As THON weekend is approaching faster than we think, and as today is the 100 Days ’til THON 2014 celebration, Valley asked for some words of wisdom from past THON dancers on how to prepare for the 46-hour dance marathon.
Breanna Jacobs, who danced in 2013 for ComRadio, says walking “helped [her] keep up [her] endurance during THON and helped with the pain of being on your feet for 46 hours.”
“I didn’t start feeling pain in my knees and feet until Sunday morning and I attribute that to all the walking I did leading up to THON,” she says.
Erin O’Toole, who danced in THON 2013 for Gamma Sigma Sigma, says she went to the gym everyday for almost two hours. “Making sure your muscles are not tight is super important because it can help with cramping during the weekend,” she says.
Michelle Ahrens, who danced in 2012 for LIFE House, says walking backward while on the floor helped relieve some of the pain because it engages different muscles than walking forward.
“Make sure you participate in every line dance, different activities and exercises that they make you do. As tired you may be, it keeps you loosened up, it keeps you from cramping,” Katie Patschke,who danced in 2011 for LIFE House, says.
O’Toole says she stopped consuming alcohol and caffeine nine weeks beforehand.
“As a self-proclaimed caffeine addict, it was really hard to give up my coffee and diet coke,” she says. In addition to ditching caffeine, alcohol, simple sugars and junk food, she drank between 10-12 glasses of water a day and took multivitamins regularly.
Making sure to eat while on the dance floor is also important, Ahrens advises. That way, dancers can keep their energy levels high enough to get through the weekend.
“No staying out late and socializing,” O’Toole says. “You need to sleep for 9-10 hours a night for the weeks leading up to THON weekend. I can honestly say that because I slept so much leading up to THON, I was so well rested I did not get tired the entire weekend.”
Patschke says she made sure she slept for eight hours at night before hitting the floor, which helped her stay healthy.
“You can’t be sick as a dancer, just because of the nature of the event, but also knowing that you need to feel your best going in. It’s a tough weekend. It’s definitely not the easiest thing I’ve done,” Patschke says.
“What you’re doing is so incredibly selfless and inspiring, and the whole journey is extremely emotional, but in a good way,” O’Toole says. “Stay positive the whole weekend, even at the low moments! I’m a big believer in positive minds accomplishing positive things. Never let your thoughts drift towards why your feet hurt, why your shins burn or why you are so tired. Think about why you are on that dance floor and motivate yourself to keep going.”
Ahrens agrees. She says she “had hallucinations and times when [her] head was sort of clouded,” which made her beat herself up. But she says it’s not the dancer’s fault that he or she is not alert the entire time, because he or she is in an extremely sleep-deprived state. “Don’t get mad at yourself,” Ahrens says.
“Remember why you are dancing and why you are there…it’s an event about the kids and it’s for the kids, not for you to see your friends. While it’s hard to get through the event without having your physical support person but there are plenty of other people who are there on the floor to support you,” Patschke, says. “Take advantage when the THON families are there. Get to know them. There are committee members on the floor all the time. And also when you can’t have the people you want on the floor, know that there are still tens of thousands of people there supporting you.”
Enjoy every moment
“Interact with other dancers, participate in activities and play with the kids. Do everything you can to make it the best weekend of your life,” Jacobs says.
“Take advantage of all the amazing things you are going to see and experience and be grateful for it. Your friends and family are going to blow you away by showing how much they care about you, don’t forget to thank them for it. There are going to be so many kids smiling and forgetting about their pain for just one weekend, go pick up a water gun or beach ball and play with them. You are going to want to cry during family hour or mail call, let yourself,” O’Toole says. “All of these experiences are so unique to THON weekend and you need to enjoy all of it.”
Photo by Jonathan Hsieh (during THON 2013)