3 Ways to Train Post-Injury

In our business, training is a necessity, a discipline, and a practice. Acting, singing, and dancing are physical practices, requiring consistency and lots of repetition. And if you are in this life for the long haul, it’s very possible that at some point in your career you will become injured. An ankle sprain, a vocal polyp, a slipped disc—it could happen. And when it does, it can throw you off your game, big time. So much so that you might rather exacerbate an injury than stop training or performing. I’ve seen it a million times. But this, my friends, is really freaking stupid. I know we all get FOMO, but you gotta get a grip and breathe in the big picture before you do some real damage. Here are a few tips that can help you turn lemons into lemonade while you’re recovering!

1. Check that ego. In January I slipped a disc in my lumbar spine and was off my feet for two weeks. I couldn’t even sit to write on my computer, let alone move my body, dance, or stretch. It seemed like an eternity. So much happened in my head and I panicked the entire first day thinking, I define myself by my ability to move! I can’t move! My ego was in a tailspin. If I couldn’t move or work, who was I? What purpose was I serving? So there I was, lying on the couch binge-watching “Making a Murderer,” when it occurred to me that my injury was super temporary and I needed to get over myself. My classes were subbed out; everyone who needed to know knew I was out of commission; and I was left with hours of opportunity…to rest and heal.

Once I released the pressure to keep operating as if I were in peak condition, I felt so much better. I napped, reconnected with friends on the phone, had a heart to heart with my business partner, dreamed about the entire year ahead, and defined some goals. I reluctantly accepted that the world could (and would) turn without me. My time off was a tiny (yet necessary) blip on the radar, during which I realized that my classes/social feed/content generation were actually not the center of the universe. Friend, you are not going to miss out on much during your recovery, and if you do, guess what? Life goes on. Everything is temporary. And life is full of opportunity when you allow yourself to be human. Breathe and let that sh*t go.

2. Rock your rest time. Healing time does not have to be wasted time! And lucky for us, our training is multi-faceted. Check out these suggestions for safe ways to keep momentum moving forward when you’re down for the count:

  • The doc prescribes a week of vocal rest, and once you finish freaking out and buy a cute memo pad to serve as your communication motherboard, you can still train with the pieces of your body that still function well. You know what helps your voice and doesn’t require you to speak? Yoga, movement/dance class, stretching, massage, hydration, exploring new (vocal friendly) dietary options with less dairy/caffeine, going to a show, reading a play, expanding your social media presence, tweaking your website, listening to a podcast or even planning your own.
  • You sprain your ankle and are hobbling around in a boot for a while. How can you still stay strong and limber if you can’t walk? Always check with your doc first, but here are a few ideas: pushups on your knees, supine (lying down) abdominal exercises, seated bicep curls/overhead presses/tricep extensions with hand weights, or a good stretch session on the floor.

3. Become an admin to admire. Guys, it’s 2016. There is so much more to establishing a presence in this business than simply taking class and auditioning. In our world of over-saturation and overexposure, true organization and communication are everything. Here are two things you can do while recovering that will definitely further your career in the long term:

  • Write thank you notes to casting directors who cast you, agents who gave you an interview, and auditors who gave you special attention.
  • Commit to keeping an organized calendar for classes, auditions, and self-care. (I use iCal for my computer/phone and I also have this pen-to-paper datebook that makes me so happy.) If you write it down, you’re more prone to keeping your commitments and less prone to overbook yourself (and risk re-injury).

Injury is a pain (no pun intended), but it doesn’t have to be a punishment. In fact, it can be a blessing in disguise. Heal well, get good rest, train creatively, and I’ll see you back in the room in no time.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.
Erika Shannon
Erika Shannon is a choreographer, teacher, and movement coach, working with dancers of all levels, singers, models, and fitness enthusiasts to help them move their bodies with confidence and connect to movement so it makes sense. Her signature online dance program, Don’t Dodge the Dance Call, has been featured in several theatrical publications, including Backstage!