Friday, March 28, 2014

Cross-training for Irish dancers: Running

What do you do for cross-training?

When considering Irish dance, what kind of cross-training do you think is best?

I used to run a lot, mostly to stay in shape, but I've stop because I dance almost every day. I thought that was good enough.

As a workout, Irish dance is a killer, but I want to improve as a dancer and I'm realizing how important cross-training is.

I've recently joined Instagram and I saw this great picture of Heather Monaghan gearing up for a run.

She's an amazing Irish dancer -  U17, 2x national champ, 5x regional champ, 6x world medalist.

Needless to say, she knows what she's doing.

She knows how to train to be a champion Irish dancer, and in her own words:

I'm "100% in love with Irish dance and I want to share it with the world."

I thought I'd pick her brain and ask her how running helps her as an Irish dancer. I was curious if running was just another way to stay in shape or if there were specific benefits for Irish dancers.

She is such a doll and got back to me asap! Here's what she said:

"It absolutely does!! It totally helps to stay in shape but it's great for lung stamina to get through steps and definitely makes your legs skinnier/more toned :)"

I thought that was great. I researched a bit more and found a printable guide on about the Irish dancers. It was put together by Duke University. (We thank you Duke!)

"Cardiorespiratory fitness improves the ability of the heart, lungs, and circulatory system to efficiently supply the muscles with blood (oxygen).

"Practicing Irish dance continuously counts towards cardiorespiratory fitness, because your heart rate is elevated; however, if you stop frequently (do one step at a time only), then the benefit is lessened. To focus on cardiorespiratory fitness, do several steps in a row, or reduce the breaks between each set of steps so that your heart rate does not drop as much (interval training).

"Alternatively, try any of the endurance activities listed in cross-training."

The guide goes on to list a few ideas to help with endurance: swimming, running, playing soccer or field hockey, jump roping.

I'm going to focus on running. My new goal for April:


Who else wants to join me? Perhaps you are already running and strengthening your endurance. If so, keep at it! Maybe you would also want to add on another bit of cross-training like weight-lifting to increase your strength or yoga to increase your flexibility.

I would LOVE to hear your success stories regarding cross-training!

What suggestions do you have? What is your favorite cross-training activity? What benefits in dancing have you seen?

Comment below or send me an email and I'll share your responses with the rest of the readers on this blog.

And one more thing...


Heather has such a great attitude. I want to share with you her latest post on Instagram. It's quite inspiring:

"Last year, Worlds was not my best Worlds, but I came out of it and realized how much I truly loved Irish step dancing and that I  should be doing it for that and nothing else. I took that and trained as hard as I could and achieved what I wanted to, so this year's Worlds, I'm going to train to the very best that I can and hopefully I can perform that way in London in 20 days."

Great perspective!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Keeping a Dance Journal: Organizing and conquering short-term and long-term goals

How many of you have a journal?

How about a dance journal?

I've found that keeping a journal is a simple yet extremely beneficial practice in helping you progress as a dancer. It allows you to think about what you want to accomplish, what you need to work on. Then it allows you to track your progress as well as seeing how far you've grown.

Here's what I suggest:

First, go buy a nice journal. Something that shows your personality and something you will WANT to write in -- something you'll cherish.

Then, think about your dancing. Set some long-term and short-term goals. My rule for goal setting is to create your short-term goals from your long-term goals. This allows you to have broad goals for your dancing (long-term) and to think about specific, tangible ways (short-term) to conquer them. 

Here's an example: Say you want to get higher on your toes. That's your long-term goal. Your short-term goals will be measurable steps to get you to your long-term goal. Your first short-term goal can be "Research exercises to get higher on your toes." Your next short-term goal can be "Create an exercise plan that will help me get higher on my toes." The last one can be "Do my exercise plan every night before I go to bed for a month." After a month, because of this process, you will have conquered your long-term goal and be higher on your toes.


I hope you can see how these small goals act as building blocks to reach the long-term goal. The journal helps you STICK TO your goals by self evaluation and hard work. 

Here's how to use your dance journal:

Started by creating a few broad, yearly goals. These are basically your New Year's resolutions. Then create more detailed goals for each month. That goes onto weekly goals. Then onto daily goals. The daily goals are basically an outline of my practice schedule you will do that week. Finally, write an entry at the end of the week explaining what you accomplished and what you need to work on -- a self-evaluation. 

Now here's my disclaimer: this is a mock journal. I wrote the following entries pretty quickly just to show the idea of journaling I'm trying to illustrating: 

Here are your New Year's Resolutions

Now, make monthly goals based on your New Year's resolutions
I like creating a theme for the month. Something specific to focus on.

Now, from your monthly goals, create weekly goals.
They will be more specific.

Here are your daily goals created from your weekly goals.
I like to take time on a Sunday to think about the coming week's schedule and my goals I've already made to make a practice outline for that week.
It's like a to-do list.

Lastly, write a little note to yourself evaluating how you did that week. 
What did you accomplished? 
Did you stick to your daily goals? 
Did they help you with your weekly goals? 
Your monthly goals? 
Your New Year's resolutions? 
Are you a better dancer?
What did you learn? 
What are you proud of? 
What could use some work? 
How do you feel?

This personal evaluation will also allow you to modify your weekly, monthly, yearly goals if needed. It will allow you to see specifically what you need to work on.

On the above example, I say I need to work on timing. Because I wrote this down and I know I need to work on it, I'll be more motivated to research exercises on precision or tips on timing.

I hope you can see the benefits of keeping a well-organized, personal dance journal. Anything is possible if we know specifically what to work on and have a tangible plan to conquer our goals.

Please tell me your stories regarding dance journals! Do you keep one? Did it help? What other suggestions do you have for me and other readers?

I'd love to hear what you have to say!


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

VIDEO: A Short History Behind St. Patrick's Day

I'm constantly amazed how a small country like Ireland has such a cultural influence on other nations around the world.

I love this time of year where the Irish spirit is thriving. St. Patrick's Day is definitely one of my favorite holiday, if not my all-time favorite.

I discovered this 4-minute video on the history of St. Patrick's Day that I found quite interesting. It's sweet, short and to the point and I wanted to share it with you:

Click above to watch.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Simple Tip on Improving Your Turnout

Here's a tip I've discovered on how to improve your turnout.

It's simple:

Go for a walk with your legs turned out.

Click image to pin on Pinterest

If feels silly but it works those muscle you want to strengthen to keep your legs turned out while dancing.

I saw this tip on Instagram and had to try it. I actually went to the store and the whole time I was turned out. I was probably looked at as a weirdo but, oh well! Dedicated dancers are constantly in "improvement"mode.

So, go walking with your legs turned out, give it a couple minutes, and you will start feeling the burn in your leg muscles.

Those are your turnout muscles! Those are the muscles you have to strengthen to keep that beautiful, yet essential, turnout while dancing.

Let me know how this tip works out for you, if you like it or not, or if you have any other tips to share with me or other Irish dancers.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Irish March Madness Begins!



I'm so glad February is done and that March has 31 days! More days to celebrate. People don't understand what a great time of the year this is. Though, people who are Irish or Irish lovers do.

I don't have any children yet but I found this picture and want to claim her as my own. Look at this little cuteness celebrating St. Patrick's Day:

She's my inspiration this month.

So, what do you guys do for St. Patrick's Day?

For me, I'm going to walk into work on Monday wearing my new green dress wishing everyone a Happy March and a Merry St. Patrick's Day.

It's funny because so many people that I have met through the years remember me at this time of year purely because I'm Irish obsessed?

Does that resonate with anyone else?

It is such an honor.

One of the things I do this month is listen to Irish music and only Irish music. 

Here's my suggestion:

Create these 3 Pandora stations and you will be all set for whatever Irish mood may fall upon you during March. 

1) "Riverdance" -- this is when you're in a dancing mood.
2) "Flogging Molly" -- this is when you're in a rocking-out mood.
3) "Molly's Revenge" -- and this is when you're in a traditional mood. 

I promise, it will cover all your Irish-music needs. But, if I have missed an amazing Pandora station, please let me know!

Also, if possible, don't miss out on live Irish-music concerts. Talk about a party! Bring your non-Irish loving friends, those who just don't get why you love Irish things so much, and then they will understand your obsession. 

I live in Salt Lake City, Utah and the Young Dubliners are coming to concert March 15th -- the day Salt Lake celebrates St. Patrick's Day. (Always the Saturday before March 17th) I am so excited of this concert and I'm bring so many friends to help them realize how marvelous Irish music is. 

Same day as the Young Dubliners, we have a massive St. Patrick's Day parade that goes through a outdoors mall in downtown Salt Lake. My Irish group will be in it and we've been practicing our parade-route number. SO EXCITED!

Anybody else going to be in a parade?

On March 17th, I'll be with a large group teaching them all how to Irish dance after we have eaten homemade Irish stew. I love teaching people how to dance and usually  people love learning it.

And lastly, don't you find that there is a different energy at dance class during March? I feel we work harder but also have more fun. 

It's our time to shine Irish dancers! Let's show the world why our hobby of dance is much more than just a thing we do -- it's a thing we eat, sleep and breath. It's our passion.

Erin Go Bragh!