Not too long ago, I asked dancers on my email list to share one of the biggest challenges that they face in relation to training for Irish dancing.
After sorting through hundreds of answers, here is what they said:
By far, most dancers struggle with these four areas:
- Putting all of the pieces together: How do I pick methods, exercises, volume, and intensity to develop the right energy systems?
- Combining strength and conditioning and Irish dancing: How do I balance strength and conditioning and Irish dancing without decreasing one or the other?
- Monitoring and managing: Am I making progress? How should I adjust my volume and intensity over time?
- Conditioning assessment: How do I know if my conditioning is good or not?
The truth about conditioning is that there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle. But the flip side is that it doesn’t mean it has to be overly complicated or time-consuming to put them all together. There’s just one thing you need to follow a highly effective training plan without taking hours of your time: A system!
When I first started training dancers all of those years ago, I thought that there was no way that a dancer could manage all of those practice days each week plus their strength and conditioning training combined. There was just no way! Trying to write programs for dancers was like trying to speak another language!
It wasn’t until a year or two into my career as an Irish dance coach when I tried designing shorter plans for dancers (because the bigger plan was just impossible for dancers to follow!) And I discovered that the results were more effective! They were more effective because they could find the time to follow it consistently! I had one of those “aha” moments and realised that I had designed a system that works!
Once I figured this out, I was finally able to stop banging my head against the wall and I even saved myself hours when designing these plans for dancers… sort of! Since then, I have developed processes that help me to instantly recognise faults in a dancer and I had a system in place to resolve these problems.
Being a dancer is not easy. If you took part in any other sport, more than likely there would be millions of hours of useful content available to you, to help guide you in the right direction – to some degree at least! But for Irish dancing athletes, it’s not the same! There are so many questions that dancers have when thinking about how to design an effective plan…
- What exercises should I use?
- How many sets and reps?
- Should I include intervals?
- What heart rates are best?
And the list goes on.
As a fitness professional, the last thing I wanted to do was to give these dancers a program that didn’t deliver the results they expected. I never wanted to be the reason they didn’t get that recall or world medal or globe. I knew that if I didn’t deliver an effective plan that they would leave me for someone else. So I had to do everything I could to make this work.
These 3 key components are what I use to write virtually every conditioning program today.
It may seem like I’m promising a lot but this is how I’m able to write game-changing conditioning programs that take very little time to complete and with practice, I guarantee that you will get the results that I believe you can get with these plans!
- Standardized conditioning assessment
- Methods and exercises library
- Conditioning program templates
As soon as I built each of these 3 pieces, the rest was easy. This way, you never had to start from scratch.
1. Conditioning Assessment
Most of the time, conditioning isn’t black and white. So how do you evaluate someone’s conditioning level?
Why is it important?
It allows you to develop much more personalised programs, set the right goals, and track progress to see if the program is working or not.
This assessment is the foundation of every program. If you want to dive deep into the exact assessments I use, you can book in for a one to one assessment with me. Until then here is a quick guide.
- Resting heart rate: If there’s a single marker of someone’s overall conditioning level, it’s their resting heart rate. Although each sport has its own demands, most of the time you will want a resting heart rate to be relatively low.
- Heart rate recovery: How quickly one’s heart rate recovers between work periods is a powerful indicator of their overall work capacity and conditioning. The faster someone’s heart rate drops within the first 30-60 seconds, the better their conditioning is.
2. Methods and exercise library
Even though most people think of a program in terms of which exercises they are doing, it’s important to start thinking about methods. If the assessment is the foundation, then the exercises are the building blocks you layer on top.
At the most basic level, a training method is a way of describing how to do an exercise. A method is made up of variables like sets, reps, rest time, tempo, heart rates etc.
Doing the exact same exercises with a different method will get you different results. The same thing is true for conditioning. A series of 10-second sprints and 30 second rest periods will get you different results when compared to 30-second sprints with 10 second rest periods.
Over the years I have built a spreadsheet of methods I use along with a list of exercises. I call this my toolbox. If I ever give you a program, save it. Don’t just dump it and follow the new plan that you got because you might have to come back to the first plan you followed again. Save it in your toolbox! Plus you can use those programs but with new methods. There are endless amounts of methods to choose from.
Like the toolbox, save your old programs and use the templates given to you. They will save you a ton of time! Think of it as having yourself a head start! All you need to do