Cheat Your Way to a Dancer's Body

Wait, what? Cheat? Surely there are no shortcuts in fitness.

You'd be totally right if you think there's something up with the idea that you can cheat yourself skinny, so let me explain what I mean.

Women have coveted the ballet dancers body for years, envying their long limbs and tiny frames combined with grace and strength. So the myth goes that if you want a dancers body, you simply have to dance!

Here's where it all starts to unravel for anyone who doesn't have hours to spend in the studio.

Dancing LIKE A DANCER will get you closer to that dancer physique. When I was working as a professional dancer, teaching classes, rehearsing and performing each and every day, I was dancing for an average of 8 hours per day. 8 hours.

When I wanted to get in my best shape, I went to the gym 3 times a week on top of that.

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I will admit that back then I ate whatever I wanted and drank like a fish. It was the 90's what can I say? (Perhaps without dragging my body through the equivalent of a nutritional drought I might not have had to add those 3 weekly workouts to stay in peak condition.)

The key takeaway is that dancing will change your physique if you do it enough. But you have to do it a lot.

It's undisputed in fitness circles that you need to challenge your body to change your body. The theory is that if your body can already do something, like lift a weight, plié for 1 minute, dance for an hour, then it doesn't see the need to adapt. So if you want your body to create muscle, to build strength or endurance, you need to consistently ask it to do something it can't already do.

(This concept of CHALLENGE TO CHANGE is key in our Corio Club workouts.)

If you dance because you want to change your body you have to dance to the point of extreme challenge which either takes time or intensity, or both!

Professional dancers always dance with intensity. They strive to use their entire bodies to create shapes, movement and patterns that looks visually stunning and it's hard work. I mean REALLY hard work as every muscle in your body is working in harmony to move you with speed and control while you make it look effortless.

So the main reasons people who follow classes based on dance principles rarely achieve the body of a dancer are: 1) They only attend a couple of classes a week instead of dancing for hours a day 2) they don't move with the same intensity.

Essentially, it's down to you to challenge yourself enough to change, and for most people that's tough to do. Often, those new to exercise will see improvements in fitness and body composition at first, but then plateau and find it hard to keep building once their body has adapted to the workout.

So what's a dance-inspired gal to do?

Cheat.

When I had my children my free time halved overnight. OK, that's a bit generous, to be honest it disappeared!

There's nothing like a time-strapped parent to show you how to get efficient, right?

Suddenly I had to get results from my workouts that took me minutes, not hours, but I wanted to be able to keep the enjoyment and buzz I got from dancing while maintaining my dancer-like frame.

I certainly don't have two hours a day to exercise and I need to cook food that the whole family can eat otherwise I'll be chained to the kitchen for the rest of my life.

What followed was a voyage of discovery. I studied everything from Pilates to strength training, spending months at a time experimenting on my body to see what effect different training methods had. As a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach as well as a dancer, my experience gave me a unique insight into how to cheat your way to that dream dance body.

Here's what I learnt (in a nutshell):

Nutrition is your dance partner.

Want to get a dancer’s body on a working woman's schedule (that includes you SAHM’s)? You'll need to eat your way there. To cut body fat and show off those toned limbs, your food and daily habits are the cornerstone of your results. Some people say it's 80% food, 20% movement. One thing is for sure, the two go hand in hand like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. You can have them alone and it's OK, but together it's magic. Nutrition is your lead and you better make sure you learn to follow!

If you want to speed up results, turn up the challenge.

I love to create more challenge to dance-based moves by adding resistance and intensity. You can cut your workout time in half if you use weights that go above and beyond a couple of pounds, especially when targeting the lower body. Recruiting the powerful larger muscles in your legs, glutes and back will increase your calorie burn and get your a more efficient workout. Besides, it's these muscles that dancers are constantly working when they jump, turn and stretch. Full body movements, (or compound exercises, which use more than one muscle group at a time) get better results in faster time that isolation exercises.

Dance is the original HIIT.

I think my body is made for HIIT workouts. I love the short sharp intensity followed by the prospect of recovery. Stand me in front of a 60 minute endurance run and you'll hear me groan. So it's little wonder I love the format of dance classes for cardio. Once you learn the steps, you repeat short, intense routines with as much technique and intensity as you can manage, followed by a brief recovery period as you recap the moves. It's the original HIIT workout and HIIT has been shown to keep your metabolism revved and improve your cardio fitness faster than you can say 'Showtime!'.

If it's not fun, you won't stick with it.

There's got to be something special about the way you choose to move your body. Whether it's the collective experience you get from working out with other like-minded people who belong in your tribe or the feel-good factor that buzzes through you from moving to music that energises and uplifts, it doesn't much matter. What matters is consistency.

If you hate your bootcamp class, it won't be long before you ditch it. So find something you love and stay consistent. For me, this means mixing up my workouts to prevent boredom, plateaus and to keep me motivated. That's why I do the same for my private clients who are always challenged with new formats, concepts and moves that sculpt and burn as efficiently as possible while creating a dancer-like transformation.

Don't compare yourself to others. That way unhappiness lies.

There's another uncomfortable truth about the dance-world. It's fiercely aesthetic of course, so for every lean and lithe dancer you see, there are other equally talented dancers who didn't make it onto your screen or the stage because of the way they look.

You can't change your genetics. You can't actually make muscles longer unless your bones grow longer. What you CAN do is maximize your potential.

I could never have been a ballet-dancer because I don't have the flexibility required and I'm too tall and broad. Instead I went commercial where I could play to my strengths.

While it's great to have inspiration and motivation, ultimately learning to love yourself and striving to be your own version of stage-ready is what's going to give you the most satisfaction.

Don't buy into the myth that a dancers body will come from an hour or two of gentle exercise at the barre. Join the thinking woman's movement and cheat yourself there instead.


The Corio Method is a unique, fearlessly fun and effective fitness method and training system that creates a stronger, fitter, leaner and more agile, beautifully balanced physique.  Apply now for a complimentary Corio Kickstart Session with our coaches, available globally (value $250) and take the first step towards a new you.