7 Helpful Journal Prompts for Dancers

 

 

Ahhh, January. Welcome back old friend.

As the cozy glitter of the holidays fade the reality of audition season, new goals, and deadlines begin to sink in.

You’ve worked hard the past year to get stronger, be more consistent, and maybe you’ve even had an in-person audition again!

But as your list of goals and resolutions add up it can all become a bit overwhelming.

Finding a work life balance can be challenging, especially as the landscapes of our industries continue to change post pandemic. And while this time of year is filled with the hope of new beginnings and inspiration to build better habits, the stress of balancing it all can start to clutter our minds.

That’s why finding a way to declutter and refocus our energy is incredibly important.

Now, if you’re anything like me, the first time you may have journaled was with one of those fuzzy journals from Claire’s with a fluff ball adorned gel pen.

And while writing about my crush on Justin Darlington was a lovely way to pass time, I eventually gave up the hobby.

But, from “The Artist’s Way” to the rise of wellness and gratitude journals, it’s clear that journaling can be an important tool of self care.

In fact, it’s scientifically proven to help people achieve their goals, reduce anxiety and depression, and even boost your immune system by encouraging better sleep!

Trust me, I am guilty of going to my local bookshop and selecting the *perfect* journal, committing to filling it with daily musings and journal entries only to have it sit on my shelves, half full years later.

So, how can we remain inspired to incorporate journaling into our self care routines sustainably? 

First, we have to determine why we are journaling.

Are you hoping to set some goals?

Are you creating a food journal?

Are you starting a gratitude practice?

Maybe you’re trying to process some external stress you’re experiencing in your life.

It’s your journal! You get to decide!

The next question is, how often do you need to write?

The answer to this is simple. It’s up to you.

Studies have shown that you don’t have to journal everyday to experience its positive effects. If writing everyday feels like too big of a commitment, try once a week. If once a week isn’t enough, try twice a week.

The important thing is, like your workouts, you schedule it into your day so it becomes a priority. It doesn’t have to be long either. Dr. Pennebaker, a social psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin, says that spending as little as 15-20 minutes writing can have great benefits.

“But Amber, what do I write about?”

I’m glad you asked.

I have seven prompts that I like to address when journaling. Somedays I pick one and focus on that, other days I write on a few.

There really is no right or wrong way to do this, so pick up your pen and your favorite journal and let’s get started. 

 

  • What are your three biggest goals and what did you do today to be one step closer to them?

This is one of my favorite prompts when I am really zeroing in on my goals.

Not only does this hold me accountable to daily progress, but it also creates a log of my progress over time that I can look at when I am feeling discouraged. We love a way to encourage ourselves here at DWL and looking back at how far you come is definitely a great way to do that! This also offers you an opportunity to be very specific about your goals. You might find, through journaling your goals, that they change over time. Or, you might find that one goal has led you to another.

Either way, this is the space to be descriptive and specific about what you want and how you plan to achieve it. 

  • What current habits do I have that are good, and what habits do I have that are no longer serving me?

There’s an old saying “Tell me how you spend your time, and I’ll tell you what you value.” This is a tough question to ask yourself, but as you respond to this prompt, take a moment to reflect on your day. What habits are you repeating daily that are moving you closer to your goals? What habits are you repeating that move you farther away?

Remember, goals come in all shapes and sizes; professional goals, relational goals, spiritual goals, physical goals, all of these come together to help you thrive!

  •  Are you living in a way that reflects the person you want to be?

Here’s the thing, as dancers it’s really easy for us to be hyper critical of ourselves. I mean, what other job has you stand in front of a mirror for hours on end? But dancers are also very good at recognizing the excellence in others. So when you ask yourself this question, first, recognize the bits of yourself that you are proud of. Then, take a moment and- just like you are adjusting a passé line or an arabesque- write about the areas you want to adjust or improve upon. And you don’t have to stop there! Feel free to write about how you plan to make those adjustments and if you need help doing so.

  •  In what areas do you need to show yourself more grace?

Here at DWL we talk a lot about goal crushing and planning for success, but we also talk a lot about the importance of being human. The reality is, perfection 100% of the time is not sustainable. But as Amber often says, “Imperfect action beats perfect inaction.” So, for this prompt, reflect on the parts of your day or week where you were frustrated with or hard on yourself and take the time to give yourself some encouragement in that area. Then, map out a way to be more gracious with yourself the next time it happens. 

  • What negative feelings about myself do I need to let go of?

Understanding the negative feelings we have about ourselves is an imperative part of extending grace to ourselves and others. Taking the time to acknowledge our insecurities and where they may come from lessens the power those things have over us. By writing about them we create the space to examine where they stem from, how they are holding us back, and how we might overcome them.

  • What makes you feel whole and peaceful and how can you add more of that to your life?

As athletes we know how important rest and restoration are for seeing physical gains. Well, it should come as no surprise that the same is true for your mind! Take a moment and ask yourself, “When do I feel like the best version of myself?” “When do I feel alive?” “When do I feel whole?” You might be surprised by the answers. When you have those answers, write down some ways you can incorporate those things into your day to day life. Having a moment each day- no matter how big or small- where you feel at peace will only help you in your journey toward reaching your goals. 

  • When do you feel like the best version of you?

This might feel similar to the last question, but it’s a little different. Instead of focusing on things you can add into your day to feel this way, take a moment and think about the times that you already feel like the best version of yourself.

In these moments  we learn what we value most and where and how we’d like to spend our time. Once these things are in focus, it’s much easier to set goals that feel aligned with who you are. 

 

There you have it, seven prompts to kick start your journal practice.

Choose one and stick with it each time, or, mix and match! Remember, there is no wrong way to do this. The important thing is to just write.

And hey, now that you don’t have to worry about what to write, all you have to do is begin.

Choosing the correct weight, sets, and reps

Walking into a weight room for the first time can be intimidating.

Some people call this “gymtimidation” and if you’ve experienced a sense of dread, hesitancy, overwhelm, or even a pang of embarrassment… you’re not alone!

Bros are milling around drinking gallon jugs of some mystery bright blue space-juice, weights clang and early 2000’s hip hop blasts over the speakers, a few fit chicks are absolutely crushing it in the corners, and then there’s you.

You entered confidently rocking your favorite matching workout set and armed with your newly downloaded DWL app, but now that you open it, you realize you’re not really sure what any of it means… it almost looks like a foreign language? Or algebra? 

What do all of these numbers mean?

How do I know which weight is right for me?

First, take a deep breath and remember, you have a team of us here to answer questions; and that’s exactly what we are going to do today. So, go fill up your water bottle, and take a moment to read through this quick how to pick out your correct weight and understand your prescribed sets and reps!

First things first.

How do you choose how much weight to lift for each exercise?

After each set you should have about two or three reps left “in the tank.”

So, if your workout has you doing three sets of ten reps of bicep curls, choose a weight and try it out.

If after ten reps you feel like you could’ve kept going, try to go up in weight. If you couldn’t complete the set without losing your form, go down in weight until you’re able to maintain that form.

Once you have your weight picked out the next question is, how do you track it?

At DWL we recommend doing the least amount of math possible.

So, if you pick up a pair of 25 pound dumbbells for lunges, track that as 25 pounds.

That way, as you go up in weight all you have to think about is which number to grab off of the rack.

Quickly recognizing what equipment you need can be a big help at feeling confident taking up space in the gym.

If you’re using a barbell it’s good to remember that a standard barbell weighs 45 pounds. So, if you do a squat with just the bar, you’d track that weight as 45 pounds. Any plates you add to the bar get added to that 45 pounds.

Let’s say you are ready to graduate from lifting the bar alone and you choose to add two 10 pound plates. 10 plus 10 is 20; 20 plus the 45 pound bar is 65 pounds. So in your app you’d track your lift as 65 pounds. 

 

The next question you may have is, what is a set and what is a rep?

A set is the total number of rounds you are going to perform an exercise.

Rep is short for repetition. So a rep is how many repetitions you do of an exercise within each set.

For example, in your app you might see Barbell bench press 3 X 10.

What that means is, you would perform three sets of ten reps.

In other words, you would bench press your chosen weight 10 times, then rest and repeat that two more times for a total of three sets.

If it helps you remember, I like to include my rest time as part of the set.

Rest times are calculated by your coaches to work your stamina. They are just as important as your lifts.

So if remembering the difference between sets and reps is hard, marry your sets to your rests- each chunk plus its rest is a set. However many times you lift within that chunk is your number of reps.

In our program, we group our exercises by letter–A, B, C, D, etc.

This allows you or your coaches to create super sets.

A super set is when you do two exercises back to back before your rest time.

You might see that group A is squats for four sets of 10 reps and Group B might be reverse lunges for four sets of 10 reps.

So that means you would complete all of your sets of squats, then move onto your reverse lunge sets.

However, you might also see in the instructions “3 X One set A, one Set B”. So what you would do here is perform your set of squats then go straight into your set of reverse lunges and then take your rest.

When I have a super set, just like marrying my rest with my set, I marry the two exercises together to help me keep track.

So I go squats, lunges, rest, and consider that “set one.”

It’s possible to have up to 4 exercises superset together, so make sure to pay close attention to the way your workouts are laid out for you! 

It’s as simple as that! You are all set to go ahead and crush your first workout!

If you’re still feeling a bit uneasy, know that you’re not alone!

The first day doing anything is always a little bit intimidating, but that’s how we make progress.

And, hot tip, if it’s your first time at the gym, taking a lap around the space with your workout up can really help you orient yourself in the gym. If you know where you’re headed for each exercise you’ll feel so much more confident.

Now, let’s refill that water, put those headphones in and get sweating!

Visualization, Manifestation, and Vision Boards. Oh my!

 

 

Hey Dancer and Happy New year!

Real quick… let’s play a game. Put a finger down if you’ve already heard (or said) one of the following…

“New Year, New Me.”

“Good things are on the horizon.”

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.”

“In a year, you’ll be glad you started today.”

These are all listed on Google as some of the ‘top most used slogans for the new year,’ and truly, none of these are bad phrases.

Each one has the right idea.

The only problem is, while these slogans may inspire you to set goals, none of them inspire a way to achieve them. I mean, it makes sense.

Pushing people to set new goals will also push people to invest in those new goals. But what if investing in your goals and resolutions wasn’t completely financial? What if the investment was mostly mental?

Visualization and manifestation are tools we can use to achieve precisely what we want– and don’t worry, if either of those words feel a little out of reach for you we are going to break it down with two of my favorite things, science and practicality. 

Visualization has been used by athletes for decades to achieve performance goals. 

You see, when an athlete is practicing visualization, the brain tells the target muscles involved what they need to do to achieve that.

This communication between your brain and your muscles forms a neural pattern in the brain that is exactly the same as the neural pathway needed to physically do that task.

ISN’T THAT SO COOL?!

And this science isn’t new.

Alexander Bain of Great Britain was the first scientist to study how these neural pathways are formed and he lived between 1818-1903!

However, it is true that within the last 80 years, the study of the effects of visualization has expanded outside of athletics and into how we train our brains to do nearly anything.

Surgeons, police officers, and more have used visualization to help them master tasks and habits which, in turn, resulted in  less stress and anxiety when performing those tasks.

I don’t know about you, but I would love to not feel panic when a choreographer says the words, ‘triple pirouette.’ I would also love to not feel stressed about saving money. Yes, this works for that too. 

Now that we have visualization down, let’s talk about manifestation.

A lot of people hear this word and tend to roll their eyes because so many people treat it like magic. “Send it to the universe and it will be!” or “Say it once a day and it will happen!”

Well, while the law of attraction is very, very real. It also requires effort. Vocabulary.com defines manifestation as: the public display of emotion or feeling, or something theoretical made real.”

l like that.

It helps me understand that manifestation happens when you take action on your visualization because you believe it is true. It’s not magic, but it does work. 

For example, when I was a little girl in my white light-up tutu, I would delicately peer around curtains of the wings while  the “big girls” danced in the annual recital.

They looked so beautiful in their pointe shoes and tutus.

I looked up to them so much that I wanted to be a dancer when I grew up.

Now, that’s a lovely desire from a six-year-old, but simply wishing it everyday wasn’t going to magically turn me into a professional dancer. But as a child, I wholeheartedly believed this was going to be the case for me.

In fact, one time in the fourth grade I felt like people were associating me too much with theatre so I wrote a poem about ballet to prove my love of the artform.

This is obviously a silly example, but I believed that how I spoke about dancing and how I portrayed myself to the world would contribute to my becoming a professional dancer.

And guess what? It did.

Instead of “I want to be a dancer when I grow up” it was “I’m going to be a dancer when I grow up.”

And, because it was a priority to me, it became a priority to my family and loved ones.

When we couldn’t afford classes I spoke with my instructor about a scholarship program. 

When it came time to apply to colleges I prioritized the dance department over everything despite my other interests.

I took consistent action to make my abstract dream become reality. Now, had I just believed that I would be a dancer one day yet chosen to spend my time daily on my other interests, the end result of dancing professionally in NYC might’ve been very different.

Manifesting is more than just believing, it’s choosing to act as if that belief is already true.

I believed I would be a professional dancer, so I made choices that a professional dancer would make. 

So, how do we take these two ideas and put them to use to achieve our goals?

Vision-boarding! 

Maybe you heard about vision boarding from Rhonda Byrne’s book, The Secret. Or maybe you follow women’s Gymnastics like our coach Keirstin who learned about vision boarding from Nastia Liukin.

However you may have heard about it, vision-boarding is a fantastic way to remind you daily of your “why”.

Why are you waiting tables right now? *glances at vision board* Because you are choosing to train during the day so you can book that ensemble slot in your dream show.

Why don’t you own a house yet? *glances at vision board* Because you are saving your money to invest in a new business.

Why am I killing myself in this workout? *glances at vision board* Because I want to have a full calendar year that is completely injury free.

It’s so easy to get bogged down day to day and forget what we are working toward. 

The key to an effective vision board is specificity.vision board

Start by visualizing exactly what you want.

Maybe it’s your dream job, maybe it’s a financial goal, whatever it is, make it specific. Then flesh that out.

What would your pre-work routine look like?

What would your post work routine be?

What would your route to work be?

Where would you stop for coffee?

Be as specific as you can be.

Don’t just say “I want to perform professionally.” Ask: Where do you want to perform? What show do you want to do? What track do you want to perform?  Don’t forget to feel it all too.

Experiencing the emotions of how this will feel will help this vision board continue to inspire you each time you look at it. So, What will it feel like to step onto that stage for the first time? What will you feel when you call your loved ones to tell them? How might you feel day to day?

Remember, you’re creating neural pathways while you do this, so be as deep and specific as possible. The key to this visualization is being so detailed that it becomes reality as you are working toward it.

(If you have a hard time staying focused on things like this, check out Keirstin’s free Mindset Course here and learn how to get into a good mental space for this type of work.) 

After you have a very specific vision of what you want for this aspect of your life, the fun part begins. Scour the internet!

Find photos of what you want and again, be specific.

Fun Fact: Nastia Liukin made a vision board when she was training as a gymnast.

Her goals were: the Beijing Olympics, going to Paris, and a BMW.

When she created her vision board, she not only used a photo of a gold medal, but she found a photo of what the Beijing medals were going to look like.

Then, everyday, she looked at that medal and believed she won gold at Beijing and worked toward making that abstract belief into a reality.

Spoiler alert- she did win gold and then she went to Paris and then she bought herself that BMW!

Need a ‘real life’ example? Just look at DWL’s Coach Keirstin!

She created a vision board during the pandemic that not only had a photo of the Disney castle stage, but a photo of the exact track she wanted to represent on that stage.

Every time she wanted to give up on her workout she would look at that board and decide to keep moving toward what she wanted.

Now Keirstin performs on that very stage in that very track.

It wasn’t magic.

It was using a vision board as a daily tool to inspire action that progressed her to her desired outcome. But, it never would have worked if she didn’t believe it were true. 

They say if you can dream it you can achieve it.

I’ve always chuckled at that if I’m honest.

My dreams are so big and the cynicism of being a realist tends to only let me dream to a point.

But after learning about Vision Boards through this perspective, I’m feeling newly inspired to let myself dream and, like that little girl watching the dancers in the wings, truly believe that those dreams will come true.

Come dream with us, we can’t wait to see what you manifest.

xox DWL Team 

PS. Do you want to claim everything that’s already yours– fitness, nutrition, and mindset? Connect with our team of experts and join The Embodied Artist Academy, our personalized coaching program for performers. 

 

 

A Dancer’s Secrets to Affordable Eating on the Road

 Life on the road is a total blast.

You get to see new places, meet new people, and have new experiences. No two days are alike, and it’s the perfect recipe for adventure.

I’m no stranger to living out a suitcase and hitting the road.

In 2019, I performed in a national tour of the production Christmas Wonderland that involved traveling nearly 6,000 miles on a bus starting in Myrtle Beach, all the way up to Warren, Ohio, and ending back down in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Then, in 2021, my fiancé and I ditched our apartment and hired a camper van to travel up the coast of Queensland, Australia for two months.

From hitting the stage to hunting waterfalls, there’s one big challenge that’s hard to overcome when living on the road:

Maintaining a balanced diet that won’t blow the budget.

Particularly on tour, getting in the proper fuel to allow peak performance of a 2-hour show following an 8 hour bus ride can be tough, but ensuring said fuel costs less than your per diem is even tougher.

While there are decent macro-friendly options to be found at fast food spots, those options tend to be more expensive.

Plus, I can’t say the McDonald’s grilled chicken sandwich tantalizes my taste buds or makes me feel ready to jazz hand and bevel.

Once you arrive to your hotel, cheap nutrition is even harder.

Eating out and ordering in will probably set you back at least $15 a meal, and before you know it, your salary can’t even get cozy in your bank account before being transferred right to your credit card bill.

Don’t stress!!!

Over my  time on the road, I’ve picked up  a few tips and tricks on how to eat well without blowing your nutrition goals or your budget.

Before diving into the dancer’s guide to affordable eating on the road, let’s kick things off with your startup costs.

Start Up Costs

These items cost more upfront, but they facilitate smart food choices and will save you money in the long run:

  • High quality, stackable Tupperware that won’t leak all over your bag.
  • If you’re a coffee addict, I’d recommend an aeropress. It’s easier to clean than a French press and makes better coffee. Plus, it’ll save you from spending $4 on Starbucks every day or, even worse, drinking hotel coffee. HERE is a demo of how to use an aeropress (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd6MvZLTO-w)
  • A fellow cast mate had a blender, which I thought was genius. If my future holds another tour, I will certainly get one.
  • In the camper van, we bought a cheap sandwich press that made boring sandwiches much tastier. Funny how much better cheese is when it’s melted…
  • A blanket, pillow, and noise cancelling headphones/ear plugs. Never underestimate the value of sleep for your total health and wellbeing!

Now that you have the basics, let’s dive in!

1. Become a hotel room chef

Firstly, just because you are living in hotel rooms doesn’t mean you should approach each meal like you’re on vacation. Going grocery shopping and becoming a hotel room chef is essential for facilitating frugal and smart choices.

Here are some of my go-tos:

  • A bag of spinach and a bag of frozen veg
  • Hummus or some other type of dip/dressing
  • Microwaveable rice pouches
  • Rotisserie chicken (TIP: take all the meat off when it’s warm!)
  • Oats: Make ‘em hot or throw together “overnight oats” to eat later on the bus. I personally love proats with banana and honey as pre-show fuel
  • Cans of soup, Greek yogurt, frozen dinners, and instant noodles are solid frugal options as well.
  • Sriracha… because it makes everything taste better 🙂

However, if a simple protein, rice, and veg has you yawning, get creative! Microwaves are surprisingly versatile cooking appliances.  You can make omelets in a mug, quesadillas, loaded potatoes, single serve lasagna, and various egg casseroles.

I’m no Rachel Ray,  but I love trying slightly outrageous things in the kitchen. I read online that a hotel room iron could be transformed into  a cooking appliance.

Sold!

I whipped up a grilled cheese and some S’mores . Let’s just say success is the eye of the eater….

Be sure to put that Tupperware to work and meal prep for tomorrow’s bus ride lunch!

Bonus Tip!!! Pick up a bottle of wine, 6 pack of beer, or spirits of choice.

Let’s face it, you’ll want a post-show drink. Having something on hand will save you from paying $$$ at the hotel bar.

2. Stock Up a Small Pantry

Having a “pantry” (aka a food bag) that you can take from hotel to hotel is a life saver. Sometimes the bus will pull into a service plaza that only has one food option. Or you might not get to your hotel until 9pm after the grocery stores are closed. Or maybe your hunger is on it’s own timeline.

Having quick, easy food on hand means you don’t have to spend money at Burger King if you don’t want to and that you have the ability to eat on your own time. Plus, a peanut butter sandwich and protein shake are 1/3rd the price of a grilled chicken sandwich.

 My staples:
  • Protein powder
  • Protein bar
  • Peanut butter plus some sort of item you can put it on (bread, wraps, rice cakes, etc.)
  • Fruit and crunchy veg  
  • A can of  baked beans (I opt for the low added sugar variety): I didn’t jump on the baked bean bandwagon until living in a camper van, and now I’m obsessed! It’s a cheap, filling source of protein and carbs. Plus, if you have Tupperware full of steamed veg you made in the hotel the night before, the sauce is a great dressing.
  • Tuna: DO NOT I repeat DO NOT open a tin of  tuna on a bus. Your cast will not appreciate the lingering aroma, guaranteed.  However, it’s a great source of protein when on the go.

Bonus Tip!!!:  Have a treat on hand!

It can be hard to resist splurging on food when everyone around you is dipping waffle fries into thick chocolate milkshakes. Afterall, food envy can demolish your budget and upend your health goals if you aren’t careful.

As a Dancer Who Lifts, you know you can 100% enjoy a Chick-fil-A milkshake or an order of fries. You also know that neither will set you up for feeling and performing your best. Having a treat on hand is a weapon against the splurge.

I LOVE chocolate. Having a couple squares usually puts my food envy at bay while saving major $$$ in the long run.

3. Take advantage of the breakfast buffet

Nothing is more frugal than free!

Free hotel buffets can fuel you up all day with a little strategy and Tupperware action.  Fill up in the morning on the hotline eggs, sausage, bacon, oatmeal and whatever else that is best served warm. Snag a couple yogurts and mix them with protein powder for lunch or a snack.

Whip up a PB&J sandwich for your Tupperware to have on hand.

Furthermore, don’t forget about the bananas, apples, and cereal boxes!  Fruits and dry cereal are easy snacks that are perfect for long stints on the highway. 

Bonus Tip!!!  I love having breakfast salads. On tour, I would often steam up  some broccoli in the microwave, throw in a handful of spinach,  then take it to the breakfast buffet to add hardboiled eggs, salsa, and  perhaps some sausage if I was feeling frisky.

4. Pick and Choose When You Eat Out

Going out to eat is  fun, and it’s something you should enjoy!  Budgeting your macros is a great strategy for enjoying that Chick-Fil-A chocolate shake. Budgeting your dollars is  great way to afford a dinner out.

Moreover, opting for Tupperware meals over fast food on the road allows the financial freedom to check out a cool local dining spot. You’ll remember that epic burger you got at a trendy craft brewery.

Whereas you won’t remember that Panera panini.

Pro Tip: A money and macro saving strategy that works me on the road and in life is choosing between getting a drink out or getting a meal out.

Splurging for a margarita and tacos is a recipe for a $50 tab (you’ll want the guac… let’s be honest.)

Having a plan on choosing one or the other cuts that bill in half. Another strategy is to share an entrée or appetizer and to pregame dinner with a snack 🙂 

5. Have an online coach!

Finally, making smart, frugal food choices is important for ensuring  peak performance, but so is sticking to a gym routine. Unfortunately, being on the road means you probably won’t have access to a normal gym.

Having an online coach makes it possible to keep up with your fitness goals.

Obviously, I’m biased towards Dancer’s Who Lift  🙂 On tour, not only were my workouts designed to help me get through the demanding show injury free, but I could just snap a photo of the (usually crappy) hotel gym and my DWL coach would help me adjust the workouts accordingly.

Is having a personal trainer frugal?

Well, would you pay, let’s say $200, to reduce your risk of spraining an ankle or tearing your ACL? Unquestionably, I know my answer!

Life on the road is fun and exciting, and you can 100% maintain a balanced diet with adequate nutrition without breaking the bank. These 5 tips will set you up for success !

Hungry  for more Frugal Tips? Check out Katie’s previous guest post with DWL HERE,

Cross Training for Dancers: Mastering the Basics

Let’s paint a picture… You log in to Instagram and on your “discover” page you see a snatched, muscular woman in a clean, brightly painted space performing a burpee-lunge-deadlift-handstand.

“That’s impressive”, you may say to yourself.

“I wish I could do that”.

So what happens next?

One of two things…

You’ll spend the next 45 minutes of your gym time attempting this feat of strength… only to wind up twinging your neck, hurting your back, or winded… but not really sure where you’re supposed to be ‘feeling’ it… 

OR

You save the video to a folder full of similar impressive-but-risky moves and workouts that you may (but probably, definitely won’t) attempt at a later date.

Now picture this…

You are sitting in the audience of your favorite dance company (ya know, when theaters were open), eyes wide with appreciation for the artists on stage.

A graceful dancer in nude-colored shorts and a delicate top appears out of the wings- effortlessly transitioning to the floor, turning and stopping on a dime, extending their leg for the gods.

That same thought passes through your mind, “I wish I could do that.”

When you leave the theater, will you attempt the choreography you just witnessed in the hopes of achieving the same level of talent as that professional?

Chances are, probably not.

You recognize that the performer you saw has built a strong foundation of technique and is now able to blend artistry with movement, pulling skills from their dance toolbox. 

 

It may “inspire” you to get in a ballet class, though.

 

So tell me… 

Why is it when we see ~cool ~and complicated workouts we feel that replicating it will be the path to executing it?

More importantly, do we even stop to question what the desired result is from nailing that awesome move? 

 

If you’re familiar with DWL, you know that we are huge proponents of form over just about everything. The way your ballet teacher may be a stickler with how your passé is performed, the same goes for your workouts with DWL.

 

We promise we won’t whack you with a big wooden stick (or was that just my teacher?) but we will emphasize that you have mastered the basic moves before adding complexity.

 

The reason being- form is your technique.

Form is your foundation for everything, and building a house on an unstable foundation… well you get the analogy.

 

Just as tendus and pliés are your staples for ballet, or isolations and step ball changes for jazz, strength training has its staples as well.

 

BUT WHAT ARE THEY!?

 

…I thought you’d never ask.

 

Now while there are many “basic” movements we can talk about, I am highlighting 4 moves below that are essential to your success in the gym (and in the studio!) They also require little or no equipment, so you can practice them practically anywhere!

 

For more info on why training is essential for dancers, read this.

Essential Move #1 

Hinge: Hip hinge

A hip hinge is one of our most important and fundamental moves to master because it is the basis for many movements including RDLs, deadlifts, squats, lunges, yoga poses, picking up your pup, etc. The benefits of a mastered hip hinge help overall strength, hip stability, motor control, and connection between your core and glutes, to name just a few. 

 

What does this mean for you as a dancer?

More controlled adagios, higher developpés, and more refined transitions (again, just to name A FEW).

 

Set up: Find a comfortable stance hip width distance apart, knees relaxed.

 

Cues:

  • Brace the abs and root feet into floor.
  • Think of hips being pulled back with a rope to initiate the hinge. 
  • Think of squeezing a piece of paper between the armpits to keep upper body active.
  • Keep a minimal bend in the knees while maximally hinging in the hips.
  • You can use a wall for immediate feedback by starting with back on wall, takings 2-3 steps forward and performing the hinge. When your butt hits the wall, stand back up.

 

Essential Move #2

Squat: Bodyweight Squat

You are probably familiar with squats and understand them as a basic movement in exercise and strength training. The distinction between a hinge and a squat is the knee involvement- while a hinge has minimal knee flexion, a squat asks for maximal knee and hip flexion. Squats help with overall strength, hip stability & mobility, and lower body muscle definition. Mastering the squat builds a base for other knee dominant moves like lunge variations, step-ups, and single leg squat variations. Unilateral exercises increase our balance, coordination, strength, and power potential.

 

This means higher jumps, cleaner turns, and being “that person” at the barre balancing long after the pianist stops playing.

 

Set up: To find your natural squat stance, lie on your back and bring your knees in to your chest and hip-width distance. Stand up and find this position standing. This is your starting squat stance. 

 

Cues:

  • Root feet into floor, shorten the distance between ribs and pelvis, knees and hips break together.
  • Hips sit back, hips parallel (or lower) than your knees (without tucking).
  • Drive to come up (think about pushing floor away in a plié) and stand straight up.

 

 

Essential Move #3

PushPushup

I’ll bet most of us have been asked to do pushups in a dance class but were never taught how. Pushups are essential for upper body strength and core stabilization, which translates to anything from porte de bras to performing highly athletic choreography. Pushups can be regressed and progressed in countless variations, some beneficial and some mostly just to look badass. 

 

Set up: Feet slightly apart, hands shoulder-width apart with thumbs in line with your armpit, space between scapula to lock position 

 

Cues:

  • Body like an arrow as you bend the elbows down and out (45 degrees with elbows).
  • Lower towards the floor, keeping body in line and chest an inch off the floor.
  • Exhale as you drive back up to starting position.

 

Variations: If the bodyweight pushup is not happening right now, there are many ways we can regress this move to help build up strength (wall, incline, eccentric, etc.).

Check out the pushup highlight reel on the DWL IG for more tips and tricks!

 

Essential Move #4

Pull: Seated Row

Back muscles are truly the backbone of our dancing… I KNOW I KNOW. 

 

But seriously, imagine trying to get through a class (of any genre) without your back.

That is why strength training your posterior chain (a fancy phrase for your back muscle groups) are extremely important for your dance training- these include your lats, glutes, and hamstrings just to name a few players. Seated rows are a great introduction to pulling movements. They help to improve posture, core stability, and a connection between the upper and lower halves.

 

Set up: You will need a band or cable machine to perform this move. Set up the band or cable so that it is directly in line with your arms. 

 

Cues:

  • Extend your arms out like you’re reaching for a hug, arms straight.
  • Retract your shoulder blades.
  • Exhale and pull elbows back and in towards the bottom of your ribcage.
  • Extend back out and repeat.

The base for our strength training is so important because it is also the base for our dance training. Progress in the gym has shown to increase stability, strength, endurance, coordination, and flexibility (YUP) in the studio.  

 

It makes sense to approach your workouts just like dance classes- you can’t do the ending combo full out with feeling until you’ve gone through your basics.

So don’t attempt that move the ~fitfluencer~ posted until you’ve done (and MASTERED) your hinges, squats, pulls & pushes.

 

If you are tired of program hopping or trying to keep up with the workout “trends”, reach out to see if you would be a good fit for our 1:1 coaching. 

 

& Remember: if someone calls your training “basic”, take it as a compliment. 

Xox Coach Marissa Graham

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Imagine this, you’re focused on your goals, determined to make it happen. You’re so good all day long but then, as soon as the full moon rises, the beast within you is unleashed… 
You woof down treats.
Double portions.
And snack until your jaw gets tired… only then, as you lick the Cheeto dust off your fingers with melted chocolate outlining your mouth, do you realize the monster that you’ve become… Here is 8 reason why that’s happening (and 8 solutions!)

5 Home Workouts for Dancers

I understand that for many of us the next 4-8 weeks come with an uncomfortable amount of uncertainty. But in a time where so much is out of your control there are still many things that are within your control… your attitude and mindset are always within your control.
Good luck with this workout and remember to share the challenge-board on Instagram!

You’re not doomed it’s D.O.M.S.

As a professional dancer, many of us chase the “burn” in our workouts or push ourselves to our physical limit in class.
However that soreness can, and ultimately will, stall your progress or even lead to injury.
Here’s why your muscles ache and what to do about it so you can keep moving and grooving.

Facts on Fats for Dancers

Dietary fats are essential for a healthy body; from vitamin absorption, to joint protection, to hormone synthesis fats are worth their weight in gold in a balanced diet.
So ditch the “fat makes you fat” mentality and check out exactly why dancers need fats and how many are optimal for you!