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The Ins and Outs of Cross-Training for Dancers

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FIT_CrossTrain_MAINFor dancers who are taking their training seriously, it’s not uncommon to be in the dance studio more than your own home. Being a serious dancer is definitely a lifestyle choice that is both physically and mentally very demanding. Your body is the medium in which you create your art, so it’s vital that you take care of it properly.

It might be hard to fit in your schedule sometimes, but cross-training is a very important aspect to the success and longevity of your career as a dancer. Here are a couple options of how to cross train, along with some things to keep in mind so that you are getting the most out of the activity! (And not getting injured – that’s probably the most important part.)

  • Pilates. Most dancers have taken at least part of a Pilates mat class, whether you knew it or not. Many dance teachers incorporate it into a warmup. (Think “stomach series” or “the 100.”) Pilates is a wonderful option for dancers because it focuses on stretching and strengthening the muscles. It’s very versatile because you don’t NEED any equipment to do it, but if you want to take it to the next level there are accessories and machines available. There isn’t really anything to look out for when practicing Pilates as a dancer!
  • Yoga. This is another practice that compliments dance extremely well. Again, you are working on strength and flexibility in your practice. An added benefit of yoga is that it can help you calm your nerves and your mind. If you have a competition or important performance coming up, taking a yoga class might just be the perfect thing to ease your nerves, and get you ready to take the stage with ease and grace.
  • Lifting weights. There is a common misconception that if you lift weights you will bulk up. Yes, if you are in the gym ten hours a day, guzzling protein shakes, and lifting extremely heavy weights, you might ad bulk. For dancers, however, adding strength training to your routine will help you in partner work, not to mention holding your own body up strong. Aim for doing 10 – 12 reps of an exercise 2 – 3 times and then rest. As far as how much you should be lifting – you should be tired after your reps, but it shouldn’t be so heavy that you can only lift the weight a few times.
  • Running. Running isn’t really ideal for dancers because it is high impact on your joints. If you are outside, switch the run for a walk! If you are at the gym, head for the elliptical machine instead. You will get a nice cardiovascular workout without the high impact on your joints of running. Another benefit of the elliptical is that you are working in a parallel position. It’s important to move parallel, or even turned in as dancers. (Seems weird, we know.) If you are always turned out, your hips could become overstretched and weakened.
  • More dance class! Try out a dance fitness class just for fun! Most gyms offer them, or there are plenty of YouTube and DVD options. Some are hip-hop based, some are latin dancing based, but it can be super fun to just let loose, not worry about technique, and dance! Plus, most of them include some kind of isometric exercise to strengthen your core, for example.

What are your favorite ways to cross train? Leave a comment with your fitness routine!

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