Dance is just starting up either this week or last week for most of us, and there is no hiding from the fact that the new season is upon us. This is the perfect time to make new habits and change the way that we work on a day-to-day basis.
I have been getting quite a few questions from you all about how to improve faster as a dancer, and my biggest piece of advice is to make a plan. You will feel more motivated to do your work in order to reach your goals if you make a plan and follow the steps to achieve these milestones.
So, today I am going to show you how to design your own personal training plan for ballet. This is not an extremely strict directive with set exercises and no wiggle room — it is a general guide to help you reach your own goals. It is designed to be flexible enough that you can change the exercises, cross-training, length, and time that you do your training. Being flexible and able to navigate your own schedule is the most important part of making a plan that will stick.
Part 1 — The Weekly Plan
To begin, I would highly recommend organizing your training by week. If you pick a timeline that is short enough, you can plan out which days you will do what at the beginning of the week — basing it around your homework amounts at school, your rehearsals scheduled for dance, and your overall schedule. A week is the perfect timeline for this.
Now, write down on a piece of paper some ideas. In your plan, try your best to incorporate each of the following training elements into your strategy:
- Ballet classes and rest days
- Strengthening sessions
- Stretching sessions
- Cross-training and aerobic workout
- Physical recovery
- M.R.T. (rolling out) sessions
- Icing and heating (epsom salt baths)
- *Physiotherapy (for injuries, and just for prevention)
*If you don’t have any pre-existing injuries, this should be scheduled on a monthly basis or even longer, rather than a weekly basis.
For each of the elements in the list above, figure out how many times per week you would like to do each.
For example, I chose to make sure I do ballet class 6 days per week with one rest day. I want to do strengthening sessions 3 times per week, with the addition of a quick stretch at the end, and stretching sessions the other three days, with a quick strengthening at the beginning. This way, I am both stretching and strengthening each day I do ballet class. On my rest day, I do a cross-training/aerobic workout. For M.R.T., I chose to do a 30-minute session before class, with extra at night or in the morning if needed. I will also do a 1-hour, full-body session on my rest day. Epsom salt baths are a minimum of 1 day per week, and icing my feet each day I do over 2 hours of pointework or feel especially swollen. For physiotherapy, I will schedule 1 check-up per month.
Part 2 — Monthly A.E.P. Day
There is a strategy for maximum improvement I have come up with, and I have named it “A.E.P.” This stands for Analyze, Evaluate, and Plan. Basically, choose one day at the beginning of each month where you go through this regimen. Let’s take a look at each part:
Analyze: Watch updated videos of you dancing on stage, dancing in class, and read through your most recent corrections in your notebook. Take notes on the things you most need to work on.
Evaluate: From what you learned through your analysis, compile a list of goals and points of improvement for the month. List between 5-10 focus points for you.
Plan: From your list of focus points, develop strategies to reach these goals. There are a few important elements to this:
- Research — Ask your teachers for advice on certain steps or qualities of your dancing, any area that you believe you need help. Also do some online research and go to the library, find out whatever you can to help your dancing.
- Focus — In class, focus on the goals you have assigned yourself. Pick one point to apply during class each day and really drill it into your technique.
- Exercises — This is the most important one. Research and write down exercises that relate to your monthly goals, and perform them during your strengthening/stretching/cross-training sessions. Your workouts are built from your A.E.P. sessions.*
*In my training plan, which I have made available below, I plan to create a “top 5” exercise regimen to do on a daily basis. So, the days I do a strengthening workout, I cap it off with my “top 5” most important stretches, which I decide on during A.E.P. — and vice versa with strengthening.
My Training Plan
You can download my 2017-18 training plan below and take a look at it. I just organized it in a document with bullet points, and ended up printing it off and posting it on the bulletin board in my bedroom and also in my ballet notebook.
Good luck with your plans, and make sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions! Keep sending me emails at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any requests, questions, or if you need advice. I’m always happy to talk and share my knowledge with all of you. Have a great day!