Summer intensives are an enormous investment of a dancer’s time, energy, and money. Intensives offer dancers an incredible opportunity to sharpen their technical skills while also providing the potential for future studies in a full-time program. New teachers, new choreographers, and new peers broaden a dancer’s network and help to create relationships that last a lifetime.
But these opportunities also come with challenges. First and foremost, summer intensives can be rife with disordered eating. New habits surrounding goals for weight loss, “healthy” eating, and/or achieving an idealized body can sacrifice a dancer’s well-being and increase their risk for injury. And while these behaviors can happen at any time throughout a dancer’s training, the competitive environment of summer intensives makes it more susceptible.
If you’re enrolled in a summer dance intensive, then chances are you’re dancing above your baseline. Mornings of classes are followed by afternoons of rehearsals. During this extreme level of training, the body expends higher levels of energy when compared to a dancer’s year-round schedule. This increased energy demand comes alongside a greater need for fuel. Food is the body’s fuel. Without enough of it, you’ll experience depletions in energy, inability to concentrate, injury, and burnout. To optimize your summer dance experience, steer clear of under-fueling and consider these tips:
#1: Plan Your Snacks
Since summer schedules often take dancers into the studio from morning to night, it’s critical to consider convenient snacks that are both packable and easily accessible even during a 2-minute bathroom break. If you’re residing in a dorm, fill your room with options that are lacking in the cafeteria. For more support on living in a dorm, check out this article. Individual bags of nuts, pretzels, trail mix, and bars are examples. For packaged options, identify whole ingredients, such as nuts, seeds, fruit, veggies, and grains. These will provide quality sources of nutrients to fuel your movement.
Want a TTP favorite? Prep a serving of sunflower seed butter into a baggie with sliced apples and pretzels. The pair replenishes your energy and keeps you satisfied until your next meal. … Don’t forget a napkin! For more tips on snack prep, check out my Guide to Summer Intensives!
#2: Focus on Food Flexibility
As I’ve discussed previously on the blog, “food flexibility allows dancers to adapt to an ever-changing food environment. The more flexible you are in your food choices, the more willing you are to move through life’s vast experiences with agility and ease.”
This is especially helpful for dancers living in dorms. Since the cafeteria will be your first choice for meals, you’ll need to be flexible with their offerings (which can sometimes be limited). Utilize The Healthy Dancer Food Flexibility Algorithm to identify options that will support your whole being- without getting trapped in the mindset of “clean” eating. You’ll learn how to prioritize food as nourishment while still implementing nutrition education but in a less obsessive way.
#3: Prioritize Breakfast
If you’re commuting to the studio, you may find it challenging to sit for a full meal. Regardless, don’t skip breakfast. It’s incredibly important to replete glycogen stores (these deplete naturally while we sleep). Not only will you support your energy, but you’ll sharpen your concentration in class. Be realistic and plan ahead: keeping a few items in your dorm or at home will be helpful for mornings when time is limited. Pair bars with a shake (store-bought shakes like Orgain are great as well as homemade smoothies). These options will also keep you hydrated, another key component that will support your summer dance schedule (read more about building a hydration plan here).
Think Big and Ask for Help
Utilize your summer as a way to maximize your dance training. Nutrition will play a key role, as will your overall relationship to food. Reach out to a professional, such as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, if you’re struggling to find a balance between the studio and your plate. Online resources can provide convenient help even during your busiest days.