Building stamina for Irish dancing
Stamina. Just the word can send shivers down the spine. Irish dancing is such a physically demanding sport that having high stamina is crucial. Dancers need to perform anaerobically for up to 3 minutes (Planxty Davis at 76, anyone?) and it’s very tough to get and maintain that kind of endurance.
The key to stamina
This is not the time to get lazy. According to Frances Dunne, personal trainer, founder of Fitness Formula Irish Dance, and current lead dancer in Lord of the Dance, “The most important thing to building your stamina is thinking about specificity and not cutting corners!” Specificity? Dunne explains, “If you want to be able to get through a heavy jig with maximum effort, why would you go for a slow and steady jog? Equally, if it’s technique you need to work on keeping consistent, letting it slide just so you can keep your energy up a bit more by the last step is just going to create bad habits.” This means building up to working at maximum output for the required length of time while also working at maximum technique – no point maintaining energy to the end if it’s sloppy.
Dunne points out, “Cross training isn’t a necessity for stamina. It is however important for staying injury free, getting stronger and more mobile, and keeping your body on a progressive path.” So should you be dancing or cross training? “When it comes to stamina, a mixture is ideal. Run your dances to make sure your dancing is technically strong, and cross train to get your muscles up to the job and your sanity intact! There’s nothing worse than dreading doing a dance the whole way through – it just puts negative associations in your brain.”
To build stamina while also conditioning muscles for peak performance, Dunne recommends plyometric or sprinting style exercises that are demanding on your legs, such as:
– Squat jumps
– Bike sprints
Exercises like squat jumps are easy enough to do at home while still getting a successful workout. Dunne says, “The aim is to reach fatigue by 30/40 seconds and keep pushing through that!” Cross training should be managed like dance classes, making sure your body has enough time to recover between sessions, with space carved out for rest and repair each week.
Do you cross train to improve your dancing? What’s your balance between dancing and cross training? Share in the comments below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.