Will I get a six pack? Or, Do you need a big belly? If I had a pound every time I’ve been asked that by new students, then I’d have a lot more money in the bank these days. The fact is that taking up any exercise won’t make you slim (nor sexy) overnight. But there are some amazing benefits to belly dancing and also a few extra dance exercises that you can do if you want to tone up your body. Read on to find out more…
I have a big confession to make. Before I started belly dancing I had never gotten my belly out in public before. Like never! Never worn a bikini or a cropped top. So what changed? Two things, my tummy got more tones and also my perception of it changed. Both are key to understanding the great effect that belly dancing can have on you.
Any regular exercise is obviously good for you, and we all know that we should move more and sit less, whether it’s in front the TV, steering wheel or computer. Some people panic and run out and by the latest exercise DVD, bike or gym pass, but then after a while they start struggling keeping up the exercise. The fact is you have to find a workout that fits into your daily routine, or you will pretty quickly fail to keep up your own commitment to it.
A once weekly dance class is something most people can fit in, but even that can sometimes be a struggle, especially when life takes over and friends come to visit, or extra hours are needed at work. But if you really enjoy your weekly class, then you’re more likely to block out that time for you and shift other things around it. Pre-paying for an entire term is often a great way to motivate yourself to going, especially during the winter months, where it can be very hard for everyone to leave the warmth of the house to head out in the rain and to class. Others, like to pack their bags the night before and then have it ready, so there’s no excuse on the day.
So what kind of benefits are you likely to get from you weekly dance class. Well, the impact of your training will obviously depend on how the rest of your week looks. If it’s spent sitting down eating fast-food, then 1 hour of gentle shimmies and figures of 8s aren’t likely to do much. But even a little exercise can make a big difference to how you feel.
Any kind of exercise will get your endorphins going, the feel good hormone, which will stay with you for hours after the exercise. Spending time with other people enjoying the same class, music and dance moves are also great for lifting your mood. Even if you’ve had a dreadful day, coming to dance class will do you masses of good, because it’s really difficult to stay stressed, worried or just plain old grumpy, when having to learn new dance moves and step combinations. Your brain will be too busy moving you, that will automatically move those thunderclouds in your mind too.
Learning to move your body in a new way, maybe mastering a new technique, and not least dancing to music that you (hopefully) enjoy also does masses for your own body perception. The beauty about belly dance is that it looks different on every body, because every one’s body looks different. So you don’t need to look and compare yourself, you simply have to learn and then enjoy the feeling that it gives you. It may be a feeling of joy, confidence or simply relaxation.
Whilst all this is happening, your legs, bum and yummy will start toning up, but obviously only if you are putting a bit of effort into it and are using the right muscles. The lower abs and oblique’s are normally the first that get stronger, which will help show off your waist. The core in general will get a great work out and so will your bum, if you use plenty of glut contractions to sharpen up your moves. Finally, camels or undulations are great for toning your stomach, as you have to find and then control your upper, middle and lower abs. Yes, these are the ones that make up the six pack, so you will be working them, even if the evidence may be less of a hard washboard stomach, and more of a softer tones tummy.
So if you’re hoping to dance yourself into shape I’d recommend the following moves:
Dancing these several times a week will obviously do more than if you just do it every now and again. So try to get a routine going. Even if it’s just doing vertical 8s whilst brushing your teeth in the evening, or rolling your tummy with undulations first thing in the morning before getting up. If you create little pockets of exercise (or just dancing) several times a day, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll start seeing the difference. You can read more about how to train more effectively here.
If you’re set on seeing big results, you should combine your dancing with some cross training. Get some cardio exercise in as well, either from fast walking, running, cycling or swimming. I also offer personal advice on how to lose weight and firm up doing mainly dancing in my bespoke 1-2-1s. Read more about how you can work with me here.
Finally, if you are on a mission to treat your body better and therefore also look and feel better, then you can’t avoid looking at what you eat. I don’t believe in diets, but I do believe in eating everything in moderations. Cutting down (or perhaps even out) sugar tends to be the most effective way to regain your figure as well as your energy levels and usually also improving your complextion. Many people are focussed on cutting out fact, but many light or diet products are often so loaded with sugar, that you’d be much better off eating the full fat version instead. And the body needs fat, in particular the good fats, to stay healthy and perform well. There are a many great ressources online to help you read up on healthy eating, or you can visit my blog on What’s a Dancing Diet.
So I hope you’ve found this article helpful and I would love to hear from you about your experiences with feeling and looking better after taking up dancing. Or maybe you have some great exercises or food tips to share? Let’s keep the knowledge sharing and inspiration flowing.
Happy dancing always…
Did you miss my last post? Read it here: If only I had started dancing earlier…