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Emily Giacalone, modeled by Nicole Kennedy of Marymount Manhattan College

We get it: Dance is exhausting, and sometimes all you want to do during a quick break is, well, nothing. Bill Evans, director of the Evans Somatic Dance Institute, recommends the following options, which are both relaxing and recuperative for the stresses dance puts on your body. From energizing restorative poses to deep breathing, here are five ways to make your downtime work for you.

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Dancer Health

You've seen them: dancers, still recovering from a holiday food coma, shuffling into class in a woozy, post-vacation stupor. (You may even know the feeling yourself.) It's all they can do to make it through their classes, and by day two, they're stiff, sore and moaning about it.

“Winter break is the worst," says Rubén Graciani, chair of dance and associate artistic director, Conservatory of Performing Arts, at Point Park University. Not many students take a January intensive, and with no school for about four weeks, it's just long enough to fall seriously out of shape—especially if dancers aren't cross-training.

“The biggest thing is stamina," he says. “Jumping into that schedule—11 to 13 technique classes a week—it's really hard on their bodies."

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Dancer Health
Sebastian Grubb (left) is a fitness trainer and teaches dance in the San Francisco Bay Area. Photo courtesy of Grubb

If your students are going to class regularly, they're probably in great shape, right? Most likely! However, even the most well-rounded dance class schedule can leave some gaps in overall physical fitness. "Any athlete should cross-train, especially ones who spend a lot of time doing one particular modality," says trainer Sebastian Grubb.

Here, he shares three areas of fitness your students might not be addressing.

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Dancer Health
Sebastian Grubb (right) runs Sebastian's Functional Fitness in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Grubb

From improved aerobic capacity to better reactivity, cross-training can to do wonders for dancers' health and performance. But with the abundance of exercise programs available, how do you get your dancers on the right routine?

Sebastian Grubb, a San Francisco–based fitness trainer and professional dancer, shares three questions to ask as you consider different cross-training options.

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Dancer Health
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I am on summer break right now, and I am worried about losing some of the strength that I gained last year. Do you know of anything I can do during my time off to maintain my leg, back, core and arm strength? Is swimming good for strength training?

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Photo by Kyle Froman

What happens to your perfect ballet posture can be alarming. Anneliese Burns Wilson, founder of ABC for Dance, recommends accepting the inevitable and offers some help for two common changes.

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Biking develops strength in the quadriceps and glutes. Working at a lower resistance will enable dancers to avoid building bulky muscles.

An elliptical gives you an intense cardio workout without the impact on your joints. Adjustments to the incline and resistance can add variety to the workout.

Pilates stabilizes the core and targets specific muscle groups for increased strength and flexibility.

Swimming’s gravity-free environment allows you to build strength and endurance without putting pressure on the joints.

Yoga helps elongate muscles while strengthening them, and can be especially helpful for developing stability in the muscles of the feet.

Photos: Thinkstock

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Wearable fitness trackers like the Fitbit can track your step count, heart rate, sleep patterns, dietary habits and the number of stairs you climb per day. But are they really an ideal exercise incentive? In a recent study, women who used Fitbits demonstrated an increase in healthy decision-making with regards to diet and exercise, such as taking longer routes to get more steps in or ordering less takeout. However, many reported experiencing guilt when they couldn’t meet their goals. That guilt takes a toll: More than 50 percent of those who buy fitness trackers stop using them; a third discard them within six months.

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Don't miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

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