By Kaylee Randall, Contributing Blogger
Dancers are an interesting breed. They’re artists and athletes all wrapped into one. Whether you’re a tap dancer, a ballerina, or in a hip hop crew, every style takes a lot of fitness and training.
More and more, professional dancers are understanding the importance of personalized cross-training to stay healthy, injury-free, and be better at their jobs. We know that dancers love barre classes, yoga, and Pilates since their structures are similar to a dance class.
Still, others need a more personalized approach.
So, what workouts are dancers doing based on their individual needs? How do dancers cross train to be better at their craft? What are their fitness tips?
Here, we checked out Sara Mearns, principal at New York City Ballet and her fitness routines plus power couple, Keone and Mari Madrid of NBC’s World of Dance on their experience with cross training.
Between these three incredible professional dancers, here are 5 fitness tips we can learn from them.
Tip #1: Prepare your body to work out.
Originally, Mearns had an intense workout regimen complete with a full gym routine and Gyrotonics. Combine that with her rigorous, physical work schedule at NYCB, it made her body tight and overworked.
She got a wake up call after severely straining the right side of her back in 2012, leaving her in recovery for eight months. It was through physical therapy with that injury that she created her own daily rituals of prepping her body properly.
To prepare for a workout, Mearns explained to Dance Magazine that it’s important for her to lengthen first. Her 45-minute warm up consists of a hot shower, rolling out her muscles, and then stretching her target points - psoas, glutes, hamstrings, and back. She’ll also do a bit of core work to make sure her back is supported.
Still, she’s careful not to overstretch which can also lead to injury. Especially for dancers, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut stretching only one way. For that reason she makes sure to stretch both turned in and turned out. Then comes the workout.
Tip #2: Have a reason.
Keone and Mari Madrid are dancers, choreographers, and creative directors who’ve been huge names in the hip hop scene for a while now.
On their Youtube channel, the Madrids shared a mini documentary about their experience with cross training and how it’s changed their lives. It became more than a workout for the creative pair. Instead, it was a change in mentality toward the way they approached their craft.
Keone describes the work they do in the gym to be “purposeful training” and that what happens in the gym translates to what they do in the dance studio. Cross training helps their dancing be more explosive when it needs to be, helps their balance and stability become more reliable, and feeds their discipline to encourage optimal performance.
Long story short, cross training works for Keone and Mari because it feels like they have a reason for doing what they’re doing.
Tip #3: Get a personal trainer.
Most people know that if you want an individualized fitness experience, personal training is where it’s at.
Former NYCB star, Joaquin De Luz created the fitness regimen that Mearns now follows. He became certified as a personal trainer after a career-ending back injury of his own. Even after only a few weeks of working with him, Mearns immediately saw results.
Similarly, the Madrids are trained by Nghai Pham, founder of Optimum Tap in San Diego. He’s described as more of a coach than a trainer because he’s really in touch with the couples needs and goals.
Finding an experienced training who can support your specific body-type and physical needs, it can take your fitness to all new heights.
Tip #4: Stay balanced.
De Luz told Vogue that dancers are often so strong that they can push through strenuous shows even with body imbalances. Eventually, these imbalances can get worse since the issues aren’t being addressed.
To address Mearns’ inactive areas and give her body more balance, De Luz focuses on stability using equipment like Bosu balls, resistance bands, and single-leg exercises. When you work on stability and target the smaller muscle groups, you’re getting to the weak points that are either overworked or don’t get enough attention.
The Madrids stay balanced by switching up the workouts they do. They’re never sure exactly what Pham will throw at them that day which keeps their bodies and minds in an active state. The couple works on everything from circuit training and plyometrics to conditioning and stability training. They even do workouts in the pool, all to keep their bodies balanced instead of doing the same exercises every day.
Tip #5: It’s all about discipline.
Most professional dancers have been dancers since a young age. They’ve committed to an artform that requires extreme discipline and it shows in the personalities of those with successful careers. This discipline that began in the dance studio often translates into everything and it’s the key to any fitness goal.
The ultimate fitness tip you can take from a professional dancer is that discipline is key. None of the other tips work if the discipline isn’t there, so if you’re looking for that dancer body, perhaps you should first work on having a dancer mindset.
Check out Sara Mearns and Keone and Mari Madrid on Instagram for more fitness inspiration.