How to make the most of your summer "off" and the never-ending dance season For minor-age dancers, we usually think of the dance season correlating with the school year. But, many dancers train year-round (and often increase training load over the summer) – which begs the question – does the dance season ever really end? It’s probably more accurate to say the schedule changes “between seasons” or over the summer. So, what can you/your dancer be doing during summer “break” to start the new season stronger than ever, injury-free, and crushing every goal? The truth is, it really depends on the individual dancer, their individual goals, and their individual schedule and training load over the summer, leading up to summer, and the anticipated fall schedule.
Summer intensive schedules usually include 8+ hours of training per day, 30-35+ hours/week, and usually 6 days/week. That’s a LOT of physical demand on a growing body. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association recommend that children and teens not participate in structured play (i.e. sport) more hours per week than their age in years and no more than 16 hours/week regardless of age. These organizations also recommend a 2:1 ratio for structured:free play (i.e. organized sport training vs. pickup basketball, roller skating, playing with the dog in the yard, easy hiking, etc.). While these recommendations are based on traditional sports, we still use them as guidelines for dance.
Activity recommendations for a 14 year-old dancer (based on guidelines above): -no more than 14 hours dancing per week -7 hours of free play (if dancing 14 hours/week)
So, if there is an increase in training load over the summer, like attending an intensive, this would be the time to focus on recovery strategies rather than adding extra training beyond the intensive to achieve performance goals. If there is an injury and you/your dancer plans to attend summer intensives, be aware that the injury will likely worsen with the increased training load. I recommend getting this evaluated and resolved before the change in schedule. On the flip side, if the summer schedule includes less dance classes and rehearsals, summer is the perfect time to add cross training and aerobic conditioning that will improve performance and prevent injuries. If there is an injury that you’ve been avoiding doing anything about just to get through the current season, summer can be the perfect time to get back on track. Another thing to consider is how the dance season is “ending” – is the schedule jam-packed with rehearsals, shows, and Nationals? If this is the case, I recommend at least two recovery weeks. The body needs a rest from dance-specific training so fun, non-dance, low impact activities like cycling, swimming, yoga, and Pilates are great options during this time. And just to be clear, these are still great activities throughout the year.
The above recommendations are generalized and if you’d like a personalized recommendation on how your dancer can make the most of their summer, click the link below and we can chat about your dancer’s schedule and goals.