By Louise Drysdale, Physiotherapist
Myth #1 – Ball sports are dangerous for dancers
It is true that participating in any sport carries an inherent risk of injury (even dance). The skills required for dance and for ball sports can be quite different when practiced at a high level. However, it is important to recognise that there can be a lot of skill cross over between the two. Especially for children and adolescents who should be working towards diversifying movement competency for life. Balance, co-ordination, strength, speed, teamwork, cardiovascular fitness and reaction time are all aspects of physical fitness and well-being that are beneficial in both dance and ball sports.
Believe it or not, there are ballets in the repertoire of both Queensland Ballet and West Australian Ballet that involve throwing and catching balls on stage!
Sometimes it is difficult to commit enough time to both dance and team sports as extracurricular activities, especially if you want to achieve a high level of dance, but that doesn’t mean you need to give up netball at school or playing soccer in the park on weekends entirely. Be reassured that if it is something you love as well as dance, it might complement your dancing perfectly.
Myth #2 – Riding a bike will make my quads bulky
It is very unlikely that adding cycling (stationary or otherwise) as supplementary fitness to your dance routine 2-3 times per week for 30-45 minutes will bulk up your quads. Professional cyclists spend hours and hours riding across very challenging terrain every week alongside heavy strength work, which may build quad muscle. Essentially, if you are dancing more intensely and for a longer time each week than you cycle, bulking up shouldn’t be a problem. The benefit for your cardiovascular system achieved by cycling is important to consider, as well as having the opportunity to use your lower limbs in parallel to develop complementary muscle.
Sometimes dancers just feel like they use their quads more on a bike. To balance this, try a bike with shoe clips or a stationary bike with a properly adjusted foot cage, so your foot is secured on the pedal. This allows you to pull the pedal up using your hamstrings and glutes rather than always pushing the pedal down with your quads.
Why not try riding your bike to dance class (if it’s safe)? What a good warm up!
Myth #3- Swimming will make my arms bulky
Swimming is a great form of cross training for dancers, because it’s a great boost for your cardiovascular system and gives your muscles the chance to work differently to the way they do in dance class.
Swimming is also relatively impact- free and kind on the joints. Having upper body endurance is important for contemporary dance and for females to assist males partnering in ballet. If you are a singer/ dancer, you might even find it helps with breath control and stamina. Your upper body is unlikely to bulk up unless you are swimming for hours and hours in a squad each week and lifting heavy weights (and even lifting heavy weights will only make you noticeably increase muscle size if they are very heavy and you lift them multiple times per week over many months).
A good way to mix up a swimming routine is to invest in a kickboard or a pull buoy so you can attempt several different strokes and rest either arms or legs along the way.