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Inner strength: its not all in your head. (Health and Fitness for Life).

Growing up, Amy Wood of Edina, Minnesota, was involved in many sports: horseback riding, softball, ice skating, soccer, and gymnastics. Later, she gave up sports for dance, first jazz and modem, and finally, ballet. She loved the movement, music, flow, and femininity of dance.

That was more than five years ago. Wood knew she had to catch up to her dance peers, many of whom started taking ballet as young children. As Wood got more involved in ballet, she realized she needed to get stronger. After all, she was becoming a different kind of athlete.

Wood, now 17, began to take Pilates to strengthen her midsection, the area from which a dancer's strength emanates. She began to work on the Reformer and Cadillac with a private instructor. Since then, she has widened her repertoire to include other fitness exercises that condition her core.

The public is discovering what Wood and other dancers have known for years: Core training is just as useful in daily life as it is to a demanding discipline like ballet.

That's one reason why core training and flexibility/stretching ranked as the top programs according to IDEA, a San Diego health and fitness trade organization. In a nod to aging bodies, these programs are showing the greatest increase in participation, according to IDEA's Trendwatch 2001, an annual survey of program directors in the United States and Canada. Not surprisingly, yoga and Pilates, mainstays of dancers, aren't far behind.

Core-training exercises help prevent injuries and offer fresh approaches to health and wellness, Davis says. And in an industry as competitive as dance, there's always someone waiting in the wings to take over an injured performer's role.

Dance schools and companies have taken note. The San Francisco Ballet has a Pilates instructor, available both to students and company members. At Zenon Dance Company and School in Minneapolis, students can take Pilates, yoga, and stretch/strength classes. The New York City Ballet recently began a Wellness Program (see "Hail to the Corps," page 68) that includes yoga, chiropractic, and preventative health services. NYCB does not offer Pilates, but several dancers take it on their own.

Glenn Keenan, 19, is one of those dancers. A corps de ballet member, Keenan takes Pilates once a week, working on the mat and the Cadillac. Keenan, who started ballet at age 8, added Pilates to her routine when she was 13. "I wanted to give something new a try," Keenan says. "I'm a very ambitious person. I'm willing to try anything to get what I want." She says Pilates has helped her become strong and flexible at the same time. "It's not dance, but you're really focused on your body. It's a way to get in tune with [it]."

Even when a dancer has stopped performing and teaches, core conditioning is important. "As we get older, this kind of activity is becoming more important for everyone's health and for their fitness level," says Kathie Davis, executive director of IDEA. "Core conditioning will help you no matter what activity you're involved in."

Just take a look at clubs and studios nationwide, where core training has become a buzzword. The nation's 77 million baby boomers are driving much of the interest in core-training classes, thanks to aching backs, protruding bellies, and the realization that no one is immortal. To that end, Reebok, for example, has created an entire fitness program around its new wobbly core board. YMCAs offer core-conditioning classes that work the upper back, abdominals, and glutes. Other fitness studios have added Yogilates--a combination of yoga and Pilates--to their schedules.

"THE CENTER OF THE BODY IS THE CENTER of a chain," says Lonna Mosow, a former dancer and owner of the Eden Prairie, Minnesota, studio that bears her name. "If the center isn't organized, the movement from the upper and lower trunk can't be performed in an efficient, safe, and effective manner." She hammers home the value of core stability to all her clients, whether they are dancers, athletes, or just regular folks who sit in front of computers all day, offering Pilates and other exercises that strengthen their core muscles.

At Mosow's studio, trainers work with clients on Pilates equipment and with tools like stability balls, wobble boards, foot-plates, and rotational disks. These tools promote balance and stability, both key factors in conditioning the core and helping prevent injuries. Fitness managers say people are making health a priority and taking steps that allow them to age well and gracefully. Looks aren't as important as being able to lift the kids or carry the groceries without pain.

And that's a good thing. Injuries are no one's idea of fun, but especially not for dancers, who make incredible demands on their bodies and are most at risk. Afraid of missing class or losing a role, dancers are notorious for working through injuries, sometimes with devastating consequences.

"Injuries promote injuries," Mosow says. "You're only as productive as your body is willing."

"I've only been in the company for a year, but I haven't been out [with an injury]," Keenan says. "With Pilates, you work other muscles as well as the dance muscles. That is significant in preventing injury."


Core Training Programs: training/balance.html

Products: Stability balls: d is play.cfm?itemid = 126 Resist-a-Ball products:

Books: The Pilates Body: The Ultimate At-Home Guide to Strengthening, Lengthening, and Toning Your Body--Without Machines by Brooke Siler. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group. 2000. 194 pages, paper. $18.00. ISBN: 0-767903-96-x.

Swiss Ball Applications for Orthopedic and Sports Medicine--A Guide for Home Exercise Programs Utilizing the Swiss Ball by Joanne Posner-Mayer. Longmont, CO: Ball Dynamics International Inc. 1995. 213 pages, spiral-bound. $34.95. ISBN: 0-964534-14-2.

Stronger Abs and Back: 165 Exercises to Build Your Center of Power by Greg Brittenham and Dean Brittenham. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishing. 1997. 248 pages, paper. $16.95. ISBN: 0-880115-58-0.

Rhoda Fukushima covers health and fitness for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Her work is circulated in the Midwest by Knight Ridder.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Core training
Author:Fukushima, Rhoda
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2001
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