Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What happens to our muscles when we don't drink enough water?


“Water is the driving force in nature.” - Leonardo da Vinci

Summer is here, and dancers will constantly be encouraged to stay hydrated. Past blog posts have discussed which beverages are best to drink while exercising.

But why do we need to stay hydrated? 
And what happens inside our bodies when we become dehydrated?


Our bodies are 60% water and water can be found:
  • in the tears that keep our eyes moist and flush out dirt
  • in our saliva and our digestive system to help break down foods and absorb nutrients
  • in our blood to help transport nutrients and oxygen
  • in the synovial fluid in our joints to keep our bones from grinding against each other
  • around our brains and spinal cords where it provides cushioning
  • in our sweat which helps keep us cool and maintains our body temperature
  • in our urine where it eliminates toxins from our bodies
  • in our muscle cells which rely upon it to function properly     

        We lose water through our tears, our sweat and everyone time we use the bathroom but through other less obvious ways as well. We lose 250 milliliters a day by simply breathing. People can survive several weeks without food but only one week without water.

        People often use thirst as a signal that they are becoming dehydrated. Thirst in an unreliable indicator - when you grow thirsty, you are probably already dehydrated. Other symptoms of dehydration are chills, clammy skin, an increased heart rate, nausea, headache, dizziness and shortness of breath.

        Since dancers rely upon their muscles, it is important to know exactly what happens in the muscle cells when the body is lacking water. During any type of physical exercise or training, muscles experience minor tears, or microtraumas. When muscles contract, water flows from the blood into the muscles. This water is used when the body begins to repair the microtraumas that have occurred during exercise. Through muscular protein synthesis (MPS) damaged protein is moved out of the muscles, and stronger, denser, new versions of the damaged proteins are created.

        When the body is dehydrated, instead of the water traveling into the muscles from the blood, the blood begins to steal water from the muscle cells. Since MPS uses water, the creation of new protein slows down, muscle cells begin to shrivel, and the dancer will experience muscular fatigue.

        According to the American College of Sports Medicine, muscular fatigue increases the strain upon the body and the dancer or athlete needs to exert more effort to perform exercises which leads to an increased stress load upon the already often overworked body.

          It is for these reasons that dancers need to stay a step ahead of their bodies, drink proactively, and never allow themselves to grow dehydrated.     

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Why Having Multiple Teachers Can Be a Good Thing

            “No one’s education is every complete.” 
                                                                  – John Marks Templeton

            When dance students first begin taking dance classes, they are, more than likely, introduced to one dance teacher who will begin to expose them to the world of dance. This teacher can provide the disciplined routine upon which to build a strong dance education. Having one teacher helps foster a student’s basic understanding of dance and establishes a strong foundation from which the student can begin to branch out and grow.     

            As dancers grow serious about their training, they will begin to realize that different dance educators have different ways of teaching. While the format for a dance class is standard, the material that is presented and how it is presented can differ greatly, depending upon the dance educator’s background. Some dance educators have been performers, some have earned degrees in dance, some have experience in many techniques, and others may have focused in depth on one technique. Some may approach dance from a traditional perspective while others may combine dance science with dance technique to formulate their classes. All of these dance educators have something valuable to offer their students.

            Everyone learns differently. Some of us are visual learners and will have great success with a dance educator who demonstrates every combination, some are auditory learners and will excel with teachers who emphasize dance terminology and counts, and others are kinesthetic learners and will perform best with teachers who use a hands on approach and encourage them to boldly try new movement.

            While all dance educators must incorporate dance technique, presentational and performing skills, musicality, and proper anatomical instruction in their classes, each individual educator may focus upon one of these categories more than the others. Those with extensive performing experience may emphasize the presentational and performing skills. Educators with a dance science background may spend a good deal of time speaking about how the body works. Teachers who also have a background in music may insist on paying careful attention to musicality throughout the entire class.

            Additionally, some dance educators may focus more upon alignment, some may focus more upon turns, some may focus more on jumps, some may focus more upon the technique of the upper body, and some may focus more upon lower body technique. Some teachers may use imagery in class to explain how to perform a step while others may use technical terminology or movement quality descriptions.

            It is for these reasons that students who are pursuing advanced dance training should have the opportunity to study with more than one teacher.  In doing so, students may develop a more well-rounded approach to dancing. A particular exercise that may have always been a struggle can become clearer when it is approached or described in a new way. Becoming the strongest dancer possible is dependent upon the students’ opportunity to seek out other dance educators and glean as much from each of them as possible.

            Dance educators should not feel threatened when their students seek supplementary training but should instead encourage it. When students begin to explore the bigger world of dance, they do so because they are passionate about the artform. The original dance educators get to claim credit for instilling this passion and providing these students with a lifelong gift that is more important than any technical training could ever be.