I did highland dancing from age 4-24... dancing 6 days a week between lessons, practice at home, and competitions. I did other sports... swimming, hockey, netball, but this was my first love. I got to travel a lot with it to Scotland, Canada and Australia and it was a great time of my life. For those not in the know, its a very plyometric-type dance form which requires good anaerobic stamina, flexibility and a very upright posture.
On reflection there are some things that I wished I had done while I danced and this could be applied to others in similar positions:
1) I would have stretched less and foam rolled more, although foam rollers weren't really around then, if I was a dancer today I wouldn't be without mine. All that stretching weakens the muscles and doesn't necessarily prevent injury.
2) I would have spent a lot more time in the gym than on the dancefloor. I think strength is really important for all dance, but particularly highland dancing. I reckon a lot of the injuries I had was because I actually wasn't strong enough for what I was demanding of my body.
3) I would not have danced on concrete floors . Any dancer knows what they feel like the next day after dancing on a hard surface, and I just don't think its worth it... your joints and tendons are more important to you.
4) I would have done Pilates for my core stability. I think it really is an excellent way to develop great core strength with flexibility, particularly when you move onto Reformer work. I personally am not as big a fan of yoga as others are, but I understand their point of view.
5) I wouldn't have 'pushed through' quite so many injuries as I did, as that stuff really does catch up with you when you're older, and a lot of it was probably preventable.
6) I would have focussed more on recovery after a training or competition. Long travel, long days, I just never really worried about doing the right things when I was done. I would have had more ice baths, foam-rolled, used compression
7) I would have trained smarter. I just used to practice every day because thats what I did. I would have made it more goal orientated, had different focusses for different sessions (eg. technique, stamina, elevation etc) instead of working on everything every time I practiced.
8) I would have done other forms of dance, as I think that would have helped every aspect of my highland dancing. I know many others do this, but I wasn't one of them. I did a little Irish dancing but the random nature of it was too much for my brain to handle.
9) I would have got help with my nutrition earlier, I think Highland dancers eat horrendously, some don't eat at all, some eat rubbish and I think this is a major area where things can improve
10) I would have had more regular breaks in training. Sports that involve high amounts of plyometrics take a massive toll on the body, and therefore more regular breaks are needed.