Here in the UK the Government has announced the the lockdown will continue for the foreseeable future, even if some restrictions, such as only being able to leave the house once a day to exercise locally, has been lifted [at time of writing this at least that was the case]. But even though we can now travel to a beauty spot to maybe go for a run or walk, how will we manage to stay motivated and not least keep moving during these strange times which now seem to have become the norm?
The fact is most of us are probably moving a whole lot less, as we’re not commuting, getting up to see colleges at work, heading out for a walk during lunch time etc. We are sitting a lot more for extended periods of time and then getting up to go for a quick run may sound like a great idea, but can also cause injuries due to over tight hips.
Our hip flexors shorten when we sit for longer periods. As humans we are really not designed to sit on chairs, or even worse, deep sofas that make us slouch! We can get up and move about, and even dance a bit, without really noticing how tight our hips have become. But tight and uneven hips can lead to everything from shoulder and neck problems to headaches and foot pain.
The key is to move more, but not necessarily ‘just’ go for a run or an hour of dancing. Cross training is the answer as always – and please don’t let that scare you off, as there are some great and FREE ways that you can start doing that at home.
I always recommend cross training as it’s important to nurture your body with strength, flexibility as well as some cardio exercise. You can read my article on one exercise all dancers should do here.
I really believe that the current lockdown can bring so many benefits with it. We humans, who have been stuck in what may feel like a hamster wheel, finally get the opportunity to spend less time being out and about, and more time at home. You may spend that time connecting with your loved ones [if you live under the same roof or via social media], cook more meals and start paying more attention to your diet, make changes to your home that you’ve always wanted to in order to make it feel more like an oasis to you [I have just created a reading and mediation corner in my bedroom which I adore!] and most importantly, you may start building a new movement and fitness routine.
Start slowly and then build it up from there. You want to gain confidence and feel the benefits of this before you start adding too much in the diary. Ideally you can then also keep this going AFTER the lockdown. Mix it up where you do your exercise. I’m a great believer in being outdoors but that is not always practical, but then if you have a garden then you can take great comfort in the fact that gardening ALSO counts as daily exercise! But make sure you take care of you back and supplement with some of the other suggested workout options below. Yoga is also great outdoors but a lot harder than trying to balance on an even floor!
You need to build or maintain muscle mass, because as the saying goes ‘use it or loose it’! There are many ways to do this and often this goes hand in hand with cardio too, meaning something that gets your heart rate up and your pulse going. Some prefer to do aerobic exercises like Zumba, weights, or high intensity workouts like HIIT. Running or brisk walking is also great if you haven’t got any injuries, or really tight hips, that can cause problems, but then the following will help you:
Pilates was created to give dancers more strength as well as nurture and develop flexibility and is therefor an ideal choice for many. In many ways Yoga does the same, although it works on trying to relax the muscles first to increase flexibility and then provides poses which are then held to increase muscle strength. I prefer Yoga because the breathing, flow and stretches fits nicely with everything I want to work on. But I also do Pilates exercises to target specific areas of my body. Many of the stretches used in Yoga you will probably recognise as they are used more widely too, such as the ‘Number 4’, ‘Pigeon or ‘Fire-log’ – all of which are great for sketching out your hips – something which all dancers should do after each class/session anyway.
My local Physiotherapy Clinic has just shared a free beginners to improver Pilates session which you can try out on youtube here. This is a great place to start if you’re new to Pilates and the instruction is very through and clear. I really recommend giving this a go, even if you like me may not be too keen on Pilates, as all these exercises are essential for all dancers and not least explains why it’s so key to engage your core correctly.
If you’d rather give Yoga a go I can recommend PhysioFlowYoga, which is run by a professional Physiotherapist and Yoga as well as Pilates expert. She currently runs online classes on Mondays.
You can also try out Yoga in what is currently my favourite app: Downdog. If you can put up with a few adds you can get their free version, before considering spending money on it. Best of all, they also offer, Barre, HIIT, a 7 minute workout and prenatal programs for those currently expecting.
If you are prepared to spend some money on some high intensity or dance fitness training, then I suggest checking out FCMFIT – which is set up by one of my all time favourite former professional dancer – Flavia Cacace. You may remember her from Strictly Come Dancing or have seen her shows/performances else where. She very famously performed together with Vincent Simone, but has since retrained to become a personal fitness trainer and offers some fabulous workout sessions.
Whatever form of exercise you choose, make sure you think it’s fun, and then make sure to supplement with lots of dance classes of course! Everyone has gone online these days so find that teacher that you always wanted to study with and sign up to a class or two. You can read more about my weekly classes here.
I also want to mention the amazing Kay Taylor, based in Newcastle, who has decades of excellent technique and dance training under her belt. For years she has wanted to go online and now she has finally launched her membership subscriptions on Patreon.
You can also read my top tips on how to keep developing your dancing during lockdown here.
You need to get organised and schedule your training in, otherwise you are likely to start forgetting some to make up excuses as to why you can’t do them. It’s human nature to do so… Put a reminder in your phone or stick lots of post its around your house – at least now you’re in all the time so can’t miss seeing them!
Research shows that exercise done in the morning has more impact and benefits for the body than the same exercise done as night. Additionally you also have the added benefit of having it done and out the way if you manage to get it in before breakfast or lunch.
I personally try to do about 20 minutes of yoga and pilates first thing in the morning, then some higher intensity workout during the day – ideally before lunch, or at least before dinner. Finishing the day with a Yoga or dance session. Now this doesn’t happen every day, but most days, and I’m glad to have found a new routine over the last few months which means that I’m actually moving more now than I did before.
Replace ‘just tv-watching’ with tv and stretches, do some weights with the watering cans whilst you’re watering in the garden or retreat to that special place in your house where you can have some peace and quiet to do your thing. My son knows not to disturb me whilst I’m in my reading and meditation corner, but staying out of my dance studio when I’m teaching a class is getting more difficult for him as you may have seen if you follow me on social media 😉
I hope you have fun finding your flow in the following months and that the tips and [mainly] free resources listed above can help you stay motivated to move better, and most importantly create a new norm and routine that you can maintain once this lockdown is over.
Do let me know how you are getting on by leaving a comment below. Are you doing more dancing now everything has moved online? Are you moving less and sitting more? Are those hips tighter than normal or have you found ways of combatting that issue already? Let’s keep the knowledge sharing going so we can keep moving forwards with our amazing and always beautiful dance bodies.
Happy dancing – always 🙂
Did you miss my last post? Read it here: Dance for health