There are so many issues that come into play after an injury or a break from training. Whatever the reason for the break – school, work, family – whether the reason was positive or negative, after a long break, it can be super hard to get back to the barre. Weight gain, fear of lost skills, calendars that quickly fill up and over those hours that we once spent dancing, muscles tighten, and injuries that still hurt.
But muscles do have memory, more than we give them credit. Weight will come back off over time. Our schedule will open up to fit a class and then another and then another. We learn to work with the changes after an injury, and sometimes it even makes us better if we give it enough room and effort. But we do have to figure out how to self-motivate and self-inspire a grand return.
Calendar, calendar, calendar. Schedule the class and put it on your calendar. It’s truly half the battle because once you’ve booked the class, everything else is just follow through. I like to pay for a package, schedule my classes, write it on my calendar a month or more ahead. Once I’ve paid for it and made the commitment, even when I’m not feeling it, I’m much more likely to follow through. Especially if I book classes with a friend, you never want to let a ballet pal down.
Go shopping! New dance gear inspires and encourages. I do love a new leotard, dance skirt, maybe some new warmers to make me excited to get to class. Something pretty drives me right to the barre. I also love to shop for ballet gear when I travel so having a dance-related souvenir is not only special in class but brings back all those great vacation feels.
Be real and realistic. If you’ve been out of class for a length of time, especially for an injury, it’s a really good idea to let your teacher know. When I first went back after my foot injury, I had to be really careful and couldn’t do everything every class. It was important for my teacher to know so that he could keep an eye on me and adjust the exercises here and there. Also just letting him know that I hadn’t really worked out much so I was feeling tight and slow and chubby helped him help me set the pace wisely and move back well and not push too much or too hard. Discouragement from expecting too much too soon isn’t a good thing.
Set a good and reasonable (reachable) pace. When I went out due to injury, I was taking multiple classes almost every day of the week. It was great. But I was out for years and a lot changed during that time. Even though I wanted to jump back in with both feet and start signing up classes left and right, I couldn’t. That was HARD. I wanted to dance, but it was really important that I paced myself carefully at first and then increased the pace slowly but surely so that I can keep dancing… forever.
Depending on the injury, go back to the basics. I had a foot injury so even though I could almost start back where I had left off in terms of the level of difficulty of my classes, I started over. From the beginning. It worked for the best because I had to learn how to dance on the damaged foot in a new way and since you use both feet for ballet, I had to learn how to deal with both feet in a new way. Sometimes starting over is a great opportunity to work deeper and develop stronger.
Call in your people. There is nothing like your ballet gang whether it’s there in class or on social media, ballet peeps are the best. Let them know what you’re going through, and you can bet that you will get some serious and much-needed encouragement and accountability. A great come back will almost always be accompanied by a great group of friends. Let your people be there for you, it will mean the world to you.
“Even if you did nothing for months, you can return to peak fitness eventually. It might take longer, but that’s okay. Your sanity and life enjoyment are more important than a couple of weeks of missed training here or there.”
All will be well. Let’s dance!