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  • Jennifer Milner

Staying Healthy During Nutcracker Season

It's Nutcracker season, which means everyone's been sick of "Waltz of the Flowers" music since October, you are buying toe tape by the literal ton, and free time? What is that??

There's more than just a Sugarplum Fairy waiting in the wings these days, though; there's also a host of germs and bugs and fatigue injuries just waiting to hit you. What's a poor Snowflake to do? While nothing can guarantee you a long and healthy Nutcracker run, follow these few steps to increase your odds of never missing an entrance:

First, get plenty of rest. Don't laugh, I'm serious. I mean it, stop laughing! Ok, so we know there's no rest for the weary or the Snow corps, but do your best. That means turning off Netflix a bit earlier and saying "no" to hanging with your friends for "just a little bit" after the show. Say "yes" to less stuff - try to whittle your day-to-day down to the essentials, and turn down that extra White Elephant party, fun though it might be. Studies have conclusively shown that constructive rest is a REAL thing (see Mom! She's not just being lazy!) and your body needs time to recharge. Don't spend your day off running around - shop online instead of at the mall, read a book, lie down while laundry is running. Your body truly needs a chance to heal.

Second, warm up. I know you know, and I know you know I know you know. But it has to be said again. You can't walk onstage and start running the Act 2 diverts cold. Seriously. Your muscles need to warm up, whether that means easy stretching, rolling your body out, marking through things slowly to get up to speed, etc. And give yourself an intentional barre - a warm-up barre is different than a technique class and should be aimed at getting your body ready to perform. Be at the theatre in plenty of time to give your body the deliberate attention it needs.

Third, eat well. Pack small snacks you can grab easily during rehearsal breaks or run-throughs and keep yourself fueled. You don't have a lot of time to eat, so choose wisely how you're going to fuel yourself: a candy bar and a protein bar take the same amount of time to eat, but will serve you vastly differently. And staying hydrated is a big part of this, too; drink plenty of water (timed to coincide with costumed bathroom breaks, ahem) or even water alternatives. I am a big fan of coconut water when I feel my body tissues starting to dehydrate; others like Smart Water for its similar properties. "Powerade" type drinks are another alternative, though most contain a lot of extra chemicals and sugars you don't need.

Fourth, respect your body's limits. This is not the time to push yourself and keep working on that new trick you haven't got yet: it's the time to maintain your instrument for the job at hand. Don't overstretch to get that extra inch in your penché, or work on the quad pirouette at 11 p.m. Take a long bath with mineral salts. Get a massage. Your body needs attention - give it!

Fifth, listen to your body when it talks to you. Not sure if you're body's talking to you? Trust me, you'll know. Ankle feeling twinge-y? Stomach feeling upset? Back aching? Hey, I'm as big a fan of procrastination as the next girl, but hear me now and believe me later, the sooner you listen to your body, the smaller the issue will be. Check in with your PT; set up a session with your chiropractor; call your mom for some chicken soup. Maybe you just need to rest and roll out; but maybe you've got something going on that is demanding more attention. Listen to your body when it's whispering so that it doesn't have to shout.

Look, none of the things on this list should be a surprise. We all know what we're supposed to do, right? There's no magic bullet for beating Nutcracker fatigue and winter germs. But follow these common-sense rules, and hopefully your trip to the Land of the Sweets won't send you home with a head cold or injury as a parting gift.

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