The Olympics may be over, but I’m definitely still inspired! So many wonderful stories surface with each competition—stories that introduce us to athletes who really embody the Olympic spirit. So many of them overcame numerous challenges to make it to Rio, and watching them succeed on that global stage never failed to give me goosebumps.

Yet, even though all of these incredible athletes make their performances look so easy, I know their appearance last month is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication. Their training no doubt included a variety of activities, all designed to improve agility, endurance and strength.

Did you know dancing can be an extremely effective way to improve your performance as an athlete? You may not be training for the Olympics, but maybe you enjoy running marathons or playing in a touch football league. Get the leg up on your competition by incorporating a few new moves into your training regime.

Physical Benefits of Dance

Dance is not only a fun way to exercise, but it’s an effective way to improve a few key aspects of your physical body that can directly affect your athletic performance.

  • Flexibility – A big part of athletic training is preventing injuries. Dance can drastically improve your body’s flexibility, which is a key factor in staying healthy.
  • Balance/agility – It doesn’t matter if you’re a point guard or a hurdler, balance and agility are vital to your success. One study looked at track athletes who also had dance training, and the researchers found that dance does in fact improve the body’s balance, allowing the athletes to be more stable.
  • Foot and ankle strength – Many amateur athletes aren’t thinking about strengthening their feet and ankles, but those two areas are often the first victims of overdoing it during competition. Repetition of dance exercises helps you build those hard-to-target muscles, which means you’ll have greater control the next time you make a quick pivot or a sudden start and stop.

Of course, in addition to the above benefits, dance – like many other physical activities – does wonders for your cardiovascular system, strengthening your heart and lungs. According to LIVESTRONG:

“Your cardiovascular system pumps oxygenated blood throughout your body to your muscles and tissues. A strong cardiovascular system can help you excel at almost any sport. Taking dance class conditions your cardiovascular system…”

Real Results

In my years of teaching, I’ve seen firsthand how athletes have upped their game by learning dance. Sean Lyons, one of our recent students, recently had this to say about his experience:

“Growing up, I had always been an athlete, and as I became older I was not ready to give up competition or the pursuit of physical improvement. Luckily, a friend introduced me to the competitive ballroom world. It has required me to understand much more than I ever had to in traditional sports—balance, real control of my muscles, and functionality/range of movement in my body, just to name a few. I know that any investment that is put into it (time or money) will benefit me until I die—hard to find that kind of return nowadays!”

Sean Lyons - professional dance competitor

Photo Credit: Alexander Rowen DanceSport Photography – Sean Lyons competing at Ohio Star Ball

 

The Olympics may be finished, but if you were inspired like I was to start working a little harder to improve your game, consider an investment in dance. A few new steps may be just what you need to outrun the competition!

As a professional dance instructor and owner of Overland Park Ballroom, Amy Castro has been teaching ballroom dance for more than 25 years. While she always enjoys Olympic gymnastics, she especially enjoyed watching Team USA earn back-to-back gold medals in judo this year. Let her know your thoughts by tweeting @OP_Ballroom or by commenting on the Facebook page!