I remember my first tango festival like it was yesterday. I was attending the Denver Labor Day festival with my friend Richard and had no idea what to expect. He prepared me the best he could but I still felt like I was in another world once I walked in. So many classes. I took them all! Every single class. So many hours of milongas! I danced every single moment possible. The only break I had was the evening break scheduled in the event meant for eating. I slept very little. When I returned I needed 2 full days to recover from sleep deprivation and another week to readjust my body to normal activity.
Many of you may have already perfected your action plan for long tango weekends, but for those of you who may be new or rusty, here are some tips that I follow.
1. Get plenty of exercise, rest properly, and eat healthy meals in the week leading up to the event.
Now this one is a general life tip, but it's especially pertinent when you need to be at the top of your game during a tango weekend. Being well-rested, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed going into an event is going to improve your stamina over the long run.
2. If you're new(ish) at this, take all the classes & go to all the milongas!
Go big or go home. Seriously. Don't miss the opportunity to take classes with amazing instructors. You may never have this opportunity again. Also, go to the milongas...and dance! The best way to improve is to get floor time. Yes, this probably means you will tire out before the last tanda is called, and that's ok. Make the most of it but pace yourself as well.
3. Drink plenty of water, eat light meals and snacks, and save the caffeine intake for later.
First thing when you wake up, drink a cup/bottle of water. Make sure you do this often, every 2 hours, or after every class. Also, don't try to cram in a big meal thinking you may not eat again all day. It will make you feel full, tired, and probably less agile. Eat light, eat regularly. The USF Tango Festathon will have healthy snacks throughout the classes and milongas. If you can avoid the caffeine first thing in the morning, do so. It will be much more effective if you wait until you really need it later in the day or evening.
4. Change your shoes.
Hopefully you brought another pair of shoes (especially if you're a follower). The muscles in your feet will get very tired and sore, so it's nice to be able to swap into different shoes that put your foot in a different position, thereby utilizing different muscles. I like to take classes in flats and then dance in heels at the milongas, until my feet are too tired and I change back into flats. For leaders, as long as the shoes are different in terms of shape/make/etc, it will do you good to change as well. Jazz flats are an awesome, inexpensive backup. Your feet will thank you.
If you're feeling very tired, it's ok to give your mind and body a rest. Maybe this means just sitting out during a class and watching instead. Maybe it means taking a power nap. Maybe it means skipping a milonga. Only you know how far to push yourself. I am notorious along the West coast tango scene for skipping a big evening milonga, simply because I'd rather sleep.
Did you know that stretching has a similar effect on you as caffeine? Stretch first thing in the morning, stretch throughout the day, and take time to stretch during the milongas. You don't necessarily need to do a full stretch workout, but remove your shoes and stretch your toes and feet, or stand up and stretch your back and legs. I also highly recommend that everyone take the TANGOFLEX class on Saturday morning. Yes, it's early (9:45am isn't that early). It will help relieve tension in your body from the previous day as well as get blood flowing to all your muscles and prime your body for the long day ahead. You'll seriously do much better in the classes and milongas with this class.
Make time (notice I did not say "find time") to massage and/or soak your feet. Ice soaks and epsom salt baths are amazing tricks. Also, you can simply lie on the floor or a couch with your legs up on the wall or pillows. This helps the fluids that cause swelling to drain away. It also gives your lower back a nice stretch.
Coming next...Mentally Surviving A Tango Fest!