Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cheaper Ways to Stay in Shape This Summer

Training to be a dancer is expensive! Classes can range from $10-$30 per session, and then there's summer intensives, costumes, shoes, dancewear, rehearsals, and gas money! It's the summer, and you've got plenty of things to spend your money on besides classes.

Hold on, I'm not saying you shouldn't take class. Please do - if you can, take at least ballet (preferably multiple times per week) and one other style (jazz, modern, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop, ballroom, etc) to keep your technique up. But for those of us who are strapped for cash, I've got a few free and/or cheap ideas to keep you in your best dance (and bikini) shape.

Free Ideas:
  1. Swim in your local community pool - swimming is absolutely fantastic cross training for dancers. It's easy on the joints, the water provides natural resistance (strength training!), increases your lung capacity, and it's intensely cardiovascular if you do laps.
  2. Jogging - great cardiovascular exercise, and you can listen to music, explore new places, and relax while you're at it. Jogging also trains your legs to move in a pattern very different from dancing - you get to spend a lot of time in parallel, learning how to be efficient and push off of your back foot. For even better training, do it on the beach!
  3. At-home workout - create a regimen of all your favorite (and least favorite) exercises and stretches. Be sure to alternate strength, endurance, stretching, and cardio, and choose exercises that will target various muscle groups.
  4. Exercise-ize your daily life - if you don't have time to devote to a daily ritual, add little things throughout your day. Park as far away as you can from the front door, use a basket instead of a cart in the grocery store, take the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator, push your chair back and do squats while you're on the computer, or pull out that shake weight you got as a gag gift for Christmas. Even better: wear ankle weights. You can easily make your own with a pair of old socks and some rice.
  5. Grab a yoga mat or towel and look up yoga exercises on Youtube - it's easy to follow along! You can put on some relaxing music and rewatch the exercises as many times as you need to get them right.
  6. Get a few friends together and teach your own dance classes - you don't need to be in a real studio to dance, especially if you're doing a ballet barre and center adage and petite allegro! Switch off who's preparing the lesson plan and playing "teacher" (don't want to lose your alignment, it's always good to have someone else watching). You'll be more motivated to follow through if other people are in on it, and you gain valuable teaching experience. I firmly believe that if you can teach your peers, you can teach anyone!
  7. Watch movies or Youtube dances and learn the moves - teach yourself some fantastic choreography! Or...
  8. Create your own dance film - I did, and it was so much fun! Choose a song, a theme, and flex your choreographic brain. Hey, maybe you'll get Youtube famous and I'll be posting your video on my "best of the best" posts (if you do make a film, PLEASE link me)!
  9. Bike or rollerblade wherever you go - if you live in a town small enough, or if you don't need to go too far, consider walking or biking!
  10. Instead of meeting your friends for coffee, go hiking - that'll save you the $4.95 you were about to spend on a latte, and you get some fun bonding time while working up a sweat and communing with nature.
  11. Do Pilates during commercial breaks - no one likes commercials. Even a few minutes of exercise interspersed will get your blood pumping instead of being a complete couch potato.
  12. Have dance parties in your own house - whether you dress up and invite your friend group over for a private club night or you're rocking out to Top 40 in your underwear, have fun while listening to great music and making a fool out of yourself.
Cheap Ideas:
  1. Find a fun exercise DVD or game - there are awesome Zumba, Pilates, and Yoga DVD's on the market! Make a trip to your local Target or Walmart and pick out a few fun ones to do with your mom or best friend. If you've got a Wii Fit, have fun while working out with games like Just Dance!
  2. Consider getting a gym membership - some people love gyms! If your parents don't have a treadmill at home, find a gym that's close to your home. They might be offering some great summer deals or student discounts. If you go a few times a week, it could cost you only a dollar or two for every time you go - loads cheaper than dance class. I know some gyms in the area that are offering deals that would cost me the price of two classes at my dance studio.
  3. Invest in your own small exercise equipment - over the course of my dance career, I've gathered lots of handy items that help me do a full body workout at home. It's not much equipment, but I'll have them forever. Other things like ankle or wrist weights, a Pilates band or ring, and light dumbbells could also be a good investment.
  4. Just take one class - if you want to get started in Yoga or Pilates and don't know how, find a great studio and take a class or two. Ask the teacher for a list of the exercises you do or for recommendations on a book or website to help remind you of how to do each exercise. Then carve out an hour or two every week and practice what you've learned!
  5. Go shopping instead of online browsing - grab a friend and hit the streets or mall! Bonus points if you take the stairs instead of the escalator or if you bike instead of drive. 
To help you save money: 
  1. Vow to stop drinking soda and other flavored drinks - these calorie and sugar-laden drinks can really subtract from your wallet and add to your waistline. Choose lighter options like tea, or try flavoring your water with cucumber or lemon.
  2. Choose classes wisely - if you are going to take class (good idea), choose classes you absolutely need. I'd take at least two or three classes a week, with at least one of those being ballet. Ballet isn't the basis of dance for nothing.
  3. Find studios closer to home - my studio is a good 45 minutes away in traffic. If you're not too attached to any one studio, I'm sure your wallet will thank you - gas is expensive!
  4. Don't eat out as much - eating out is expensive and unhealthy! Make your own meals at home with your parents or friends.
I'll admit I don't take a lot of my own advice. I've only done half of the things I've listed above. But hey, I'm trying! Maybe my ideas will help you. What tips do you have for staying active on a dime?


  1. I have a question.
    I go to practice all the time and I really want to focus on myself. Should I skip a practice to catch myself up?

    1. Depends on whether or not other people are counting on you and how important that really is to you. If by "practice," you mean a company/group rehearsal, then by all means go to practice! You signed a contract and made a promise to the other members of your team, and it's not fair to them if you drop out. On the other hand, if you really feel it isn't right for you at this time in your life, don't let others dictate what you do. It's your valuable time you could be wasting, but make sure to take your commitment into consideration.

      However, if you just mean regular class, you should listen to your mind, heart, and body. If you feel like you need to slow down and find your own center (mental and physical), then yes, skip a few classes. I learned and changed the most in the short 2 months that I was forced to sit out of class due to injury, and I truly think my injury was a blessing. It taught me to stop ignoring my pain and to strengthen the muscles I was too lazy to use, and it forced me to observe with a critical eye and learn vicariously by watching my peers dance.

      Got a little preach-y/carried away there. What I'm trying to say is yes, do what's right for you, but make sure you understand the consequences of your actions. I quit a group once because it was the right thing for me to do, but it cost me some friends, connections, and opportunities. I had other opportunities though, and I would still do it given the chance. Good luck, make sure to contact me again if I didn't answer your question :)

  2. Thanks! It was just a regular class. I know what I need to work on so I felt like I should work on it at home and come back with a confidence that I can move on and learn something new. Am I wrong?

    1. Not at all, I think it's a smart choice. Don't waste your money and time. Sometimes taking a break from the environment and regularity of class is just what you need to do to make a change to improve. It's easy to get stuck in a rut while you're in a normal weekly class. Take the time off and come back stronger, you'll thank yourself for it! Good luck!