Dancers often think that building strength requires hours on the gym lifting weights. Not so! Did you know that speed walking on a treadmill can strengthen the tendons, ligaments and tiny muscle fibers in your feet, ankles, calves and shins? It’s true! Despite its rigors, dance class doesn’t strengthen every part of your body. And for ballet dancers, who are working in turnout almost exclusively, dance class doesn’t build balance in your legs or hips.
But there’s at least one easy solution: go for a walk! All gyms have treadmills now, so get on up there and give this a try. Here are some tips to remember when speed walking:
- Wear sneakers. When you start a repetitive exercise, make sure you are protecting your feet, shins and back by wearing cushiony sneakers made for exercise. This is not the time for flip flops.
- Be sure to walk with your feet and legs in parallel. (You may have to watch your feet for a few weeks until this becomes natural. Stay with it. It’s worth doing this properly.)
- Keep your pelvis in a neutral position. Don’t tip it forward or backward. Try using your abdominal muscles to pull your pelvis under if it’s too far back; if it’s tipped forward, you’ll know because your torso will be behind your pelvis.
- Bend your arms at the elbow when increasing your speed- it helps! (Try not to hold onto the treadmill- it changes how you naturally balance your body as well as your stride.)
- Try to work up to a speed of 4.5: this will work your heart and lungs as well as your legs.
If you can get outside to speed walk (or if you don’t like the gym), that’s good too. You can breathe some fresh air and commune with nature while building strength. Just be sure to wear sneakers with good cushioning to protect your joints- this is even more important if walking on concrete. If you can find a track or grass to walk on, instead of concrete, the impact on your joints will be less intense.