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Dancer Cross-Training:

Get In, Get Out, But Make It Count

Here's a lesson I wish I had learned sooner:

More exercise is NOT the answer for leveling up.

I was doing it all wrong. I wasn’t happy with my dancing or my body, and my answer to that dilemma just involved adding in more and more exercise. Still not happy? Add more exercise. Still not good enough? Add more exercise. Still don’t like the way I look? Add more exercise. More, more, more…until I could barely crawl out of bed in the morning to brush my teeth, let alone make it through another grueling day in the dance studio.

Hmm…something doesn’t seem right here. If exercise is supposed to be good for you, why does doing more and more of it make me feel worse?

You see, we are all sort of brainwashed from a young age. They make you believe that exercise is all unicorns and rainbows through propaganda, advertising, & “recommendations”:

  • “Make sure you get at least x many minutes of exercise per day to be healthy.”
  • Commercials with nothing but ripped, sexy bodies lifting weights or sweating it out on an exercise bike
  • Tracking devices that count your steps and “calories burned”
  • Pinterest posts offering “Daily Butt Burner” workouts or your “7-Day Waist Trimmer Routine”
  • Instagram posts showing fitness models doing nothing but working out 24-7-365

It’s not surprising that the constant barrage of all that stuff makes you think exercise is a magic pill that ensures long life, health, and a sexy physique…and the more of it the better. But what they don’t tell you is that exercise is actually a huge stress on your body. If done right, meaning with enough intensity to stress the body beyond what it is normally capable of, the nature of exercise itself is destructive. Yep, you read that right – your workout actually damages your body. This damage is the stimulus that tells your body to adapt - to get stronger & more resilient - in the recovery period following the exercise bout. It’s the rest period 48-72 hours after exercise where you cultivate your superhero powers.

So that mindset that pushes you to work out every day for health or fitness goals is not helping you. It’s destroying you. All exercise at that point is unnecessary stress on your body. And all you are doing is wearing out your mileage faster.

This is not to say that exercise isn’t important to your dance career. Cross-training absolutely is key for getting to your next level, preventing injury, and ensuring a long career.

So if more exercise is not the answer for leveling up, what is?

Exercising with specific intent. In terms of gym time, you have to get in, get out, and make it count.

You see, when you work out and put yourself through a grueling gauntlet of exercises every single day, one of two things are most likely happening:

  1. You aren’t giving your body enough time to recover from the work out (a.k.a. you don’t get any benefits from the workout)
  2.  You aren’t working out hard enough to create a sufficient stimulus for your body to adapt to (a.k.a. you don’t get any benefits from the workout)

So, the next time your mental demons guilt you to get your a$$ in the gym for your daily workout, ask yourself this simple question:

Why am I forcing myself to work out every day?​

Is it because you feel a nagging need to do more? Because you are afraid to break a pattern that you’ve always followed? Or, is it with the specific intent to create a positive change in your body, dancing, & lifestyle? If that's the case, you need to rethink your cross-training.

Let’s face it, sometimes the information and beliefs coming from your demons are wrong (surprise surprise). In this case, what your demons are telling you will better your dancing and give you your dream body will only break you down faster.

In the end, this virtuous torture you put yourself through every day in your efforts to improve your dancing is actually stealing energy from your dancing, not to mention leaving you wide open to injuries. When it comes to your cross-training, instead of jumping on the bandwagon to squeeze in as much random exercise as possible, ask yourself why you are cross-training in the first place. Then use that intent to direct your workouts. When you hit the gym…get in, get out, but make it count.

Need help figuring out what to do? That’s what I’m here for😉

Photo credit: Rachel Neville Photography

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