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Importance of Rest Days in Irish Dance


As dancers, we often struggle with the idea of taking a “rest day” - a day which is set aside for rest or on which one departs from a normal or usual routine. With the countdown to the next feis or major constantly reminding you how many days are left before you take the stage, taking a full day to not dance seems like the wrong thing to do. More practice = better performance, right?


However, rest days are vital to both your physical and psychological recovery and performance. When utilized properly, this recovery allows you continue training at the highest level possible in preparation for the big day.


Physiological Benefits

When you train, whether you are going to dance class or completing your Target Training workouts, your body breaks down your muscles in order to use the fuel stored in them. With repeated training and insufficient rest periods, your body exhausts its fuel storage and your dance performance (and overall health) is negatively impacted. Allowing yourself time to rest and recover will not only help accelerate muscle regeneration, but will also decrease your overall fatigue and risk for injury (Irvine et al, 2011).



If you’re looking for something to do that’s “dance related” on your rest day, a great activity to include to accelerate your physical recovery is self myofascial release (SMR), rolling with a massage ball or foam roller. SMR can help relieve muscle tightness and soreness that causes restricted range of motion in joints. Additionally, SMR can help increase blood flow to your sore muscles—which means your muscles are getting more of what it needs, like oxygen, while getting rid of what’s causing soreness (Walker, 2016).


Psychological Benefits

Irish dance can be a stressful sport. Not only do we expect our bodies to perform at 100% through long dance classes almost year-round, the psychological stress of preparing for big competitions or even going to dance class takes a toll on our bodies and mind. Pushing through these workouts takes an incredible amount of mental energy—and this energy is just as important to replenish as physical energy. Taking a day to step back from Irish dance and relax will leave you mentally refreshed and ready to come back the next day.

Spend time with friends and family, pursue other hobbies that interest you, read, and enjoy the day off. If you’re looking for a “dance related” activity on your rest day, one that can help improve your mental game is mental imagery. Mental imagery is the process of dancing your rounds, in your head, like you would on stage at your next competition. This allows you to practice getting in the “zone,” so to speak, and mentally learning how it feels to dance each round with perfect technique.


Couple additional notes

  • Celebrate your rest days - If Friday is always your rest day, uou’ll be able to push through your weekly workouts knowing that come Thursday night after dance, it’s your off day! Celebrate and cherish your off day.

  • Don’t sacrifice your off day - When you’re planning out your week, your off day is the one day that should not but up for consideration. Don’t sacrifice your off day. Your body and mind need it not only to recover but to perform at your best.


Remember, taking rest days is all about finding the balance that works best for you. Sometimes what can help your dancing and mentality the most, is a rest day. Become disciplined about honoring your rest day while learning to listen to your body.


Not sure where to start with foam rolling or mental imagery?

Check out the Target Training Online Institute for recorded guides to walk you through both! Get a FREE 14-day trial of the Trainer subscription, no code needed. Click HERE to get started!


Happy Training!


Resources

Irvine, S., Redding, E., & Rafferty, S. (2011). Dance Fitness. International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, 2011. Retrieved from: https://www.iadms.org/general/custom.asp?page=303

Walker, O. (2016). Foam Rolling. Science for Sport, 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.scienceforsport.com/foam-rolling/.

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