If you are an athlete, you have a training regimen. Sometimes you may have a nutrition guideline to follow. And that is no different for the Knicks City Dancers, you know, the other athletes in Madison Square Garden. Monica Lorenzo, Athletic Trainer for the Knicks City Dancers, shared with me her passion for protecting and improving the optimal health and wellness for her dancers, as well as what drives her to do so.
As a young dancer, Monica always believed she would be a professional dancer. Yet the fear of a career ending injury sparked her interest in physical therapy as an alternate career option. While attending LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and the Performing Arts in New York, she met the Radio City Rockettes Assistant Athletic Trainer while interning at a physical therapy clinic. As a result, Lorenzo learned athletic training was her calling. Lorenzo received her Athletic Training Degree from SUNY Stony Brook in 2008. “Growing up as a dancer, cross-training was never part of the experience. We would dance different genres, but never trained our muscles in other ways, and this is why I became fascinated with working in the performance arts as an athletic trainer.”
Interning with Radio City as a college sophomore, she learned first hand what it means for a dancer to care for his/her body. Different functional movements access different muscles, enhancing output in performance. Having seen careers end because a dancer lands incorrectly or has not received the proper cross training, Lorenzo’s life work is to provide performers with the care and education she never had. “Pushing through is not always the right answer. The balance of dance training, cross-training, and mental health is something you have to work at everyday.”
How does she train the Knick City Dancers?
Strength and Conditioning – From the moment they are hired, they start a one-on-one program designed by Lorenzo, which incorporates a three-five days a week at home workout. It is not unusual to find an incredibly talented dancer who cannot do a functional squat or needs to work on core stability. By pre-screening the performers through testing musculoskeletal strength, flexibility, and functional movement, she can address issues and provide them each a personal strength program that focuses on a total body workout in one hour or less. She implements pilates and cardio moves such as running, rowing, elliptical, and intervals on the bike. (Implementation of personalized programs has reduced injuries by 50% in the past 9 years) All programs work in conjunction with each dancer’s individual lifestyle, taking into account their daily activity levels. Lorenzo’s goal is to maintain an optimal balance of training in order to gain the most strength and power without compromising the quality of their performance which may lead to injury.
In addition, twice a week the Knicks City Dancers meet for a group strength and conditioning class led by Lorenzo.
Proper Sleep. First, let’s talk sleep debt. She advises her dancers to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night and cautions not to attempt catching up missed sleep in one day, “Sleep debt is similar to a credit card. Sleeping in on one Saturday cannot recoup two weeks of bad sleep. You can pay back your principal sleep by adding one hour, per one hour of sleep time lost throughout the week until you have reached your balance of time loss/total needed sleep.” Lorenzo advises her dancers that reaching optimal sleep hours is more important than an early morning workout or a night out with your friends. Your body is fully recovering when it is sleeping. If you are not getting enough sleep, you are not gaining muscle strength or muscle enhancement. Sometimes you need to forego the workout to give your body the rest it needs, and not put your wellness in harm’s way. Tip: Look ahead at your calendar and schedule sleep time as you would any meeting or appointment.
Turning Off The Phone. Cutting down smartphone screen time before bed is only one example of how Lorenzo helps maintain optimal health for her dancers. “It is important to cut off screen time at least one hour before bed.” Lorenzo also practices meditation and breathing techniques
with her dancers to aid in stress reduction and sleep aid.
Nutrition. Keeping an open conversation with her dancers about nutrition is also important, creating basic meal plans for each that have a proper balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. “Many don’t realize they are eating a high sugar diet or not processing the protein correctly. Protein loading can be more harmful than helpful, as more than 20 grams at a time may not be processed correctly. Also, consuming complex carbs or food with higher sugar levels in the morning is a better time.”
Tip: Hydration is important, drink water throughout the day. The rule of thumb – ½ of your body weight in ounces + 1 ounce per 30 minutes of strenuous exercise.
Lorenzo was kind enough to share her at home tea recipe to decrease inflammation and aid in digestion.
8oz Hot Water
Half of Lemon
1 Tbsp of Turmeric
Capful of Apple Cider Vinegar
Dash of Black Pepper
Other foods that help fight inflammation include: ginger, garlic, beets, and bok choy.
What advice does she have for dancers? You are an athlete. You need to train like one.
Many dancers get a warmup, but skip the cool down. To recover properly, you must cool down. The Knicks City Dancers cool down includes: jogging in the studio for two minutes, static stretching, and use of a foam roller.
Television shows such as So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing With The Stars, and America’s Got Talent have heightened awareness that dancers are elite athletes. Even Under Armor, Gatorade, and Nike showcase dancers as spokesmodels. Yet, there is one thing missing from these shows and at competitive dance competitions across the country, athletic trainers on-site. Could Misty May-Treanor avoided tearing her achilles on the show if a trainer had been there? Lorenzo feels an on-site Athletic Trainer may have helped ease her achilles into performing in heels and on a surface her body is not normally used to, by using prevention techniques such as manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, and custom dance shoe orthotics to properly stabilize the foot and ankle. Athletic trainers in the arts work closely with costume designers to modify performers’ shoes as do those working with traditional athletes, i.e. changing the spike on a football player’s cleats to adjust to different surfaces. Since May-Treanor’s body had not been trained for that type of movement, especially switching from flats to heels so often, a prevention model may have helped. Having an on-site athletic trainer is essential for assessment when injuries do occur.
Lorenzo hopes to raise more awareness in the performing arts world of the importance of balance and overall wellness with encompassed care provided by an athletic trainer.