I injured my foot in class after 10 relaxing days on the beach. I thought vacations were the way to deal with burnout. What am I missing?
—Confused, New York, NY
While you just took some time off, burnout requires at least three weeks of downtime to correct the imbalances between intense exercise and recovery. Unfortunately, the increased demands on dancers year-round make it tough to schedule sufficient time for rest periods. What can you do?
First, be aware that many dancers are perfectionists, making them especially prone to burnout. Symptoms include constant fatigue, upper respiratory infections and recurring injuries. You may also feel as though you're working harder and harder but achieving less.
Because burnout has both physical and emotional impacts, it is not something you can push through. According to research published in the Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, dancers who take three to five weeks off actually see an increase in their strength, power, endurance and flexibility as they slowly get back in shape. Those who have shorter breaks are more likely to develop a second case of burnout within the first weeks or early months of returning to dancing, and they face a higher risk of injury.
Still, you can help prevent further burnout now by easing back into dance with physical therapy, cross-training and easy technique classes. Take one day off each week to let your body recover. Scheduling 15-minute breaks throughout the day, eating right, getting regular massages and sleeping nine or more hours a night will also reduce the stresses that lead to fatigue and injuries. You'll gain a competitive edge without overworking—a win-win situation.