If you’ve ever danced competitively, you know that injuries are a part of the process. I think it’s fair to say I have a wealth of experience in this realm with an injury list as long as my arm. These include shin splints, calf strains, reoccurring back problems due to muscle weakness, ankle sprains, ligament tears and finally a fractured metatarsal. All of my injuries have resulted in me missing Bhangra competitions, and being forced to stop dancing competitively for 2 years. Considering there’s usually only one competitive professional competition a year, this was hard to stomach. But as you can see from the picture, I came back and danced at TBC 2016 and Bhangra Fest 2017 for Ankhile Putt Punjab De.
My advice is this, if you have an injury it’s not worthwhile rushing yourself back because you don’t want to let the team down. At the end of the day, you only have one body and if the team can find a replacement, let them do so. Put yourself to rest and focus only on your rehab. I tried to dance through my pain twice and it didn’t do me any favours; it made my next steps to strengthen and improve even harder. And if you still want to be a part of the team, you can. Watch sessions, give feedback to dancers/team frequently, and ask about other ways you can help on the competition day. I found this to be really useful to my teammates, and even though I couldn’t dance I was still happy to be a part of the journey with them.
To fully recover from an injury seek medical advice. I would not recommend seeing a Doctor. Yes they can be good at the initial diagnosis for a broken bone or muscle strain, but for rehab and muscle relief I suggest seeing a physiotherapist or an osteopath. This helped me a lot, and along with the improvements YouTube has made with visual aids, you can usually find many others ways to tackle your muscle tightness/weakness. Also quick word about sports massages — they’re good but do not rely on them for constant relief or as a way out from your pain. It’s not the answer and becomes pricey very quickly.
Know that if it is early in the process of training and you’re feeling constant tightness in your muscles, you may have an underlying muscle imbalance/ weakness you need to tackle. The sooner you do this, the better you will be as a dancer and as an asset to your team. Never forget the importance of a light warm up, and stretching for at least 30 seconds per muscle before training. The same applies for the end of a session; warm down and stretch whether it’s in the car park or at home. This is crucial to be able to function at the next day’s training.
If you can hack it, ice baths work well too. They can be shockingly cold and tough to endure, but in the run up to any competition I found this to be supremely useful. When dancing from Friday to Sunday for hours on end, this provided a big relief. Don’t get me wrong, the baths are difficult at first, but you learn to love them.
Be warned about overtraining too. On the week of the competition, I wouldn’t suggest doing any hardcore run throughs. A few walk throughs, a few segments with maybe full energy and maybe one full run through in the week to allow you to be as fresh as possible for the competition on the weekend. This may be a shock to some, but I have overtrained in the past and it really showed in my performance on the day where my legs felt shot, and not ready to compete to the best of my availability.
If you have any questions or issues, feel free to get in touch. I’m more than happy to help anyone else who is suffering from something similar. Thanks to Dance Bhangra for allowing me to share my story with them!