After the intensity of an Irish dance practice the last thing you may want to do is hang out at the studio and stretch, but the most important work of your day could take place in the five minutes you take to cool down. Not sure how to cool down properly after an Irish dance practice/competition/performance? Read on!
Unless you live in the tropics, the temperature inside your dance studio is probably nice and toasty compared to that of the rainy outside. You are also probably nice and toasty, coated in a lovely layer of sweat from your hornpipe endurance drills. But shocking your system by jumping from your warm studio to the great outdoors without changing clothes is not good for your body. Bring a pair of stretch pants and a sweatshirt to thrown on as soon as you are done dancing. You want your muscles to stay warm as you stretch them. This is a good rule of thumb for long days of dance as well. If you are not dancing, cover yourself up and keep your muscles warm—especially your legs! This helps avoid injury and helps you dance your best each time.
The worst thing you can do for your body when you just worked it out is plunk down on the floor and sit. Your heart needs to gradually calm down and slowly return to a normal speed. Once your cardio is done for the day, walk around the room, do some releves, swing your legs, do some standing stretches. After you feel your heart rate slow, you can relax.
StretchAfter practice is the best time to stretch your muscles. You always want to stretch when you are the warmest—because there is more blood flow to your muscles, they are nice and flexible and ready to accept lengthening. Stretching fatigues your muscles though-- dancing after you push your stretches is not a good idea. Use your stretches as a way to cool down your body and unwind from class or practice. As an Irish dancer, you should thoroughly stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, hip flexors and calves/achilles, both to increase flexibility in those areas and make sure they don’t get too tight.
Though it may take a few extra minutes at the end of a hard day, your body will thank you for giving it time to cool down properly. Remember, these tips are essential not just at practice, but at competitions and performances as well.
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