Today is the most active day of the year.
National Fitness Day sees events taking place across the UK to celebrate fitness. It’s designed to highlight the role physical activity plays in our health and is a chance to raise awareness about its importance.
Today, you’ll see people having plank-offs and doing virtual mass HIIT workouts.
But what if slogging it out in a HIIT class or pounding away in the gym doesn’t really appeal? What other options are there?
‘Dance is a great fitness discipline as it is three-dimensional movement,’ says Luke Worthington, a sports scientist, personal trainer and strength and conditioning specialist. ‘It requires strength, endurance, mobility, motor control and endurance, so it challenges all aspects of physical fitness.’
Luke has trained some of the casts members for West End shows including Aladdin, 42nd Street, Disney On Ice, Tina and Hairspray. He’s seen first-hand how fusing dance and fitness can create a strong, toned body.
He adds: ‘Most pieces of gym equipment and exercise classes focus on movement in just one direction, a sagittal plane (forwards/backwards). But our bodies evolved to do much more than this, they are “designed” to move in three dimensions.
A dancer’s training program is typically strength-based.
‘Dance is a very athletic discipline and dancers are some of the strongest individuals I’ve worked with. On a pound-for-pound basis, they are stronger than some Premier League footballers. It’s not unusual for the female dancers I work with to be able to lift 1.5 times their body weight in a deadlift and perform sets of ten pull-ups. Professional dancers are strong, powerful, fast and athletic.’
Forget Zumba, the dance fitness scene has had a serious makeover recently. We’re talking sassy choreography fused with things like curtsy lunges, pulsating tunes and even an A-List following.
One person who knows about the benefits of incorporating dance into your fitness workout is Monique Eastwood.
The celebrity personal trainer, lifestyle coach and professional dancer counts a handful of Hollywood A’Listers as clients including Emily Blunt, Hayley Atwell, Stanley Tucci and Ruth Wilson, as well as stuntwoman Lucy Cork and athletes like British Skier Jack Gower.
This is because her fitness workout programme, The Eastwood Movement Method, is a multi-directional movement method based on her background as a professional dancer.
‘It uses key principles from ballet, Pilates and dance-inspired movement and fuses them together with high-intensity fitness moves to create a long lean body and strong frame.
‘I didn’t just “do” this programme,’ says Monique. ‘It’s been a real passion project. I was completely in love with dancing, but after having two kids, I didn’t move as much and felt like a big part of me was missing.
‘I felt gym classes were boring and one dimensional and I didn’t want to just squat for 20 reps. I wanted to move my body in multi-dimensional ways again. And, as a trainer, I felt the need to get women’s bodies firing up, too.
‘With dance fitness you’re working so many muscle groups as well as stimulating the brain. Dance fitness also challenges your coordination, balance and proprioception skills. Plus it’s fun – dance fitness is so much more than just exercise.’
Monique is a professional ballerina and trained in all methods of dance and stage. She has even performed in Sun City where she would sometimes be doing three shows simultaneously – which she says put her in the best shape of her life.
Her method incorporates the movement patterns and strength training elements of all her dance elements and because of this, one of her biggest fans is Emily Blunt.
Monique has been training Emily since she filmed Edge of Tomorrow with Tom Cruise. Emily loved Monique’s style of exercise so much, she has been her client ever since.
‘Monique is the most extraordinary trainer,’ says Emily. ‘I love how transformative her technique is. What she does revolutionises the way you look, the way you move, your depth of strength and ability.
‘I first met her when she trained me for Edge of Tomorrow, where I was thrown into the deep end of action and I credit her with making sure she increased my strength and capability to such an extent that I didn’t get injured in what was the most challenging experience of my life physically.’
Emily’s latest film, Jungle Cruise with Dwayne Johnson is in cinemas now. The film features lots of action stunt sequences and Emily credits Monique for creating the physical fitness necessary for her action roles.
‘Her movement method is so fluid and high octane, but with no heavy weights – which makes it really challenging and exciting. Most importantly, she makes it fun. We laugh through the pain. She’s a hardcore sweetheart who, frankly, got me into the best shape of my life.’
So, if you’re fed up with static workouts and just not seeing the desired results from your usual fitness regime, dance fitness just might just be the reason you start to love exercise again and even see a transformation. After all, it sounds like the A-List workout of choice these days.
Join Monique’s Eastwood Movement Method via eastwoodfit.com. Class are live three times a week, then go on-demand for users. £15 per class.
Fancy trying a dance fitness class? Here’s our pick of the best
Dance Dosti Digital
This digital programme is for people from a South Asian background who have sight loss.
Each 20 mins session is available in English, Bengali, Gujarati and Hindi and there are over 100 dance sessions available with fusions of Bollywood, Bhangra, Latin, and Contemporary.
At Your Beat
Whether you fancy yourself as a cheerleader or a Broadway star, this offers heaps of dance class options. Whether it’s freedom of movement, or choreographed sets, they have you covered.
Where? South London studio or at home via on-demand
Price: Studio class, £12; On-demand membership, from £10 per month
This cult London dance studio offers several classes, including FRAME The Day Dance Cardio class with Candice Brathwaite. The 45 minutes incorporates easy choreography in a workout that targets every muscle group.
Price: Free to everyone for the month of September; Membership, £6 per month thereafter
Dan’s Fitness Studio
Here you’ll find three, 50min dance-based workouts: Sweat (afrobeats and carnival), Power Up (Latin House) and Groove (salsa, bachata and latin). Classes are choreographed and incorporate dance, plus things like HIIT, resistance bands and weights.
Where? Oxford Circus studio and online
Price: £11 per class
Les Mills SH’BAM
Choose from over 100 workouts that range from 45-30 mins and incorporate simple yet sassy dance moves, all set to a party playlist.
Where? In studios and gyms nationwide or via Les Mills On Demand
Price: Free 14-day trial, £12.95 per month thereafter
Run by professional dancer Illana Gambrill, these empowering one-hour dance classes are easy to follow and include body-conditioning exercises. Predominately high-intensity routines, there’s a different vibe each week.
Where? Online live and on-demand
Price: From £25 per month
Signature class Discobarre is a ballet-barre and Pilates hybrid that sticks two fingers up at conventional barre workouts. It’s full-body, energetic and hardcore.
Where? Dalston studio and on-demand online
Price: Monthly Membership, £120 per month (includes all studio classes and on-demand access)
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