My exposure to dance followed years of training as a gymnast. Gymnastics was about discipline. It was about pushing harder, faster, farther. It was about pushing through boundaries be they pain, flexibility, fractured bones, strained tendons and ligaments. I was built by gymnastics to be a warrior. Someone who could shut down the signals in my brain and body that told me to stop and listen carefully. As a young, rubbery, not easily destructible person, this wasn’t a good thing, but it was survivable.
In the long run, this approach to training is dangerous and sets up the body for disaster in later years. It trains the mind to think that pain is normal. It makes pain seem less alarming than it should be. It makes it so that responding to and respecting the pain seems abnormal. It breaks the body down in a way that comes back later in life if not chronically from a young age. My ability to tolerate pain is disturbing. I can carry on in extreme pain without anyone being the wiser, except those that know me well. I remember so many of us having extreme injuries and still training. My body is used to that into adulthood as well. I have to reason with myself that pain isn’t normal in order to get myself in to be checked out by any medical practitioner. The fear that accompanies that type of visit has me talking myself out of actually making it to a clinic in a timely manner. If I wait long enough, everything will be better, I always assure myself.
As we get older, being able to have a paradigm shift from that type of intense training into one that is kinder may make us feel like we are getting soft or losing our edge. It really isn’t. It is more about us getting smarter and more intuitive. Wisdom comes with age and gaining the insight that injuring ourselves regularly is not a wise choice, is part of the aging process. I am starting to realize that I am lucky to be able to train the same or harder than those a decade my junior. I want to be able to continue to do so for the next decade and the one after that. To achieve that, I have to train smarter. I have to use my body in a way that gets results with minimal injury. This is easier said than done.
Coming from a gymnastics background where you push until you literally break is a different style of training compared to how I approach now. I need to make sure I am not being forceful in my movements. I need to watch that I am using proper and efficient technique. I need to be mindful of areas that are more prone to injuries. My achilles tendon is literally my achilles heel. We all have our thing. Be careful in your training in your current youth – I wasn’t and I wish I was because it would make a difference for me now.