Health & Body
Whole-body cryotherapy rapidly drops the skin temperature to speed up recovery. Photo courtesy CryoUSA

Dancers are known for going to great lengths to prepare their bodies to perform at their best. But the latest recovery trend that dancers—and star athletes from Kobe Bryant to Floyd Mayweather Jr.—are using is perhaps the most extreme treatment yet.

Whole-body cryotherapy (as opposed to other forms of cryotherapy, such as an ice bath or an ice pack) is said to significantly speed up recovery time by immersing the body in a chamber of very cold air. Once only available in fancy professional sports locker rooms, there are now over 700 whole-body cryotherapy locations across the country.

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Health & Body
Re-enter dance slowly to keep yourself healthy. Photo via Thinkstock

After spending a year away from the studio to recover from anorexia at age 12, Jillian Verzwyvelt admits that she was extremely nervous to return to class. "I was terrified I would be far behind not only technically but socially," she says. Fortunately, she encountered strong support from both teachers and peers, who treated her the same as they always had, even though she was only strong enough to take part of class.

Returning to the studio after recovering from an eating disorder is not unlike coming back from injury, except that the challenge is deeply stigmatized. For most dancers who suffer from eating disorders, the impulse to control their physical appearance and their passion for dance are closely linked.

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Health & Body
Karina Gonzalez and baby Julia, photo via Instagram

Houston Ballet principal Karina González stunned audiences last fall with her emotionally charged Mary Vetsera in Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling—while 16 weeks pregnant. "I had to be careful because the pas de deux are crazy," says González, who carefully planned her pregnancy so that she could dance in this ballet. "Thankfully, I had the best partner in Connor Walsh."

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Health & Body
Merchant showing off her lines in the mountains. Photo courtesy Merchant

Like any dancer, Leah Merchant expects a lot from her body. "We're so trained to push, push, push," says the Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist. But one of her favorite hobbies—hiking—has shifted her mind-set.

On the trail, she's learned that harsh weather or tough terrain sometimes means you need to be patient with yourself. "It's trained me to not feel like I failed just because I need to rest a minute," she says. "Sometimes you have to let that be enough for now, and try again next time. It's more about continuing to make progress than it is about being perfect."

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Health & Body
Learning to harness your hormones can help you use them to your advantage. Photo by David Beatz/Unsplash

For dancers, the ups and downs of a menstrual cycle can be inconvenient, to say the least. But learning how the monthly hormone fluctuations affect you can help you understand your mood, energy and appetite, and even your focus, coordination and confidence in the studio. It also makes your cycle that much easier to manage—and even embrace.

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Health & Body
Recovery doesn't always follow your ideal timeline. Photo by Jairo Alzate/Unsplash

You've rested and rehabilitated. But what if an injury still bothers you? Health-care professionals share eight reasons dancers might heal more slowly than expected.

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Health & Body
It doesn't have to be diagnosable by the DSM-5 to be dangerous to your health. Photo by Dominik Martin/Unsplash

When the cat food started smelling good, I knew I had a problem.

I'd always considered eating disorders to be extreme. Someone who never eats. Someone who weighs less than 100 pounds. Someone who gets hospitalized.

My behavior didn't fit the mental health definition of an eating disorder. I ignored it because I didn't know how to articulate it. It took me several years after the cat food smelled good to have the language to describe what was going on.

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Health & Body
Moving through your range of motion could help you heal faster. Photo by Thinkstock.

Whenever I get a massage, I like to completely zone out until I'm just barely not asleep. Even if it's a deeper sports massage, I go to my happy place (kayaking on a lake with a golden retriever sitting next to me) in an attempt to ignore the pain.

But should a massage session actually be a bit more active to get the most out of it?

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Advice for Dancers
Too much betacarotene can lead to a yellow-orange pigmentation on your skin. Photo by Stock Snap

My doctor sent me to a hormone specialist to be checked out for a possible metabolic disorder after a series of unexplained fractures. When my blood tests came back, I wasn't prepared to hear that the problem was due to my super-healthy diet (I eat a lot of raw carrots). Once she saw that the bottoms of my feet are orange-colored, she said, "That's the problem!" How can that be?

—Carrot Withdrawal, San Diego, CA

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What Dancers Eat
Don't just trust what others say you should—or shouldn't—be eating. Photo by Toa Haftiba/Unsplash

When it comes to what you should be eating, rumors often catch on like wildfire. Dietitian Rachel Fine, who works with dancers in New York City, shares the most misguided nutrition strategies she's recently encountered.

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Advice for Dancers
Sprained ankles that won't heal often indicate a misdiagnosed or overlooked underlying problem. Thinkstock

It's been a year since I sprained my ankle and it continues to hurt, even with physical therapy. I've had to skip class, and I worry that my injury could ruin any chance of landing a job when I start auditioning. It hurts the most when I do grand pliés. Is there something wrong with me?

—Lame Broadway Dancer, New York, NY

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Health & Body
Eating healthy fats and a bounty of fruits and vegetables is smart. But what about cutting carbs? Photo by Brooke Lark/Unsplash

Although the ketogenic diet has been around since the 1920s as an epilepsy treatment for children, it's experiencing a new wave of popularity. Thanks in part to social media, where "healthy" keto-friendly recipe videos are going viral, the high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet is gaining ground. But is it safe for dancers?

We checked in with Rachel Fine, registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of To The Pointe Nutrition, to see what eating keto means for dancers.

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Advice for Dancers
Perfectionism can make dancing a burden rather than a joy. Thinkstock

I had a two-month injury and thought it would make me miserable. Instead, I'm experiencing a huge wave of relief at being out. Should I feel guilty about not missing dance? I still love it but hate never feeling good enough.

—Injured Perfectionist, Fort Lauderdale, FL

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Dancers Trending
Miami City Ballet's Nathalia Arja, PC Alexander Iziliaev

We love learning new things about our favorite dancers through our "Spotlight" Q&A series (like Sterling Baca's obsession with spiders!). One of the questions we always ask is: What's the biggest misconception about dancers?

After a while, we began to sense a pattern in the responses. Here's how five dancers answered the question (warning: this may make you hungry!):

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Health & Body
10 minutes of midday sun could keep you out of the PT's office. Photo by Unsplash

File this under news that sounds too good to be true: A study published in last month's International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance found that one little nutrient—vitamin D—could improve dancers' strength and decrease their risk of injury.

Known as "the sunshine vitamin" because of our body's ability to produce it when exposed to sun, vitamin D has long been a sore point for dancers. Many have chronically low levels, most likely because of their restrictive diets and all the time they spend indoors in studios and theaters.

That's a serious risk: Our bodies need this vitamin to absorb calcium and keep our bones strong. Other studies have shown that a lack of D also correlates with a lack of muscle strength.

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Advice for Dancers
It's common for therapists to advise patients with eating disorders to distance themselves from people with similar struggles. Photo by Unsplash.

My best friend confessed that she's been avoiding me because of my eating disorder. She's scared of triggering her own eating issues that she's coming to grips with in psychotherapy. I feel horrible about getting so caught up in my problems that I didn't see what it was doing to her. While I'm glad we spoke about it (and I've made an appointment to get professional help, too), the awkwardness hasn't completely disappeared.

—Katherine, Boston, MA

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