5 Tips For a Better Warmup
A good warmup is like a good breakfast: simple, healthy, and prepares you for the rest of your day (or class). Here’s 5 tips for a better warmup.
1. Arrive early.
Stuff happens, and sometimes we’re late to class. But if this becomes routine for you, you’re missing out on a crucial element of class. That’s right – your warmup is actually the first part of class, and having an “I can take it or leave it” attitude will limit your progress. If you know traffic is typically rough on your way to class, try to manage your time better so you don’t stroll in halfway through tendus. If you find that arriving early is not an option, you may want to consider taking a later class, but being purposely tardy when you’re fully capable of arriving on time is just poor etiquette.
2. Take it easy.
It can be tempting to do too much too soon before your body is prepared. There’s great debate in the dance community about what stretches and moves are appropriate to attempt before class, though I think it’s pretty simple: listen to your body. Pay attention to any sensations of pain and focus on these areas. Practicing mild stretches that slowly increase your range of motion are safer than forcing your muscles and joints. This type of stretching, otherwise known as dynamic stretching, is the most effective method of getting your blood flowing and preparing your body for the demands of class i.e. don’t attempt to do the splits before you’ve even done a plié.
3. Wear layers.
If it’s cold outside, this is a no-brainer, but consider keeping your sweater on for a while. If it doesn’t make you uncomfortably warm, adding layers to your usual dance wear can help keep your muscles warm and therefore more receptive to movement. Remember, the studio floor can get cold too, making it very chilly to sprawl on the floor when your back or legs are exposed. A good rule of thumb is to wear thinner layers, like a thermal shirt for instance, closer to the body and add bulkier articles of clothing on top of that. You can then peel layers off as you warm up without sacrificing all coverage if you had only worn one sweatshirt, for instance.
4. Utilize both the barre and the floor.
Some students like to do their warmup on the floor; others prefer to use the barre so they can prop their legs up. Experiment with both. You can start on the floor with the classic butterfly or straddle stretch, then work your way to standing at the barre. You don’t even have to lift your leg; you can simply hold onto the barre for support as you gently move your body in different directions. If you really want to stretch on the floor but find the hard surface unforgiving, consider picking up a yoga mat (some cost under $10). Or bring a large beach towel and lie down with ease.
5. Practice visualization.
I always looked forward to my warmup time. It was the personal, quiet time for me to gather my thoughts before the hustle of class started. I would get excited for class, envisioning a blur of bodies whizzing across the floor as beautiful music filled the room. I believed I was a part of something special, and I was – this day was never to be repeated. Today, I thought, I might flawlessly execute that double pirouette en pointe, or finish grand allegro without feeling out of breath. Remember, each class is unique and should be treated as such. Use your warmup time to take a few moments for yourself. Limit chatting with classmates or checking your iPhone, and visualize what you want to accomplish.
Every student has his or her warmup ritual. What’s yours?