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Dancing a Puffy Ballet? Improve Your Stamina with Interval Training

If you're about to learn a tough ballet, cross-training ahead of your rehearsal period can help you gain the extra stamina you need. Repeated short spurts of high- and moderate-intensity exercise most closely replicate the pacing of a pas de deux, variation and coda, or the "push" and "rest" sections of an ensemble piece. Kester Cotton, dance program coordinator at Spaulding Rehabilitation Network in Boston, explains how to use both interval training and steady-state endurance workouts to build the stamina that you don't get in class. This can be done on an elliptical machine, a bike or an Arc Trainer. (Be sure to clear participation in a cardio program with your physician before getting started).


1. Determine your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Then calculate your "training zone," which is between 70–85 percent of your max. Cotton strongly recommends using a heart rate monitor or fitness tracking device to accurately measure how hard you're working (and prevent overdoing it).

2. Aim for 2–3 steady-state endurance workouts per week with your heart rate at 70–80 percent of your max for approximately 30–45 minutes.

3. One to two times a week, follow the basic 2:1 work/rest ratio for interval workouts:

  • 10-minute warmup, gradually getting to 70 percent heart rate.
  • Challenging but not hard effort for 1 minute, followed by 30 seconds of easier effort. Repeat 5 times.
  • Hard effort for 40 seconds, 20 seconds easier. Repeat 10 times.
  • Very hard effort (upwards of 80 percent of your max heart rate) for 20 seconds, 10 seconds easier. Repeat 10 times.
  • Five-minute cool-down to get your heart rate well under 70 percent of your max. (Cotton emphasizes the importance of not abruptly ending your workout with your heart rate near its max.)

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