Running? No no no, I can’t run, I’m a dancer- I’ll get bulky leg muscles. Also, running is nothing like dancing, so it’ll mess up my technique and balance…
How many coaches out there have heard this? Every single time when I tell my students that running is very important for dancers I get the same excuses. I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but me and Luca were exactly the same when our coaches sent us to the physical trainer for the very first time
Running is in fact very different to movements/coordinations dancers do every day, but this is precisely why it’s actually very good for you. If you think about what we do every single day and muscle groups we use the most during our training, running actually helps us to activate other muscle groups that tend to be used less and rebalances our bodies. For example- latin dancers use external rotators a lot to get a good “turn out”, running instead strenghtens internal rotators resulting in a more balanced physique. While running is by no means a substitute for your technical training or performance sessions, it is a great add-on to your training programme as it is one of the fundamental activities to improve general physical condition which is the base for more specific stamina and endurance training.
Obviously, having a physical trainer is crucial for great conditioning and specific preparation, but starting out alone and showing up to your first PT session somewhat prepared is a good way to go. So how do you start? Let’s see!
HOW DO i START?
First of all- start safely. It’s no good starting with a 5k run if you’ve never run in your life. Try a run/walk combination workout instead- a session where you alternate between running and walking. This helps you stay mentally focused (nothing worse than setting a goal to run 5k and not being able to complete it) and it prevents you from over-straining your joints and muscles when starting out. Start with a 2min running, followed by a walking interval and increase the lenghth of running intervals as you progress until you get rid of walking altogether.
HOW FAST/SLOW SHOULD I RUN?
The easiest way to control your training is using a heart rate-based programme that is based on zones 1-5 using your maximum heart rate (HR max). There are various formulas for calculating your HR max and the best way to find yours is definitely getting tested by a professional dance PT like our Marco Cavaccini at Team Diablo Sport Center but if you’re starting out alone you can use (208-(0.7x age)).
The five zones can then be easily determined:
Zone 1 50-60% of HR max
Zone 2 60-70% of HR max
Zone 3 70-80% of HR max
Zone 4 80-90% of HR max
Zone 5 90-100% of HR max
For dancers starting out try and use zones 2 and 3 for best overall conditioning benefits.
ZONE 2 helps you increase mitochondria in your muscles (more mitochondria= improved oxygen and carbohydrate utilization to power your muscles) and increases your body’s ability to burn fat for fuel. Training in this zone will be longer, over 45 min! It is also the workout that is the least dangerous for injuries.
ZONE 3 is the aerobic zone where you get the most cardiovascular stamina and increase overall aerobic capacity. Body burns more glycogen (carbohydrate) than fat and workouts will be shorter; 30-45min.
If you’re building specific stamina for a competition work with a professional PT as they will be able to create a proper interval training plan but the above is a good way to start running for dancers.
Just as when dancing, proper technique prevents injuries and makes your movement more efficient. There are three main footstrikes ( Heel Strike, Midfoot Strike and Forefoot Strike) and while there’s a debate on what footstrike is best, the midfoot is definitely the way to go when starting out. This is the footstrike most people use naturally when running barefoot and it offers the greatest control without overusing any specific muscle group. You land with your weight closer to the front/middle of the foot, heel lowers and you push out (a bit similar to marching quickly on the spot).
This should be a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how badly some great dancers run. Loose core muscles, no postural awareness, feet turned in/out without control. Taking care of your posture will help with your training and hel prevent injury. Taking shorter strides by quickening the pace will actually reduce the effort needed to run and prevent any over-straining due to strides being too long.
Another imporant issue is the hip line being “broken”, something we call the hip drop. This is when the hip settles too far to the side when landing on the standing leg, resulting in a collapsed hip line- a serious postural diffect that places strain on the whole body and may result in injury. Strenghtening the pelvic area and core muscles is crucial when preventing the hip drop.
wHAT EQUIPMENT DO I NEED?
Good running shoes are a must! You can skip the fashionable leggings and matching tops, but a great support an excellent running shoe gives you is crucial for a safe and efficient running workout. There’s a whole science behind choosing the right shoe but a neutral support shoe (provides equal support on the inside and outside of the shoe) is a good place to start.
The best thing is to get measured at your local shop where trained assistants can advise you on the best shoes for you.
Heart rate monitors (chest or a smartwatch) are great as you can control your heart rate zone and pace. However, if you’re running while listening to music, there are playlists on Spotify that are made to fit a chosen heart rate workout. This enables you to keep the right pace for your workout without buying a fancy gadget right away.
So, here you have it peeps….all there is to it now is for you to start running! Start with a session 3 times a week and we promise you’ll feel the results very quickly. Plus, working out releases seritonin which is a happiness hormone- so basically you’ll be fitter AND happier. Result!
Luca & Tjaša