With the arrival of the new year everyone seems keen to leave the overindulgence of the festive season behind and embark on a new fitness regime. Even as a dancer you may feel the need to freshen up your fitness routine, so will you join the crowds heading to the gym or choose to tailor your dance workout instead?
Now, I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I do believe in planning to achieve any goals.
Also, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t go to the gym, which in fact can be a great supplement to your dance regime, but you can also very much shimmy and chase yourself fitter and stronger. Here’s how…
Not only does dance work all your major muscles your body, it also improves coordination, flexibility and strength. Dance, especially the low impact kind like belly dancing, is gentle on the joints, yet powerful in building muscles. It’s also good for the soul – as the concentration needed helps you come out of your headspace and into your body. Consider it a moving mediation, hence why it’s great in reducing stress as well as toning the body. See more below.
Dancing should include aerobic exercises or movements in order to also raise your breathing and heart rate. If you don’t get this in your dance class/routine, supplement by attending aerobic classes or take up running or cycling (the later will be better for your joints if you’re struggling with impactful exercise).
Jumping, swaying and turning will all add to raising your heart rate. According to Barbara Craddock you can lose about 396 calories an hour dancing Salsa or Ballroom, whilst slower forms of dancing will burn about 216 calories per hour.
Classes which teach good core technique will help you build muscle quicker, and dancing as part of a group will not only help your coordination and concentration, but also bring extra fun into the equation.
Make sure you always warm up prior to dancing. I know many people, including dancers, who never do. But not only will it help you prepare your muscles to move more efficiently, but it can also help prevent injury.
Including squats into your warm up is a great way to both build muscle too. You can keep it simple, or add more advanced arms to make it harder and more challenging. Or you can even dance it, khaleegy style, to make it seem less ‘work-out-ish’.
After taking up regular exercise people often reach a level where they no longer see any changes or impacts on their body, also known as plateauing. It’s most common in exercises where the same routine is applied every time, but dancing will always be different, so you’re unlikely to encounter this.
There will be new moves and new combination to keep it fresh, and hopefully also new music and choreographies that will help prevent boredom. If you do find that you’re constantly doing the same routines or combinations, then speak to your teacher. A good dance teacher should always make sure the content changes and is suitable to students dance level, but at the same time they should also be challenged. I normally say “If you can do it the first time around, I didn’t make it hard enough.”
It can be fine line between challenging and not, also for the teacher, so do feed back, and don’t be afraid to go explore other dance styles and teachers. You may find that you need that added challenge, and you never know what it may lead to, such as finding a new style you never knew existed or even performing at new events.
As a dancer you never stop learning, so when others cancel their gym membership, find yourself exploring styles at festivals or dance holidays instead.
Dancing has been named the best way to exercise, because it combines so many things from muscles building to improving coordination and memory. But it’s also the only exercise form that will allow you self-expression – and I’m not talking through what you wear, but how you conduct the moves.
Research has shown the benefits of this. Your mood and interpretation of the music can help you decide how you want to make a move, or combination of movements, your own. By linking in to your own feelings, you will connect with yourself in a way that promotes self-awareness and heightened self-esteem. It will not only help you feel better in the moment, but also help lift your spirit for hours or even days afterwards. Try observing how you’re feeling after your next dance class, and also how you feel when you haven’t been dancing for a while.
Loosing yourself in the music will literally lift your spirit, and the best thing is, this isn’t restricted to any class you may be attending. So go on, let yourself flow with both the movement and music…
As hinted above, dancing is one of the few activities that work both your body and your brain at the same time. A study from Stanford University proves this concluding “dancing integrates several brain functions at once—kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional—further increasing your neural connectivity.” In other words – dancing will not only make you look and feel good, but also help keep your brain in good condition.
But above all dancing is fun and it should stay that way. Come February many people will have burned out their new year resolutions, because they can’t fit the new routine into their schedule, or because they find it too draining/demanding. Life can be serious enough, so escaping to a dance class where you can dance around to music you love, perhaps even wear something sparkly to make you smile, and not least have a giggle with like minded people, is a treat and something to look forward to (hopefully).
How and not least which moves you do will determine how much you tone up, and something I’ll explore in next week’s article.
So for now, find a dance class you know you can make each week, and make some important you time. Then consider the physical exercise and brain development a nice added extra!
Don’t forget to share you experiences and take on this below, and also share with the people around you that you feel could do with some more fun and dance in their lives too.
Happy Dancing 🙂
Did you miss my last post? Read it here: 3 powerful questions to ask before starting your new year planning