Born to Run?
It is a truth universally acknolwedged among ballet students and dancers that running (or jogging) is bad, bad, bad. Many dancers will say that running is terrible because it is pretty high-impact, meaning your joints can take a beating, and it works against you because it's a turned-in activity. However, as a dancer who has been an amateur runner for the past six months, I say this is not necessarily true.
I started running because I needed to do a bit more cardio, since I wasn't dancing as much as I had been. So to supplement my classes, I began pounding the pavement in my Brooklyn neighborhood two or three times a week, going about two miles or so. It was really hard at first. I've never been much for sports, and I couldn't jog for more than 15 minutes without having to stop and walk, and my legs quickly got tired. And believe me, I was NOT going very fast. I stuck with it, though, because I really wanted to be able to run a few miles whenever I felt like it. It's a good workout that can be done anytime, anywhere. What really helped was setting a goal for myself: I signed up for a four-mile New York Road Runners race in Central Park in June, which seemed totally impossible at the time, but I thought I would try and get to that point anyway. You know what? It worked. I gently pushed myself to go a little faster and a little farther every couple of weeks, until one day, I realized I could run four miles without stopping. I was so excited! On race day, I got up at 6:15 a.m. to get ready for the 8:30 a.m. start. I was nervous as I headed over to Central Park and waded into the crowd that had turned out to run, and wasn't sure that I was going to make it after all. But I did, and when I finished, I felt euphoric and really proud of myself. I had never competed in anything before, and the feeling of crossing a finish line (and no, I wasn't last, thank you very much) was great.
Since then, I've really fallen in love with running. I can now run six miles at a pretty good pace, and I really like the opportunity it provides to get outside. And as far as dancing goes? My stamina has improved a lot, and since I stretch pretty religiously after running, I don't have problems with my turnout or flexibility decreasing. The biggest change that has taken place, though, is how much confidence I've gained, knowing that I can do something other than ballet that is physically demanding and requires a lot of discipline as well. I take that confidence with me into the studio, which is where we all need it most.