— Béatrice Curtis - Egyptian Dance –
Warming Up & Cooling Down
VERY IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER
Written instructions online are certainly *not* an adequate replacement for a good, knowledgeable teacher, who can correct you when you are not doing a move properly and could thereby risk hurting yourself, and who will make sure you warm up correctly and cool down afterwards.
It is essential to make sure you warm up properly when you start any form of exercise. This is nothing to do with the temperature of the room, or how well wrapped up you are- those are external factors. Warming up is a matter of making sure that your muscles and joints are ready to be worked. The muscles need to be ready to elongate & contract at maximum capacity, and the joints need to be well lubricated with synovial fluid, so as to avoid injury to your muscles & cartilage. That means that you have to be warmed up internally. Don’t think you can “get away with it” or rather without it (i.e. warming up). You may not incur a serious major injury each time you fail to warm up properly, but every time you start dancing without a warm up, you will develop undetected minor injuries at a muscle-fibre level, that will nag at you and cause general discomfort, which is just as bad. So play it safe and make sure you don’t miss out on the Warm Up in class. If you arrive a bit late, do your own private warm up quietly at the back so you prepare yourself properly without disturbing the rest of the class.
The Warm Up process consists of at least two elements- mobilising moves that get the joints ready and pulse-raising moves that raise your internal muscle temperature. There may also be a third element- stretching. Personally I don’t tend to use stretching as part of the Warm Ups I use when teaching, even when I have plenty of time to do so, mainly because I feel that even with the initial pulse-raising part of the Warm Up, the muscles have not yet reached their best stretching capacity, and I would prefer my students to carry on with exercises that continue raising the internal muscle temperature for a while longer, and then, if the work we are doing requires any specific stretching, we can do this as & when it becomes necessary.
My warm up exercises start with a series of mobilising moves. This serves two or three main purposes for me. First of all, it gets the various joints moving, which stimulates the production of the synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints, which is the physical reason for it. It also starts the process of raising the heart-rate & consequently the muscle temperature. But it also prepares you mentally for the dance class ahead- it gets you out of the “mundane” frame of mind and gets you into your Dance Zone. It also focuses your attention on the quality of your movements.
The Warm Up then continues with a dance session. Again this serves a dual purpose, for me- it gets the pulse-raising part of the Warm Up started, but it also gives me the chance to see how the students are dealing with the technique we have been learning, and if any technique matters arise that I feel (or the students feel) we should go over again, we can do so, before I start the main teaching matters I have planned for that session.
Remember that you will cool down quickly if you stop the activity you have warmed up for. If you are inactive for more than 5 minutes or so, maybe because of a break in class, or because you have been working on exercises that are not very active, you will need a mini-warm up to get you going again.
The physiological function of the cool-down is principally to ensure that you do not end the exercise abruptly. This is partly so that your heart-rate can return to normal in a gradual way, and partly because a sudden stop in your exercise can leave chemicals/hormones in the bloodstream that could lead to arthritis in later years. So take time to wind your movement down, and ease back to your resting heart-rate.
Again, there is a mental aspect to the cooldown, in that you are rounding the dance session off in a satisfying way.
A critical part of the Cooling Down process is the Stretching. In Arabic Dance, you are often using muscles that you do not use in your everyday life. You need to stretch those muscles out so that they don't ache the next day, and the day after. You also need to stretch out to prevent those muscles from bulking up inappropriately. Make sure that you stretch your leg muscles (calf & hamstring/thigh), your side muscles and your lower back.
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Updated 24th January 2010