance related injuries. In the UK we're lucky enough to have the NHS, meaning we don't have to pay to see a specialist. The downside of this is we usually don't get to pick who we see.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


Overtraining or burnout refer to a condition where athletes or dancers note a marked decrease in physical performance for no apparent physical or medical reason, suffer from prolonged fatigue and display behavioral and emotional changes. Symptoms of overtraining will vary from individual to individual, the most common symptoms include:
  • Increased perception of effort during exercise
  • Excessive sweating
  • Frequent upper respiratory tract infections
  • Breakdown of technique
  • Muscle soreness
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood disturbances
  • Signs of depression
  • Decreased interest in training and performance
  • Decreased self-confidence

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Nutrition - Carbs

Nutritional needs get a whole lot easier to understand if you have a basic understanding of your energy systems and the fuels each energy system uses. Your body has 3 - the ATP-PCr, the Glycolytic and the Oxidative systems.

The ATP-PCr System produces immediate energy and so is able to assist in instantaneous muscle contraction for short periods of high exertion exercise.The Glycolytic System, producing ATP through the breakdown of glucose. The Glycolytic system resynthesises ATP at a faster rate than the Oxidative system, and produces energy for short bursts of activity lasting up to around 2 minutes. The Oxidative System takes longer to be activated through activity than the other energy systems, however it has a higher energy producing capacity and so is utilised in endurance activities. Dance utilises all three energy systems, depending on the specific activities being performed; all three systems use carbohydrate as their main, if not sole, source of fuel.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Pancake Day!

It's Pancake Day! I freaking love pancakes.  Here's my favourite pancake recipe, they're high protein, low fat, taste awesome and are pretty much idiot-proof.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Working with recreational dancers

Working with recreational community dance groups poses a different set of considerations in class planning. Instead of working with a known quantity, you never know how many dancers you will have; what level of fitness they are at or what level of technique, if any, they have. It can make planning sessions and creating choreography tricky at best. You can have individuals brand new to exercise in with semi-professional dancers, or people who have trained to a high level alongside people with reasonable levels of fitness but absolutely no technical knowledge. Fitness and technical skill can vary wildly, and your job is to find a means of providing a diverse population with a useful, enjoyable and fulfilling class.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Physiological Considerations with Children

Most dancers work with children at some point, whether it's on a daily basis or once or twice a year; through teaching, outreach or company workshops almost all of us will work with young people on and off throughout our careers. In developing the skills of young dancers it's helpful to have an understanding of the implications of various growth stages on their physical performance.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Nutrition for Dancers - Calories

Adequate nutrition is as important for dancers as it is for any other professional athlete, yet very few dancers have ready access to professional nutrition advice. Owing to the pressures (whether perceived or actual) placed on dancers to adhere to specific aesthetic ideals, it is common for dancers to either under-fuel themselves and attempt to control body composition through restricted energy intakes or by experimenting with various fad diets. Insufficient energy intake means you're more likely to become injured due to fatigue or weakness - it's crucial that you fuel your body for the job it needs to do.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Female Athlete Triad in dancers

I want to talk about the Female Athlete Triad in dancers because it's horrendously common and is one of those subjects that is rarely acknowledged or discussed openly in dance communities. The Triad is a trio of interrelated pathologies - low energy intake, amenorrhea and osteoporosis. It's a condition that can appear in women participating in any athletic activity, but is most common in those that emphasise a low body fat percentage - dancers, gymnasts and distance runners.