Wellness Sunday: Cross-Training For Dancers 101

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”In dance, fatigue is a factor in 90% of injuries and overuse contributes to 65% of dance injuries. Fatigue and overuse injuries can become chronic problems that trouble the dancer daily. Cross-training can help reduce risk of these types of injuries by balancing out the muscles of the body and providing relief to the muscles that are constantly worked.” – Leigh Heflin (MSC Dance Science).

Both aerobic and anaerobic types of exercise can help the dancer improve his or her technique, strength, and endurance. Let’s start with an overview of aerobic exercises, which requires the use of oxygen.

Running, swimming, and cycling are great forms of cross-training and aerobic exercise—they all help increase stamina and, considering that 90% percent of dance injuries are provoked by fatigue, these activities definitely present a huge benefit.

Be smart though about not overdoing it and informing yourself about proper alignment, specifically for running and cycling. Many running stores, such as JackRabbit Sports, offer free running assessments, and most spin instructors will be able to tell you if your form is correct on the bike. With no impact and a full engagement of most muscles as well as a higher focus on breathing, swimming is probably the safest and most recommended form of cross-training. A pool is not easy to come across  though in a city, while running can be done anywhere with a good pair of sneakers and without the cost of a gym membership.

Anaerobic activities such as weight training, yoga, and pilates are a great complement to a dance practice and aerobic activities.

Fear not, weight training will not make you look bulky unless you are heavily consuming protein shakes and supplements. As with pilates and yoga, the exercises in weight training will rev up your metabolism and help strengthen long and lean muscles. Yoga in addition focuses on a relationship between the body and the mind which will help you in class, performances, and life in general.

As with any form of exercise, make sure activities balance each other out, and be careful to not overdo it. For instance, on a day with more rehearsal or class hours, be wary of burning out with too much extra aerobic activity. Cross-training is only beneficial when practiced with awareness.

If you have any questions about your form, shoe support, approach a professional.

Do you have a recipe or wellness tip you want to share? Email it to hello@diydancer.com or tweet us @diydancer #sundaywellness

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Larry Keigwin's Canvas for Vail International Dance Festival