I’ve had countless people ask me this question: If you’ve been dancing for 23 years, then how can you still feel sore?
Completely reasonable question, but hidden in the answer is an essential tip for anyone looking to stay in shape. Before I reveal that tip, let me tell you a story.
Like most human adults, I’ve been brushing my teeth since my parents entrusted me with the task as a child. I use my dominant hand, my right. I usually start at the same place and go around my mouth in the same general pattern. Not to brag, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it. If I’m running late in the morning, I can brush my teeth with my right hand while using my left to add water to the tea kettle andgrab my lunch out of the fridge.
One day, I tried using my left hand. It felt like I had never brushed my teeth before! I had to pay close attention to make sure I wasn’t skipping half my teeth as I clumsily spattered toothpaste all over the mirror.
Now think of movement that involves your entire body, like your gym routine or the combinations I do in dance class. There are a few crucial reasons why we should not do the exact same gym regimen or the exact same dance class every day:
1) We do new things to get better at doing new things
When we try something new, even if it’s as small as brushing our teeth with our non-dominant hand, we are working our brains in a new pattern. I have to watch myself in the mirror because my left hand muscles and brain don’t have the same clear line of communication as do my right hand muscles and brain. My neurons are firing along an unfamiliar pathway, increasing my mind’s plasticity, or my ability to learn new things. Simply put, when we learn new things, we get better at learning new things. Yes, we may fling toothpaste everywhere, but that just gives us the opportunity to use our non-dominant hand to clean up the mess!
2) We want to make our muscles more versatile
When I brush my teeth with my left hand, the difference between my right and left upper extremities is magnified. Because my left hand is used to doing the literal heavy lifting, it doesn’t have the same articulated motor skills as my right. That arm is stronger, but the tiny muscles in my forearm and wrist aren’t as finely developed. In using my left hand to brush, I have to spiral my wrist into a new angle to reach my molars. This activates the muscles in a distinctly different way, making them more versatile. Versatility in our muscles leads to a more balanced body, which increases our overall strength and longevity.
3) It’s interesting!
My right hand is so used to brushing my teeth that I barely have to think about it. When I use my left, however, this mundane task was suddenly much more challenging, and therefore much more interesting.
If I were to take a class that was taught the same way every time, my body would get used to the movements. The muscles executing them would become very good at moving in that one way, and my brain would, too. However, both would likely get very, very bored. Personally, when I’m bored in a class, I’m not trying my best. But when I’m interested, when my brain is activated and my muscles are figuring out new ways of moving, I’m captivated. The time flies by before I even realize I’m dripping sweat. So, an interesting workout = a harder workout!
Still wondering why, after 23 years of dancing, I get sore? It’s because during classes, rehearsals, and performances, I’m never working my body in the same way two days in a row. Every time I take class, the teacher has choreographed different combinations that I’ve never done before. Although these combinations might contain some familiar vocabulary, I’ve never done them in that order at that speed with that intention.
At OnPointe, we are here to challenge your brain and body in brand new ways to make sure you’re constantly captivated. Check out the variety of challenges I'm giving my client Nancy: