All Irish dancers know the feeling of wanting to jump into the studio, run steps, drill new rhythms or figure out that workshop material you got last week. You also probably know the feeling of not wanting to practice—dragging yourself to the studio for an early morning rehearsal. Whether you can’t wait to start dancing or need a little push, warming your body up properly can make all the difference. Use the tips below to start crafting your own routine.
Using a foam roller is a great way to warm up your body before any exercise, but can be particularly crucial for dancers because we work the same muscle groups on repeat. Starting with your calves, use the foam roller to hit all the major muscle groups, pausing when you feel anything that is extra tight or sore. Don’t forget to spend extra time on your calves, shins and quadriceps; muscle groups that are especially prone to fatigue in Irish dancers.
Increase Blood Flow to Important Places
To help your body warm up properly, you want to encourage blood flow to the parts of the body you are going to use in your practice. Start with your feet and toes, working up to your knees, hips, core, shoulders and head. I do this by pushing my feet into the floor (think prancing), rolling my ankles, bending my knees, swinging my legs to get at my hips, twisting from my waist and rolling my head and shoulders.
Raise Your Heart Rate
To get your body ready for more intense cardio, start moving! You can crank some great music and jam for a few minutes, lightly jog in place or around the room, or slowly start walking through your steps. To get your heart rate up faster, involve you arms. Bring them up and down over your head while you jog or dance.
Stretching before you start really dancing can be a great way to truly prepare for a practice session, but make sure you aren’t slowing your heart rate way down, or sitting in a stretch for too long. Active stretching means stretching that doesn’t fatigue the muscles, it rather wakes them up and gets them ready to work. Stretching as part of a warm up should be done with your body off the floor—this is not the time to sit in your splits and stretch as hard as you can. I lead my classes through lunges and calf stretches, balances on their toes, and squats in second position to help them wake up their muscles.
Target Specific Movements
This part of your warm up will probably be different every time you practice, depending on what you’re focusing on that day. Some TCRG’s give their students a set of drills they expect them to do every time they practice—this would be a great place to use those. Some students know the movements they should be breaking down from each step they are doing. Because your body is still warming up, start your drills slowly, focusing on correct placement and technique. As your body feels warmer and the movement improves, you can add speed, music and more gusto.
A great warm up is essential to any dancer’s success. Warming up before your own practice is essential to avoiding injury, dancing your best, and establishing a routine that works for your body. Once you have yours down, you will look forward to it’s comforting routine, it will help put your head in the game for performance and competition and will help you make the most out of those precious practice sessions.