Cross-Training for Dancers
Any dance enthusiast will agree that dancers are the most incredible athletes ever. But they haven't always been thought of that way, and dance training and education has traditionally left out some important tools for maintaining strong, healthy bodies. Thankfully, that has been changing over recent years and dancers are increasingly treated as the elite athletes they truly are.
One of the most fundamental tenets of any athletic training regimen is cross-training, and it is just as important in dance as it is in any other sport. Cross-training is the regular use of other forms of physical exercise in addition to an athlete's main activity. Using the same muscles in the same ways over and over repeatedly leads to overuse injuries such as muscle strains and tendonitis. (Think of the number of pliés a dancer does in the course of a week!) Engaging different muscles in different ways builds strength, coordination, and endurance, and helps prevent overuse injuries.
Aerobic exercise is any activity sustained for long periods of time in order to strengthen the heart and lungs and improve the body's ability to use oxygen. Traditional dance classes don't incorporate much aerobic training, as there is constant stopping and starting with only short bursts of activity. However, adding aerobic exercise to a dancer's weekly routine outside of class is a fantastic way to improve both cardiovascular fitness and musculoskeletal health. Great choices for dancers are walking, swimming, or biking.
Other forms of exercise that focus on strength and coordination are also immensely beneficial. Yoga, pilates, weight training (under supervision for minors), or classes such as TRX, PBT (Progressing Ballet Technique), or even boot camp fitness can all boost strength and coordination.
Cross-training with any of these forms of exercise is an excellent way to guard against overuse, to get over a hump or plateau, or to aid in recovery from injury. They can also be a lot of fun! So, get out there and try something new and see what it can do for you.