By Kristin Yancy
There’s nothing quite like being twenty. As a twentysomething myself, I may be biased, but it seems as though society has never been quite so absorbed with the particular brand of youth that falls just between your college graduation and your wedding date. This fixation is rooted in a clash of opposing ideas: the assumption that any age beginning with the number 2 ought to be characterized first and foremost by spontaneity and a certain joie de vivre, and somehow at the same time must also be considered a crucial jumping off point, one which will affect the successes and failures of a person’s future life. If you’re not a vivacious, yet work driven, impeccably dressed networking expert, with a promising career ahead of you and also a work schedule flexible enough to allow your frequent-but-impromptu evening outings (which you will of course blog about later for the benefit of your already growing fan base), well, then, you may have some work to do sister.
The images are everywhere: the media, your family get-togethers, the bookshelves at Barnes and Noble, all of them full of expectations for the fledgling grown ups among us. And while I do believe that it is (almost) always helpful to ‘have the conversation,’ the growing hodgepodge of editorials and statistics and self help books are enough to make even the most rational and responsible young person feel a little lost. To add then to this mix the realities of life as a professional dancer, a career based in unpredictability, the occasional emotional roller coaster, and a strict budget, and you’d be hard pressed not to feel overwhelmed by the thought of successfully navigating your twenties.
It was a relief, then, to do the research for this week’s health post– a post that originally was supposed to be dedicated to activities we can do as twentysomethings to ensure good health in our 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. What I found when I began to browse health articles online was a series of exercises and practices that we as dancers already have built into our schedule. It dawned on me that perhaps this week the healthiest thing for me to write would not include a “top 5” list or a quick rundown of health facts, but should instead focus on the positives of what it is we do every day as performing artists.
The facts don’t lie. A healthy, active lifestyle in your youth can help alleviate risk for a laundry list of serious health concerns as you grow older. But it goes beyond that. For women, the shape of the legs are set in the 20s- which means with smart living you can keep those dancer legs for life. Weight bearing activities such as hiking, running, or lower body strengthening (hello, plies), can help improve bone strength at a time when bone mass and density are at their peak, which will in turn minimize the risk of age-related bone loss. Standing, walking, and dancing during the days saves many of us from 40 hours of computer time a week- now associated with hunching and poor posture, and often resulting in neck and back pain. Even the fact that we have chosen this way of life because it is meaningful to us is likely to increase our longevity- people who feel motivated and inspired by their careers often lead happier, healthier, and longer lives than those who do not.
So what can you do to bolster this jump start you already have on so many in the workforce? Don’t smoke. Fill your diet with color. Fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, brown rice and wheat or quinoa pasta, lean meats, grilled fish, low fat cheeses like parmesan, feta, and mozzarella …I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! Snack healthfully. (Feel free to browse the Fly Gyal Health section for yummy tips and suggestions). Don’t overeat, but let yourself have a treat every now and then– dark chocolate is always a good place to start. Surround yourself with friends that make you feel happy and loved. In fact, seek out activities that make you happy in general- and find reasons to be happy during your days. Keep dancing! We the freelancers, we the artists, we the athletes– we’ve got it tough sometimes, but as we press forward on the path towards our futures, it helps to know we are already closer than we think to the lives that we want.