I love a good lazy day as much as the next person. But when I’m told I need to rest or take it easy, suddenly my rebellious, stubborn side comes out and wants to do nothing of the sort. I don’t need rest! I just need to push through and make myself stronger. Ironically, rest is exactly what will help restore and build strength.
Did you know there is a National Sleep Foundation? As our lives become busier and busier and our society’s obsession with being productive increases, some are recognizing how much sleep and rest, or lack there of, can affect our health. Getting a good night’s rest supports your immune system and can help protect you from serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes. For us dancers and other athletes, it’s also essential for giving our bodies the time they need to repair muscles and replenish energy stores.
I knew all this already, but I still find myself fighting against the idea because right now, I’m not as active as I usually am, so it feels like the rest isn’t necessary and I’m wasting time. Nevermind that my body is trying to recover from injury.
In case you’re new (welcome!), let me catch you up. I have chondromalacia patella in both knees, which means the cartilage underneath my knee caps is damaged. I overdid it in a fitness program in the first six weeks of the year and aggravated the condition. Even though my knees were hurting, cracking, popping, etc., I continued going to my dance lessons and Zumba classes after the program ended. Finally last month, I went to see an orthopedist. Two in fact. The first one wasn’t very helpful. The second one was extra helpful and prescribed me physical therapy. The physical therapist recommended I stop Zumba classes for awhile and take it easy in dance. No heels, stick to mostly marking my steps. At the same time, money matters forced me to cut down on my dance lessons to one per week.
So here I am, taking one lesson a week and going to my solo practice only if my knees aren’t bothering me (and stopping once they do start bothering me). At my last solo practice, I only made it about 30 minutes before I couldn’t ignore the ache anymore. Despite holding myself back in my dance lessons, I still leave the studio with achy and/or swelling knees. To put it mildly, I have been feeling rather frustrated.
Then I met up with a friend who is a Reiki practitioner. We went through her signature Reiki healing and energy evaluation (I’ll write up a separate post about my whole experience because I think it’d be great for other dancers!). When both western and eastern medicine are concluding that the thing you need most right now is rest, it becomes harder to deny.
Another thing the Reiki session made me realize is there is an underlying fear that if I stop, I won’t be able to start again. Like somehow the door to the dance world will be shut if I take a temporary leave of absence. I even brought this up to my PT in a different way, as I grilled her about whether I’d be able to do this or that again or if I’ve gone down a road that there’s no coming back from. If you’ve dealt with injury as a dancer, I’m guessing you’ve battled this same fear. I think knee injuries are especially scary. I was listening to another episode of DanceSpeak and the woman being interviewed was talking about her knee injury experience. She had to have surgery after tearing her ACL, and during her recovery, she said she felt so fragile, like her knees would just fall apart at the slightest strain. That’s how I feel! Even just stumbling while walking my dogs made me panic, like my knees were being held together by toothpicks and were just waiting to snap apart.
As a competitive dancer, there is also the fear that if you aren’t constantly showing up and being seen, you’ll be forgotten and have to work your way back up the ranks once you return. Professionals have to contend with this more than pro-am students, of course, but it is a reality that you have to work harder to show the judges what you can do if you haven’t been competing for awhile, compared to someone whom the judges saw just two weeks ago at a different competition. At least for me, no matter when I compete next, it will be my first competition at the Open level, so no one has seen yet what I can do there.
It’s almost time for me to leave for solo practice, so I’ll wrap this up. I think I’ve reached a more amicable place regarding allowing my body to rest and heal. I posted on social media earlier this week that dancing less does not make me less of a dancer. I’m holding onto that truth and committing to being better about listening to the orthopedist, physical therapist AND Reiki expert who are all telling me the same thing. Rest!
Happy Passover and Easter to everyone who celebrates! I’m taking a little vacation this coming week, so the next blog post may be delayed. Appropriate timing, right? I think it will be easier to rest when I’m actually on vacation, instead of in my normal routine.
Now it’s off to practice. Check social media later (links on the side bar) to see how it went.
Let me know in the comments what you’re working on in your solo practice this week!