Friday, January 4, 2008

1 Fitness Tip #4: Bored WithThe Usual Cross-Training Options? Give Latin & Ballroom Dancing A Try!


As many of you sat riveted in front of your TV sets this season watching the most talked-about season ever of Dancing With The Stars, had the thought ever occurred to you that maybe Latin & ballroom dancing might be something you could incorporate into your fitness/running regimen for cross-training purposes?

Now before you scoff & tell me that you've got two left feet & wouldn't ever consider the idea, let me ask you this: Do you realize that the celebrities that participated in Dancing With The Stars lost anywhere from 20-50+ pounds training for their ballroom dancing competitions, & many of them stated that it got them into the best shape of their lives?

Hmmmm, maybe it's something to consider doing after all.

You don't even need to have a partner. You can sign up & they'll match you with a partner. Honestly, it's not really that scary. If you're really that worried about going at it alone, invite a friend to tag along.

At the place where I took salsa lessons, I went with a group of several male & female friends, & the instructor had us rotate partners on a regular basis.

Now, at first, some of the people there were understandably a little nervous dancing with total strangers, but after a while, it really wasn't that bad. People started to warm up to each other after the few initial awkward moments of chit-chat, & then they actually began having fun.

In addition to the dance steps I learned, I found the experience to be an interesting study in psychology & human nature. This is truly one area in which confidence & reminding oneself to just relax & have fun can make up for any lack of ability or experience.

One helpful tip: If you've got a particularly nervous partner, it helps if you can set them at ease by, first of all, making sure that you yourself are in a relaxed state (!), smiling at them, & assuring them that it's going to be OK (especially if they start making self-deprecating remarks or berate their own abilities, which I found can often happen, especially with people who feel really uncomfortable about their dancing abilities).

I sometimes find that making jokes helps too, to relax your partner. I'm not talking about the "What-did-the-chicken-say-when-he-crossed-the-road?" type of jokes, but rather, it helps if you can poke fun at the situation, or even laugh at yourself, but it's probably not a good idea to make jokes about your partner, unless you know them already & you know they will be OK with a little teasing! ;-)

Joking about the dancing environment or about the situation itself is a great way to subtlely remind each other that you're both there to have fun!

I found if you bring a calm & relaxing energy into the dance, your partner will almost always instantly relax & start to have fun. You'll forget the awkwardness of hanging out with someone new & will get into the moment & enjoy yourself.


One word to the wise: It's a good idea to brush your teeth or atleast freshen your breath before entering the dance floor. If the garlic you ate for dinner is the equivalent of wearing a 1-pound garland of garlic around your neck to ward off local vampires, perhaps it's time to make a pitstop & freshen up your breath. Your partner will surely appreciate it!


There was a reason that our fathers & mothers, & our grandfathers & grandmothers, used to sign up (or be signed up by their parents!) for this sort of thing. True, formal social dancing was more of a part of the fabric of the society back then, but it also taught people valuable lessons about social graces, & how to become comfortable interacting with new people & the opposite sex. And of course, there's something to be said for the man or woman who knows how to cha-cha, swing, or tango. It's a real-confidence builder for both men & ladies alike.

True, you very well might start out by stepping on a few toes in the process, but then again you might not. However, what you will get out of this kind of experience is certain to be truly invaluable.

After a while you might even find that you're having fun & didn't even realize it until the first few weeks of lessons. Heck, you might even find that you're good at learning steps, a talent you might not have even known had you never tried.

I took ballroom & Latin dancing several years ago, & absolutely LOVED it! It was challenging to learn new steps, coordinate moves with your dance partner, & work on making the routine feel effortless & unrehearsed. After much practicing, I found it became so much easier to relax & just feel the music, instead of calculating all those steps in my head!

At any rate, it's worth a try. After all, you only live once, & you don't know if you'll like it unless you try it first.

1 comment:

Blaine Moore said...

When my wife and I were dating, we took dance lessons for about a year. It was a lot of fun, but not exactly what you would call high intensity exercise.

The thing about dancing is that it is exactly like figure skating - it's a little bit of exercise to learn the basics, and a lot of exercise to learn the advanced moves. So it becomes more exercise the more that you do it.

We both really enjoyed it, and I have to admit that it was pretty neat to be able to do an actual fox trot for our first dance at our wedding. Unfortunately, the dance lessons didn't last past her first semester of law school - it was just too time consuming. Once she graduates we plan on picking up where we left off.

Hopefully there will be an opportunity to learn fewer dances next time. Our class hit on multiple dances, so by the time that you got back to one you had done before to learn a new move you haven't actually practiced it for a month or two and you forget the basics. If you can, I recommend sticking to either 1 or 2 (not more than 3) dances at a time and get them down before moving on to new ones. Mastering a couple of dances will make it easier to pick up the steps for others anyway.

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