by Dana Pellitteri
I am a dancer. For most of my life, my idea of a workout included spending time at the ballet barre or rehearsing in the dance studio. I didn’t play any sports and I never needed a gym membership because dance kept me fit.
When I stopped dancing after college, I needed to make some serious changes about the way I approached fitness. Lucky13Fitness got me off the elliptical and showed me the value of cross training. All of the exercises that I feared for so long (you know, the ones that “dancers don’t do”) made me a stronger athlete and a more confident dancer.
Here’s what cross training taught me:
Only you define what “athletic” is: All my life people told me I wasn’t an “athlete” because I was a dancer. I always laughed it off, but it many ways, I believed them. “Dancers don’t run” and “Dancers don’t lift weights” were excuses I used to stay in my comfort zone and not try new things. I never thought I could run a sprint or do a “real” push-up…until I did.
Weights do not have to equal bulk: I avoided lifting weights my entire life because I thought they would make me bulky (and they scared the crap out of me). Before I started with Lucky13Fitness, I had almost no upper body strength and never thought I needed it. It wasn’t until I started dancing again that I noticed the impact that upper body strength had on my ability to balance, turn, and support my body during floorwork. And I was toned, not bulky. I started to love how toned my body looked, especially my arms.
You’re only as strong as your weakest muscles: Cross training had me working muscles that I never used while dancing (and frankly, didn’t even know I had). I always thought the best way to get better at doing something was to do that one thing, over and over. I’ll never forget one of the first times I danced after training for about 3 months. My core felt stronger, my balance was better, and I felt stronger on my feet. All of my muscles—the ones that I strengthened through planks, rows, burpees, and squats—worked together to make me a better dancer. Balancing my dominant muscles and my weak muscles also helped me understand my body and prevent injury.
Anyone can do it: I never thought fitness mattered to me outside of dance until I completed my first 5k obstacle mud run. During the course, there was one point when I panicked before using a rope to climb a vertical wall. I had a horrible flashback to gym class where I just hung from the rope because I couldn’t climb it. Pushing the panic to the back of my mind, I grabbed the rope and flew up the wall. It felt effortless. That’s one of my favorite fitness moments and the one where I realized that anyone can be strong, climb a wall, and do what they once thought impossible. All it takes is a little hard work (OK, a lot) and the right attitude.
I think of these lessons every time I step into the studio or the gym. What will fitness teach you in Lucky2013??
Dana Pellitteri has been a dancer for 24 years and is a recent lover of cross training. She danced competitively in high school as well as at Stonehill College. She currently dances with DanceWorks Boston.