Last year, sometime between the Thanksgiving season and New Year, I needed to up my training regimen. Blame it on the shorter days, the comfort food of the season, or the time of the year/season when training gets comfortable.
(An active body gets used to regular classes and rehearsals. Spring brings an energetic performance season in Philadelphia and the fall and winter are busy training and rehearsal times). I needed a jump-start.
A dear, super-athletic friend, who has participated in several athletic challenges, suggested that for a cardio boost I try Insanity. So, I did. And I loved it.
(Disclaimer: I did not follow the Insanity program as designed, but adapted it to my already-existing schedule of classes and rehearsals. After more than two decades of dancing, I haven’t come away unscathed. So, I do have several injuries to work with and around. I am also aware of my body’s imbalances in strength and flexibility and adjust my cross-training regiments to accommodate my personal needs. I encourage any dancer who embarks on a cross-training regiment to be mindful of his/her own personal needs as an individual and performer and adjust or seek help from a professional health provider to adjust the regiment to you.)
A Dancer’s Perspective on BeachBody Workouts
Soon after my love affair with Insanity, I learned that a dear friend and mentor was a BeachBody Trainer. BeachBody is the company that developed Insanity, P90X, and PiYo. I was familiar with P90X and Insanity, but Insanity was the only program to which I had personally subscribed and committed. As a person concerned with health, fitness, and the overall well-being of the general population, I deeply appreciated the research and development that BeachBody put into these workout programs, but I wanted another dancer’s perspective. So, I asked Tara Fronczek for her insight.
Tara was one of my creative directors when I performed at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. As a young performer, I was impressed with the care my creative directors took to keep their performers safe from injury during long and intense performance seasons. (Thank you!)
Tara was a beautiful performer who, over time, translated her talents to a creative director (choreographer, educator, mentor) and then to an educator and full-time studio director. After five years of directing a studio and teaching, Tara went back to school to become a physical therapist assistant.
As a student, Tara was still teaching dance and didn’t have much time for herself. She developed a friendship with one of the physical therapists with whom she works and they began the BeachBody 21 Day Fix. Tara, like me with Insanity, was hooked and became a BeachBody trainer. She told me, “When PiYo was launched, I had to have it right away… Being a yoga student for over 10 years and working on my Pilates certification, I was dying to see how they would merge these two methods… They mostly use Pilates focus on core and neutral spine, while incorporating yoga stretches. There’s no impact, no weights. Just killer workouts.”
I asked Tara what specifically worked for her with BeachBody, as opposed to other methods of training. She responded, “Since my training began, I’ve become a runner, which is my go-to method of exercise. Funny since I used to say ‘I only run when chased!’ We also cross-train outdoors, by doing strength training, plyo-metrics, speed work, etc. But having two series of BeachBody DVDs allows me freedom on rainy mornings or frigid, dark Pennsylvania winter evenings. The food education through the 21 Day Fix has been the most beneficial element of my BeachBody experience.”
For cross-training dancers specifically, Tara suggested PiYo because it “focuses on flexibility AND strength. That balance is crucial. The problem with many exercise methods is that they often focus on building muscle mass without balancing the sessions with stretching and/or cardio. PiYo strikes a great balance for dancers. PiYo also offers several different workouts providing diversity [for different levels of dancers and dancer needs]…upper body, lower body, strength, core, etc. I think just about anyone can do PiYo” (information in brackets my own addition).
Tara suggested engaging in PiYo several times a week, but agreed that, like my own re-interpretation of Insanity, “PiYo can be used to supplement a diverse workout regimen.”
DVDs Provide Convenience With Structure
She reinforced my discovery that having personal DVDs provides convenience of time while still engaging in a well-developed class structure, as many dancers are used to. “The convenience of having DVDs at home allows complete freedom to have a great workout anytime. And because it balances flexibility & strength, I think it’s one of the most perfect dancers’ workouts.”
I asked Tara if there were any specific age restrictions or necessary equipment. “I’ve not noticed any age restrictions with PiYo, but I would think most any dancer 12 & older could safely participate… That’s the great thing about PiYo…NO equipment is needed. At home, I use a yoga mat but it isn’t necessary. I recently went on vacation and only had to pack my DVDs to get a great workout while I was away.”
Tara also added that, “PiYo DVDs have a modifier that offers easier alternatives to each move. It allows participants of all ability levels a safe, effective way to get benefits from the workouts.” I’ve observed this with the Insanity DVDs. At-home participants are encouraged to work at a level that is safe and healthy for their personal needs and training.
BeachBody offers several training methods that can satisfy workout needs of dancers on the go and accommodate dancers in different stages of their training and development.
I haven’t received any compensation for suggesting BeachBody workouts for inclusion in dancer cross-training (nor am I attempting to do such), but in this experience have been investigating it through the lens of my own experiences and those of another dancer, for the benefit of other dancers.
Editor’s note: There’s no denying the popularity of BeachBody workouts but we recognize that the company’s sales structure and claims are not always seen favorably. We thought hard about opening this ‘can of worms.’ However, the workouts and DVDs are out there. People (dancers included) are using them. For this reason, we feel Jessica’s unsponsored viewpoint has value for the dance community, in the same way her recent post on Gyrotonic has. We encourage discernment and a healthy dose of skepticism regarding results claims for any fitness program and ask that you PLEASE:Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and consult a medical professional before beginning any exercise or fitness program. Read more.
What cross-training methods have worked for you?
Jessica C. Warchal-King is a Philly-based performer, choreographer, educator, and arts advocate. She is a member of Kun-Yang Lin/ Dancers and Nora Gibson Contemporary Ballet and has toured nationally and internationally. Jessica is co-founder and curator of the InHale Performance Series and she teaches at universities, studios, and arts centers.
Jessica earned her MFA in Dance from Temple and her BA in Dance and Anthropology from Muhlenberg College. She is a trained instructor in Dance for PD, a program developed by the Mark Morris Dance Group to bring dance to people with Parkinson’s Disease, and a Power Pilates Mat I & II Certified Instructor. The Embodiment Project is Jessica’s ongoing research project combining education, physical dance practice, and performance. Using dance as its medium, The Embodiment Project investigates the relationships between kinesthetic, somatic, and anatomical understanding, self-awareness, art-making, joy-creation, and social justice. www.jcwarchalking.blogspot.com