From the age of two I have lived with a rare genetic medical condition. This meant I spent a lot of my childhood in and out of hospital, or just feeling unwell. Physical activity wasn’t really on my radar. I just wanted to get through the day! This is the reality for many people with chronic illness and disabilities. The truth was…I didn’t like exercising. It made me feel tired and I could never keep up with the others. As someone who is naturally quite competitive this wasn’t something I enjoyed. I’ve always loved watching dance though, and I would daydream about being able to do all the cool tricks and moves, but I always thought it would stay just that. A dream. I would never be able to become strong enough, or flexible enough.
When I was 14, I auditioned to be in a Christmas pantomime. I auditioned because I was trying to push myself out of my comfort zone. I 100% didn’t think I’d get a part…but I did. I was in the chorus and there were rehearsal multiple times a week. These were tough going, but I found I enjoyed the dancing, and I wasn’t terrible! Yes I was exhausted and probably pushed myself way too hard. I didn’t even get to perform in the show because I had to be hospitalised for a stomach infection. Even after all that I told my mum I wanted to start taking dance classes with the dance teacher who was choreographing the pantomime dances Tanya Ward from Aishlingi Academy. She genuinely made me feel like regardless of my medical condition if I worked hard, I could achieve just as much as the other dancers. That’s when I really fell in love with dance.
I danced on and off with Aishlingi academy from then on. I wasn’t able to commit fully just because I wasn’t physically able to, and at times that did frustrate me, but then when I was well I would go to class and come out feeling happy. No matter how bad my day had been.
For me the physical benefits of dance are obvious. I’m no Olympic athlete but looking back at how unfit I was before I started dance there is defiantly a massive improvement. Strength, balance, co-ordination, flexibility, and stamina. When I started I could barely do even the most basic movements, but I stuck with it and worked hard. A wise woman once told me “there is no such thing as perfect”. This is true for a lot of things, and it is defiantly true for dance. It’s taken me a while to come to terms with that, and I still must remind myself at times.
Mentally I know that when I dance, I can just breathe. I could go into a dance class after a stressful day with 10 billion different thigs running through my head. I come out of the class feeling at ease.
What a lot of people don’t realise is the work that goes on behind the scenes. We do conditioning exercises regularly and stretches to keep our bodies strong and flexible enough. Even if you aren’t a dancer working on your muscular strength, cardio strength and flexibility regularly is important. It ensures you don’t lose mobility as you get older and can help lower the risk of getting many diseases, not to mention it helps you maintain a healthy weight. Most dance exercises are very Pilates/yoga based.
When I’m well I would do a full body workout, or I try to get in 15–20-minute strengthening exercises. Every little helps!
I wanted to share my journey because I want you to see that you don’t always start fit. You need to work on your fitness regularly, not just for weight loss. These workouts are based on dance exercises and stretches, but they aren’t just for dancers. So why not give them a go!