5-Step Competition Warmup
A good warmup is essential for competition success. Not only does it prime your body to perform at its best, but it also prevents injury and is good for your health in the long run. Don’t go straight into a 5-dance cold and expect to dance well. You need to spend a good chunk of time warming up your body properly, so that it’s ready to go when it counts!
- Mobility – Mobilize your joints at all levels of the body. This includes, feet, ankles, knees, hips, spine, shoulders, neck, etc. Go through a medium range of motion. At this time, you are NOT stretching to end-range to increase your flexibility; you ARE mobilizing your joints to make sure that they are well lubricated and therefore, moving smoothly.
- Cardio – Get your heart pumping. Start easy and build up slowly. You can walk, jog, or do some light jumping up and down on the spot. The purpose is to raise your body temperature, promote blood flow, and make the muscles more pliable. The more pliable the muscles are, the less likely you will pull something and get injured.
- Coordination – Here’s where you are starting to do some actual movements resembling dancing. For example, practice your poise and a do a few lines; try a box step with compression and extension through the legs. Start moving and shaping closer to how you will do it on the competition floor. Be aware of your weight & balance and the amount of compression and propulsion you will be expected to do when you’re competing.
- Energy – Slowly start to inject energy into the movements to create more dynamics. Start doing a few longer patterns to feel the energy flow, rather than just feeling the technical aspects of the movement. This is when you need to start connecting steps together and be aware of the overall feel of the dance. (For example, focus on the swings in Waltz or the staccato actions in the Tango.)
- Partnering – Only now should you start warming up with a partner. After you yourself have become individually mobile, pumped up, coordinated, and energized, you can now begin warming up your connection with each other. Do some short patterns together, working on your partnering skills. Ladies: This is the time to start fine-tuning your sensitivity & reaction speed, especially since you’ve just been warming up and dancing on your own.
At this weekend’s Snowball Classic and at many other competitions in Vancouver and around the world, there may not be a practice floor. Rest assured, you can still do your entire warmup in a small space, even on the carpet if need be. Everyone is in the same boat, and everyone is making the best of it to ensure that they are warmed up properly and ready to go.
The key to success is often planning ahead. Get to the venue early and start warming up about an hour before your event is scheduled to start. Sometimes the event will run early, so be prepared for that. Don’t sacrifice your warmup time and have a horrible first round. If the event is late, you just need to re-warm up right before you go on, which is a LOT easier than panicking, skipping your warmup and dancing your first round with your muscles stiff and cold.
Look at the schedule and plan to dance during the general dancing breaks. If you don’t know when they are, warmup in the ballroom, so that you can jump onto the floor when necessary. If the floor is too crowded to dance your full routine, then don’t. Do small sections and then move aside if you have to. If you are experienced enough to move around and go with the flow of traffic, then be smart about it. If the floor is crowded, don’t force yourself to dance your routine the way you would in competition; work on shape when you can’t move, and movement when you can. That way you don’t get too frustrated with traffic.
Good luck to everyone competing at the Snowball Classic this weekend. We’ll see you there!