Warm Up & Cool Down
However fit and active you are in other activities, when you dance you use your body in different ways, so it is important to warm up and cool down your muscles. This is even more important when we return to classes and dances to which we travel, sitting in a static position possibly for prolonged periods.
We like to start our beginners class with a warm up. After putting on your shoes, while sitting down flex, stretch and rotate your feet and ankles in both directions. Then stand with your feet about hip width apart: make sure your head is centred above your shoulders, which are in line with your hips and ankles, keeping your head up and looking ahead relax your shoulders down and back then lengthen your spine. We now walk on the spot (in class we combine this with learning facing directions, and making quarter and half turns to the Right and Left). You can also extend your arms at shoulder height, then bend your elbows to bring your hands in front of your chest, palms down, to become used to supporting your own arms. Next we practice rising onto the balls of the feet then lowering again – we often do this in a supporting circle, but you can lightly touch a wall until your balance improves. You can also improve your balance by standing on one leg whilst raising and slightly extending the other – remember to use each leg in turn.
If you are new to Round Dancing, start with short sessions of dancing and gradually build up. Remember there are concentration and memory demands as well as physical effort. Some rhythms are physically harder than others, eg Waltz and Jive work the calf muscles.
When you finish dancing take a little time to do some cool down stretches – if travelling repeat them when you get home. We like to end the class like this: stand with good posture as at the beginning, then step forward on the left foot and bend the left knee. Place your hands at mid thigh (not on the knee) and lean forward to feel the stretch down the back of your Right leg. Hold and relax but do not force the position. Next straighten your Left leg, taking your weight back onto your Right foot, releasing your Left toe to stretch your Left calf, then tilt your hips up – you will feel a stretch through your Left buttock and the back of your Left thigh. Repeat with the other leg.
If you have used Closed position, it is a good idea to stretch your arms in turn by bringing one arm across your body and gently using the other arm to bring it closer to your body.
Finally stretch your whole body and arms up towards the ceiling, hold briefly then shake your arms down.
These are just suggestions, you may have favourite warm up and cool down exercises you practice from other sports which work well for you. If not, try these – gently to begin with. Do not rush or force anything. If you feel any discomfort, stop and try something else. You will learn what works for you.