Meet Mr. Plague. He wants to hurt you, but he's too small to see. So you'll have to outsmart him!

Have you heard of the Herrang Plague? The Lindy Focus Plague? After any big, crazy dance event, lots of people get sick. For those of us who can’t afford to be sick, hate being sick, or just prefer to be productive, here’s how to avoid the plague.

There are plenty of little things you can do to support your immune system. These are the things we normally think of (vitamin C, drinking water, etc.).

But there are 3 important, non-negotiable rules to staying at peak health during a dance event:

Rule #1: Don’t over-dance.

Over-dancing happens when you do more physical activity than normal. You begin to feel sluggish and fatigued. Your muscles and joints are sore. You may exhibit symptoms of overtraining.

Why it hurts: Excessive physical activity temporarily decreases your immune system function. You’re not allowing your body adequate time to recover.

What to do: Estimate how much dancing + other physical activity you do in a week. Divide by 7. Don’t dance more than than that in one day**. Don’t do any heavy workouts within 3 days of the event. Take consistent breaks and listen to how your body feels.

“But Rebecca, it’s a big dance event, and I want to dance my brains out!!”

That’s cool, no one is stopping you. Just be aware that dancing above your current capacity is going to cost you, bit by bit. Balance that against how much you’re benefiting from all that dancing.

BUT WAIT! I have a fabulous alternative option: Get in better shape! If you want to dance more and get sick less, there’s simply no other way.

**This number has wiggle room, but only if you normally do more intense workouts than dancing. For example, a 20 minute high-intensity workout might be about equal to 30 minutes of dancing.

Rule #2: Get lots of good-quality sleep.

I sleep anxiously in foreign places. That plus the adrenaline kick of dance event excitement means my sleep can be seriously derailed. Every time I’ve gotten sick at or after an event, I’ve been at least partially sleep deprived.

Why it’s good: Sleep is the Holy Grail of recovery for dancers at events. Piss-poor sleep robs you of that, according to this article. “Recent studies have found that sleep deprivation can have affects such as slowed glucose metabolism (main source of energy for exercise), raised cortisol (a stress hormone) levels, and decreased human growth hormone (HGH) which is needed for tissue repair.”

Plus (and you saw this coming), bad sleep is like punching your immune system in the gut.

What to do: Never go into an event already sleep-deprived. At the event, sleep 8-9 hours or more per night. Take naps if you are groggy. Find out what you need to improve your sleep. Some things that work for me:

  • Hydrating before bed.
  • Ear plugs and an eye mask to block out light.
  • A good pillow.
  • Proper temperature in the room.
  • Deep breathing or meditation to calm down.

Rule #3: Literally avoid the plague.

Following Rules 1 and 2 will take you 70-80% of the way to staying healthy. However, you’re still coming into contact with lots of germs from all over the country.

Why it’s good: Duh, germs are what make you sick. No germs = no sick.

What to do: Avoid germs. Kill ’em. Have no mercy.

  • Don’t dance with people who are sick. Don’t share drinks or food with anyone. Better safe than sorry!
  • Wash your hands every hour. Don’t touch your face until they are clean! Use hand sanitizer for times when washing is inconvenient. Always wash your hands before eating.
  • Take vitamin C. This study shows it reduces infection in people who are under conditions similar to a dance event.
  • Stay hydrated.

Learning the Hard Way

I didn’t pull these rules out of nowhere. I had the pleasure of discovering them the hard way.

At the biggest event of my life, I broke every rule. Guess what happened? The universe rewarded my insubordination by giving me the swine flu. And that’s just one of my many instances of failure. I also got sick on New Year’s Eve at Lindy Focus VIII. That was zero fun.

Note: Some people are machines. They can dance hard 16 hours a day, sleep a meager 4 hours a night, and eat nothing but fast food. Don’t compare yourself to them; they are NOT the norm.

After trying to be a dance machine for several years (something I’m not), I’ve finally realized it’s not worth getting sick. So if I’m not dancing my face off next time you see me, you’ll understand why.

Story time! What’s the worst plague you ever got at a dance event? What did you learn from the experience?