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How to Get the Most Out of At-Home Dance Workouts

Ever done a dance workout DVD and felt totally lost? Or just felt like you weren’t getting the most out of it because you struggled to get the moves? Have no fear, Atisheh is here! Atisheh is a lifelong student of bellydance and obsessed with workout and dance DVDs of all kinds. Today she’s sharing how to get the most out of at-home dance workouts. 

Whether ballet or bellydance, samba or Bollywood, dance-based workout DVDs are one of the most popular ways to keep fit. They’re especially great if you are bored by the typical gym and cardio workouts. Working with a dance DVD you can learn real dance moves while you tone and burn — you can try these out in the club later, or just enjoy expressing yourself through movement.

But dance instructionals are not the same thing as your usual cardio. Based on years of working with various dance DVDs, I’ve put together a list of tips for getting the most out of your practice.


How to Get the Most Out of At-Home Dance Workouts

1. Dress up. You might wear track pants and a ratty T-shirt for another workout, but when it comes to dance, you’ll enjoy yourself much more if you look the part. Put together an outfit that fits the dance — a scarf around your hips for bellydance, form-fitting wear for barre, heels and a skirt for salsa — and you’ll get into the spirit of things more. Consider putting on makeup, too! You’ll feel like a performer rather than a gym rat.

2. Warm up. If a DVD is marketed as a workout, it probably includes a warm-up. But many technique DVDs don’t. You’ll find you move best if you do warm up and do some basic stretches. Try running in place, dancing to a song you like, doing some basic side and leg stretches. As your DVD collection builds, you’ll find that some have great warm-ups you can do before other workouts.

3. You don’t have to do the whole thing. Trust me on this one. Dance DVDs teach you a ton of moves it would usually take you months or years of class time to learn. If you haven’t had exposure to a particular dance before, you’re unlikely to get everything right on the first try. It’s better just to pick a section of the DVD and really focus on getting as close as possible to the instructor’s form.

4. Pause and practice. And the trick to getting your form right is having your remote control handy. Even if the instructor is speeding ahead, feel free to pause the DVD and take a few minutes to practice the move that’s giving you trouble. Do it very slowly at first, then slowly, then at full speed. Try it on both sides of the body, or in both directions. Then go back to the workout.

5. Find a mirror. Dance studios have mirrors, and so should you. If you’re like me, however, you’re unlikely to have a large mirror in your workout space. This is the time to be creative. Either get a cheap full-size mirror from Ikea that you can bring out for your practice, or pause the DVD and go to where you have a mirror in your home to rehearse. Pro tip: when working out at night, you can often see enough of your reflection in a window to check your form.

6. Groove! After your workout is over, put a few appropriate songs on the stereo or on your computer and dance to it using the moves you learned. Don’t worry about doing them perfectly now; just have fun with them. This is when the technique becomes part of you, rather than something you just follow along with.

7. Stretch. Again, a lot of workouts will include a stretch at the end. But if yours doesn’t, or if you are only working with a section of the DVD, make sure to add your favorite stretches at the end. Target your leg muscles, your back, shoulders and obliques. You’ll feel better the next day.

Bonus: Take a class. You can learn a lot from DVDs alone if you are diligent and careful. But there’s nothing quite like a class with a live, professional teacher. In fact, taking dance classes will help you learn how to move your body safely and with proper form. This will let you use dance-based workout DVDs even more effectively.

Need ideas for workouts to try? Check out Atisheh’s reviews here. Do you do dance workouts at home or just stick with studio? All of the above for me! —Erin

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