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Friday, May 4, 2012

Into the Unknown

Yi Ethnic Dance "MoSheGe" - A great endurance buster!
... the Unknown being "fitness"!  I'd come across many references to "cross-training" as an important component to overall strength for dancers in various publications such as Dance Magazine and Pointe.  Ever since coming back from working in Beijing last year where I didn't dance at all and resorted to running on the "hamster wheel" at the tiny hotel gym to keep up a shred of endurance, I've become much more aware of what it takes to stay in shape.

I still feel woefully out of shape, to be honest, as I haven't been performing as often these days.  I hope to get back into the groove soon, but in the meantime I need to make myself strong.  Unfortunately, technique class doesn't seem to be cutting it.

To be sure, class is everything I need to feel my muscles working, to feel the floor, to make sure I'm doing things the right way.  I will not go without it!  And yet, I'm not sweating as much as I'd like - petit allegro and grand allegro across the floor are exhilarating (I've always loved jumping) but it's over all too soon, and my heart rate has only just started to get going!  As a result, I end up feeling somewhat unfulfilled.  I continue working after class, of course, but after reading about cross-training I decided to venture into the realm of "fitness" to see what the fuss was about.

I even leafed through the Health and SELF magazines my cousin and sister had lying about their homes to see what kind of exercises they recommend for their readers.  I tried to ignore the inevitable feature headlines ("Flat Belly Secrets!" "Drop 10 Pounds Eating What You Love!") and cut to the exercises.  That's when I vowed to try this strange looking contraption called the elliptical - it's supposed to be good for the heart rate and have less impact on the knees, which seemed fitting for a dancer.

I searched my memory for any references to the elliptical, and all I could come up with was Bill Murray's character in the film Lost in Translation in the scene where he gets on the machine and goes out of control on it, haplessly calling out, "Help ... HELP!!"  Undaunted, I bravely wandered into the gym at work and the very next day and tried it.  I didn't go out of control, and rather liked the experience.  I could listen to my podcasts, sweat, and even close my eyes and zone out if I wanted to.  (Doing the latter on a treadmill would have disastrous, slapstick results.)  Afterwards, I would work on my core, backbends, and other stretches.

I've kept this "cardio" activity up the past few weeks and am not sure if I should mix things up more, since honestly this kind of activity isn't exactly as interesting or stimulating as dance is for me (read: monotonous, despite the podcasts).  I'm still exploring some of the "fitness" sites and publications. While I occasionally find some useful exercises or tips, I find that in general these cater to folks with goals and needs different than those of dancers.  Conversely, dance publications often focus on certain aspects of technique, and those all-too-familiar areas of insecurity: turnout, arched feet, a higher arabesque, etc. rather than overall strength and total body health.

As part of my exploration, I am embarking on some personal training sessions at a local gym.  The goal is to challenge myself to completely different styles of movement and exercise, to see what I can do and what this does for me.  Yes, I'm a little nervous.  Stay tuned for the next chapter of my fitness exploration!  
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