Low-Impact Dancing 101
Ah, the ignorance of youth. The ability to dance at a moment’s notice, without warming up, without a single stretch, knowing your body will absorb the punishment without complaint, at least for many years. For those of us suffering from aches and pains however, dancing is still an option – if we go about it wisely.
I’ve met people who could barely move at the age of 55, and I’ve known dancers who were still dropping it like it’s hot at age 90. The difference? The latter took advantage of the following tricks to take care of their bodies, letting them keep their youthful energy for as long as they wanted it. Here we go!
Stay in shape.
Uggghh… I know, I know, but it doesn’t mean you have to start lifting weights. Even walking more frequently instead of driving can make a huge difference. Most cardio activities help strengthen your core, which then stabilizes your other muscles, and improves your balance to boot.
Now, if you practice daily or dance competitively, you might want to think about seeing a personal trainer to work out a program for your needs. Before you really go full-out though, aways remember to…
Take a glance on the World Wide Web, and two things become immediately clear: Everybody knows you should stretch to avoid injuring yourself, and no one can agree on exactly when or how.
However, two things we know for sure are 1) you should never stretch cold, stiff muscles, and 2) stretching is best done before the main exercise, not after. A five-minute warmup prior to your lesson, followed by ten minutes of stretching, can make a huge difference – and you’ll find yourself dancing better during the lesson too!
As for the types of stretches, the internet is full of different types you can try, based on where you feel tightness, pain, or discomfort in your body. Or if you want the assurance of an expert, a physiotherapist or sports massage therapist can offer valuable advice.
Be cautious however, as sometimes an apparently tight area can be a symptom of a deeper imbalance. The most important thing is to…
Listen to your body.
This can take some practice if you’re not used to directing your attention at your body, but doing so gives you an early warning system for changing your habits before permanent damage is done. If you’re new to this, start in a place free from distraction. As you grow more experienced, you’ll be able to notice things even while dancing.
Make a mental sweep of your body, starting from head to toes or vice versa. Pay attention to anywhere there is pain, tightness, or other discomfort. Make a mental note of the area, and ask yourself ‘have I felt this before, during any activity?’ If the answer is yes, you’ve likely identified an imbalance in your body caused by tight muscles.
Warmed up, stretched, and ready to dance? Then let’s go! Next week, we’ll look from the ballroom dancer’s perspective, at how to truly dance, low-impact style!
About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.