As dancers, we focus a lot on strength and flexibility training. But, what about cardiovascular training? Surely, we all have felt being winded after a long grand allegro or a spirited petite allegro. But, are you lacking strength, stamina, or a little of both? Unfortunately, in the past running and forms of cross-training have been discouraged for dancers because they were said to “ruin” technique; however, I’m here to educate you on why dancers should do cardio training in addition to strength and flexibility.
Option 1: Running or walking
Typically, when dancers hear “do more cardio,” they think of running. While running can be beneficial, some dance instructors do not like recommending this activity to their students due to the impact of running, repetitive nature of hip flexion, and poor form that often comes with untrained runners. Still, if running is something you enjoy and you have good form, quality shock absorbing shoes, and a proper surface to run on- this may be a suitable option for you. I just always recommend doing a mobility warm up before and a static stretch cool down after so that lactic acid does not accumulate in the muscle belly. Note: running is NOT for everyone. You can easily increase the heart rate with a brisk walk.
What are some good running parameters?
When I refer to running, it doesn’t just mean distance running or sprinting. I often like to suggest a dancer do a light jog or fast walk followed by 30 seconds to 1 minute of sprints. This is because in choreography, we don’t just perform a grand allegro for an hour. We often will have moments of slow paced choreography followed by spurts of increased movement. Do the walk/run cycle for 30 min per week or up to 45 minutes if you have time.
Option 2: Swimming
While wonderful for your joints because of the off loading it may do for a dancer, it can sometimes be unrealistic or unattainable to gain easy access to a pool. Swimming in intervals doing laps back and forth are great ways to increase cardiovascular health and lower your resting heart rate. If a dancer is able to gain access to a swimming facility, I recommend interval training vs. long duration.
Option 3: Dance cardio
On my platform, I have several options for strength and flexibility training as I’m sure you know. But, I also have dance cardio classes too! For those who don’t like to run or swim this can be a great option for you. It still feels like dancing, it gets your heart rate up, and it varies in intensity just like interval training. There are other great resources for dance cardio training out there as well. However, any dance exercise form that has a high impact on the body such as hip hop or Zumba isn’t always the best choice for a ballet dancer. If you’re not a member and you want to try 1 day free, you can do so by clicking here.
Option 4: bicycling/cycling
This is honestly my least favorite form of cardio. The reason being is because of the constant flexed nature at the hip joint. If you have someone who already struggles with upright posture, tight hip flexors, and weak extensors this only enforces it more. But, if this is something you love- it is a suitable form of cardio.
How often should I do cardio?
I often recommend 30-45 min of cardio training per week. This will help keep a dancer at a low resting heart rate, help with muscle recovery, and decrease injuries when entering into performance season.
Overall benefits adding cardiovascular training to your dance schedule:
Increased muscle endurance during jumps
Less winded feeling during class or performance
Better circulation = better oxygen supply = less use of anaerobic system and less fatigue after dance
Decreased injury rate during performance season
Ready to start integrating a regular schedule of training into your dance schedule?
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Gastin PB. Energy system interaction and relative contribution during maximal exercise. Sports Med. 2001;31(10):725-41. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200131100-00003. PMID: 11547894.