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Fitness Tip #4: Bored WithThe Usual Cross-Training Options? Give Latin & Ballroom Dancing A Try!

Posted Oct 18 2008 2:35pm



As many of you sat riveted in front of your TV sets this season watching the most talked-about season ever of Dancing With The Stars, had the thought ever occurred to you that maybe Latin & ballroom dancing might be something you could incorporate into your fitness/running regimen for cross-training purposes?

Now before you scoff & tell me that you've got two left feet & wouldn't ever consider the idea, let me ask you this: Do you realize that the celebrities that participated in Dancing With The Stars lost anywhere from 20-50+ pounds training for their ballroom dancing competitions, & many of them stated that it got them into the best shape of their lives?

Hmmmm, maybe it's something to consider doing after all.

You don't even need to have a partner. You can sign up & they'll match you with a partner. Honestly, it's not really that scary. If you're really that worried about going at it alone, invite a friend to tag along.

At the place where I took salsa lessons, I went with a group of several male & female friends, & the instructor had us rotate partners on a regular basis.

Now, at first, some of the people there were understandably a little nervous dancing with total strangers, but after a while, it really wasn't that bad. People started to warm up to each other after the few initial awkward moments of chit-chat, & then they actually began having fun.

In addition to the dance steps I learned, I found the experience to be an interesting study in psychology & human nature. This is truly one area in which confidence & reminding oneself to just relax & have fun can make up for any lack of ability or experience.

One helpful tip: If you've got a particularly nervous partner, it helps if you can set them at ease by, first of all, making sure that you yourself are in a relaxed state (!), smiling at them, & assuring them that it's going to be OK (especially if they start making self-deprecating remarks or berate their own abilities, which I found can often happen, especially with people who feel really uncomfortable about their dancing abilities).

I sometimes find that making jokes helps too, to relax your partner. I'm not talking about the "What-did-the-chicken-say-when-he-crossed-the-road?" type of jokes, but rather, it helps if you can poke fun at the situation, or even laugh at yourself, but it's probably not a good idea to make jokes about your partner, unless you know them already & you know they will be OK with a little teasing! ;-)

Joking about the dancing environment or about the situation itself is a great way to subtlely remind each other that you're both there to have fun!

I found if you bring a calm & relaxing energy into the dance, your partner will almost always instantly relax & start to have fun. You'll forget the awkwardness of hanging out with someone new & will get into the moment & enjoy yourself.

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One word to the wise: It's a good idea to brush your teeth or atleast freshen your breath before entering the dance floor. If the garlic you ate for dinner is the equivalent of wearing a 1-pound garland of garlic around your neck to ward off local vampires, perhaps it's time to make a pitstop & freshen up your breath. Your partner will surely appreciate it!

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There was a reason that our fathers & mothers, & our grandfathers & grandmothers, used to sign up (or be signed up by their parents!) for this sort of thing. True, formal social dancing was more of a part of the fabric of the society back then, but it also taught people valuable lessons about social graces, & how to become comfortable interacting with new people & the opposite sex. And of course, there's something to be said for the man or woman who knows how to cha-cha, swing, or tango. It's a real-confidence builder for both men & ladies alike.

True, you very well might start out by stepping on a few toes in the process, but then again you might not. However, what you will get out of this kind of experience is certain to be truly invaluable.

After a while you might even find that you're having fun & didn't even realize it until the first few weeks of lessons. Heck, you might even find that you're good at learning steps, a talent you might not have even known had you never tried.

I took ballroom & Latin dancing several years ago, & absolutely LOVED it! It was challenging to learn new steps, coordinate moves with your dance partner, & work on making the routine feel effortless & unrehearsed. After much practicing, I found it became so much easier to relax & just feel the music, instead of calculating all those steps in my head!

At any rate, it's worth a try. After all, you only live once, & you don't know if you'll like it unless you try it first.
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