5 Reasons Why Runners Should Dance for Cross-Training
Spring this year, for whatever reason, does not seem to have quite sprung in many places around the world. This can lead to a decrease in motivation to be running outdoors. On the flip side, it can also be looked at as a great time to cross-train.
Runners are familiar with the idea and the many benefits of cross-training. It has long been preached that runners should incorporate a strength training program into their routine. And that stretching, such as that done in yoga, can be a life-saver in preventing injuries. One type of cross-training that isn’t as well discussed in the running world is dancing. Dancing of all types – ballet, hip-hop, Latin, ballroom, etc. – can be very beneficial to runners. Here are the top 5 reasons why runners should let loose and dance.
1. Dancing works different muscles.
When we run, it is typically in a forward motion. Dancing also requires forward motion. But it can also require side steps and other lateral movements. This wide range of motion is very beneficial for developing muscle tone, increasing flexibility, and improving coordination.
Dancing will certainly work your quads, hamstrings, and calves. But it doesn’t stop there. Dancing works all the major muscle groups in your body. In addition, dancing helps improve your posture. It does this by strengthening the muscles and fibers located around your spine.
Certain forms of dance have even more specialized benefits. For instance, belly dancing is an extraordinary workout for your core. Depending on the type of dance and the frequency, dancing can prove to be a very constructive way to cross-train.
2. Dancing will remind you to have fun with your workouts.
It can be so easy to get caught up in hitting the next PR or logging a certain amount of miles. Something that may have started as a hobby, or a way to stay in shape, can easily turn into a competitive checklist for us to constantly check off. As humans, we can be so good at taking the joy out of an activity that should be fun!
Working out doesn’t have to be a drag. In fact, it shouldn’t be something that we have to do, but rather, something that we get to do. Dancing will remind runners that our bodies are capable of all kinds of crazy cool things and we should enjoy them.
3. Dancing will change up your music selection.
Chances are, your running playlist is not exactly the same as the playlist in a Zumba or Latin dance class. But chances also are, if you take a dance class or go to a dance social, you will be exposed to new music.
As runners, we know that music is a powerful tool that can inspire us during especially tough workouts. There are all sorts of scientific research that proves music improves energy efficiency, reduces perceived exertion, and increases work output. Being exposed to new music that lifts our spirits and motivates us to move is a great benefit for any runner. (If you’re looking for some new music ideas, check this article out.)
4. Dancing is social.
For many, running is a solitary sport. However, there are many proven benefits to training with others. It can force you to keep pace with a faster group and can result in quicker times. It can also provide accountability, it can help push your limits, and it can boost your sense of community.
Cross-training, and dancing, in particular, is similar in that it is very social. It forces you to connect with another human or a group of humans. In addition to a fun workout, you can also create great friendships. Generating these connections with others is beneficial, especially if it keeps you smiling and moving often.
5. Running is a mental game. Give your brain something to think about!
Many run to clear the mind or to organize their thoughts. Others run to let their imaginations run loose. Regardless of why you run, your brain needs things to think about.
Adding a new hobby such as dancing can provide that subject matter. When you are running and your upbeat playlist is rocking, it can be a great time to think about the sequences you just learned or imagine new moves. And let’s be honest, sometimes we need to be distracted while running. Dancing, and thinking about dancing, will do that for you!
6. Both running and dancing can lead to “flow.”
As runners, we have experienced the wonderful feeling that psychologists call flow. Flow is that state of being when you are completely immersed in the joy of doing an activity. You aren’t thinking of anything else and you are wholly focused on the task or movement at hand.
As runners, we have discovered that movement of our bodies can lead to this positive feeling. Moving and exerting our body feels right to us. Dancing is related. Dancing is aerobic and it too is movement. So for many runners, dancing can also lead to this joyous experience in which you are caught up in the here and now. It is these happy moments that make life worth the living.
How to Get Started
Signing up for a studio’s class series can be the quickest. There are also great social dance opportunities that can be found on Meetup.com. Facebook Events can be a great place to find upcoming dance happenings. There are also plenty of boutique studios that offer dance workouts. Zumba and Jazzercise are well known but there is also a booming market for classes that teach pole dancing, burlesque, and aerial dance.