Your Body Tips
Go-To Party Food
This Memorial Day, don’t be afraid of the barbecue spread. Just start with some chicken or nuts. According to experts, the protein helps you avoid overeating because it fills you up more quickly and for longer than carbs do. Put some grilled chicken on your plate first, and you’ll be less likely to munch mindlessly all afternoon.
Can’t seem to find the energy for rehearsal? Drink some water! Even a slight dehydration can cause a drop in energy levels.
Don’t Cheat Yourself
Beware: Your healthy habits could backfire more easily than you might think. When a group of researchers in Taiwan gave volunteers a pill and told them it was a multivitamin, the volunteers walked less, and chose healthy foods less readily than those who had been told the truth that the pill was a placebo. While we’re always making trade-offs, there are no shortcuts: One kale smoothie doesn’t mean you can slack off for the rest of the day. Only a 360-degree approach to your health will help you get into prime performance shape.
The Ideal Intervals
Want to get more out of your aerobic cross-training? Add in intervals—specifically, two-minute bursts of intensity alternating with slower one-minute recovery periods. Researchers recently discovered that this ratio of work to relative rest optimizes intervals’ stamina-boosting, metabolism-turbocharging benefits. Why? The body gets to recover just enough during the slow periods that you’re ultimately able to spend more time doing high-intensity activity to recruit new muscle fibers. Interval training also affects how your body converts fuel to energy, burning fat first rather than carbohydrates—not only during interval training but during other workouts, too.
A Smarter Warm-Up
Constantly dancing in turnout can make our bodies a little wonky: When rotation is forced, the hip flexors and inner thighs can start to become overactive, while the glutes, hamstrings and outer thighs can get weak. “The body starts compensating, and you have less support to maintain proper alignment,” says Amy Schulster, a dancer and corrective exercise specialist who owns AIM Fitness NYC. “If you can fix these muscular imbalances, you’ll be less likely to get injured, and you’ll also become a better performer because you’ll be able to engage the right muscles when you need them.” In particular, she suggests performing exercises to counteract these imbalances before barre so that you set yourself up for a more balanced and productive rehearsal day.
Here’s her go-to 10-minute warm-up:
1. Foam roll and stretch your hip flexors, quads and adductors (inner thighs).
2. Forearm plank: Hold one minute (or start with 30 seconds and build up to it), concentrating on proper form.
3. Hip bridge: Lying on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor in parallel, lift your hips and hold for 30 seconds. Then lift and lower for 20 reps.
4. Clamshells: Lying on your side with knees bent at a 90-degree angle, keep feet together and lift your top knee 20 times. Repeat on opposite side.
Repeat steps 2 through 4.
Bottom photo: Nathan Sayers, modeled by Courtney Spears of the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program. All other photos Thinkstock.