TCU Magazine: Training and Technique Help Improve Performance and Stave off Injury

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Professionals in dance, music and sports rely on the health and agility of their bodies to maintain long careers.

by Trisha Spence

Note: This story originally appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of TCU Magazine.

The human body is an intricate organism composed of muscle groups, bones, organs and a nervous system all working in harmony. The human body is also the source of work for dancers, athletes and musicians.

Such careers depend on the health, function and agility of the body. The professionals’ bodies are their livelihoods.

What does optimal health look like in these professionals? What happens when, not if, something goes awry? With this body work comes an entire sector of experts and researchers who focus on preventing injuries and improving performance.

“It is the oddity of each player, each dancer, each artist that makes them so good at what they’re good at,” said Michelle Tyer Heines ’91 (MFA ’96), a movement expert and strength trainer who owns Optimal Performance Group in Tyler, Texas.

No two bodies are alike, she said, and the way someone is built can make that person more likely to be talented in a particular activity.

Heines cautions athletes not to rely on talent alone. Just because someone is doing something well doesn’t mean that person is doing it “right” or in a healthy, sustainable way. She also issues a warning: “Everything done too much is an invitation to disaster.” But that’s precisely what these professionals do: A musician practices for hours, ballet dancers move through dozens of pliés and tendus at the barre, and athletes run drill after drill.

Kristen Queen, interim director of TCU’s School of Music, leads the class Yoga for Musicians to encourage students to learn their bodies as much as they learn their instruments. Photo by Ross Hailey

“What if at 45 minutes I’m experiencing pain? What do I do? That conversation isn’t happening,” said Kristen Queen ’19 EdD, interim director of the School of Music. “Over time, because we know this is our discipline — this is what we want to do, either right now or long term as a profession — there’s a propensity to say, ‘I will do anything I need to in order to be successful.’

“We are also saying that message to ourselves internally and so perhaps blocking out receptors saying, ‘This is good,’ ‘This is OK,’ or ‘This is painful.’ I find sometimes that students will get into patterns, and this [was] true of me when I was in college, of sort of the no pain, no gain mentality, which is, in some cases, still kind of alive and well.”

Queen, Heines and other trainers, therapists and teachers are trying to break through that mentality.

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