Injury Prevention – Take a Dance Class

Last weekend I went on a hiking trip to the wilderness area in the mountains of Vermont with JP. The final hike was through some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever hiked in and a part of the famed Long Trail. The previous days’ treks had left us pretty tired but we were excited to finish out the vacation with this particular day’s 10 mile trip.


We were traveling through a forest filled with myriad shades of green moss when we began to hear the distant rumbling of thunder.  We had another 5 miles to go and began to pick up the pace, wanting to avoid the coming rainstorm. Suddenly a rock that I was stepping on moved; I slipped and fell to the ground twisting my ankle.


It was scary and quite painful. I sat keening for about a minute as the pain began to subside. JP encouraged me to drink some water, calm down, and eat an energy bar. Then I began to assess the status of my ankle by rotating the foot in a circle. It wasn’t broken! And though sore and tender to the touch, I also didn’t have a bad sprain.


After a little while, with the thunder motivating us, we decided to move on. I laced my hiking boots tighter and we started back on the path. I was hiking more slowly than normal and began to experiment with different ways to walk as we moved over the changing terrain. Going down a gentle downhill, I found myself stepping on the balls of my feet first, somewhat like walking in toe shoes. Climbing upwards, I pushed off using my calves and legs like I was extending my leg in a kick. Moving this way was instinctive from years of dance training.


Dance is what saved me from having a more serious injury when I unexpectedly fell. My ankle joint was extremely flexible and the muscles and ligaments surrounding the joint were strong and supple. The ankle was used to quick weight changes and had weathered many years of moving in and out of unusual positions. As we continued on our hike, whenever I landed on the foot in a way that caused a jolt of pain to radiate up from the ankle, I focused on moving more like a dancer.


Dance classes can be seen as a way to prevent injuries while participating in rigorous physical activities outside of the dance studio. It is the repetitive weight changes, constant increase in strength and flexibility, and the practiced ability to react quickly to change that builds immunity to breaks and sprains.


JP and I finished the hike with a sense of triumph. Dance had ultimately saved the day! JP had been spared the burden of carrying me the remaining 5 miles of the hike and we both had avoided getting drenched by the rainstorm.


Copyright © 2011, Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.