Updated: Feb 24, 2022
While getting through your full hardshoe round may feel like running a marathon, the way our bodies function to utilize fuel and oxygen to generate energy is very different between these activities. Irish dance is more like a sprint--you use extremely high amounts of energy over a relatively short amount of time. Both “low and slow” activities, like long runs or bike rides, and “high and fast” activities, like Irish dance or sprinting, might feel equally challenging, but they actually create energy in two very different ways. Both systems are always “on,” regardless of what kind of activity you’re doing, but under different conditions one will create more energy than the other.
These two energy pathways are called the aerobic system or the anaerobic system--literally meaning with oxygen or without oxygen. This means that the aerobic system uses oxygen to create energy for you to use, so it works best under conditions where there’s lots of oxygen available to your muscles. On the other hand, the anaerobic system creates the most energy in conditions where there’s no oxygen in your muscles, like during short-duration, high-intensity exercises. These “low-oxygen” conditions don’t mean you’re not breathing and bringing oxygen into your body--it just means there’s not enough oxygen to match the level of work you’re doing!
The anaerobic system is key to stamina in Irish dance, and the good news is this system is highly trainable--meaning there is a lot we can do as athletes to teach this system how to function more efficiently--which is what we do in Target Training classes! However, training your anaerobic system is physically challenging, as it requires a lot of high intensity power, strength, and speed training. If you’ve ever felt that heavy feeling in your legs or that you’re “hitting a wall” in the middle of your steps, that means you need to train your anaerobic endurance. The goal of anaerobic endurance training is to push that wall “back” further into your steps so you can get through more of your dance!
The best way to start anaerobic endurance training is to do just that: START! Start by doing just a little bit every day to push that wall “back,” and remember that a little bit every day can add up to big results. After laying the ground work of balance training and strength training, begin your plyometric training to condition that anaerobic system.
One of our favorite styles of anaerobic endurance training is known as Tabata training. This is a set of 4 exercises done for 20 seconds with a 10 second rest in between, repeated twice. One example of a Tabata set is:
20 seconds of squat jumps
10 second rest
20 seconds of right leg jumps
10 second rest
20 seconds of left leg jumps
10 second rest
20 seconds of burpees
10 seconds rest
This set takes a little over 4 minutes to complete and is a great way to start working your endurance. The key to performing a Tabata set is to do each exercise all out--if you hold back during your 20 seconds of exercise, you won’t get the maximum benefit to your anaerobic system. So at the start of each of these 20 second intervals, give yourself a little pep talk and remember to push 100%! Want to change it up? Swap out any of the exercises in that list for any of the exercises seen in THIS YouTube Playlist dedicated to power exercises for Irish dance!
TT Online Institute recommendations
If you're a member of the TT Online Institute, there are several stamina training videos I recommend.
21 Day Stamina Challenge (this has it all!)
High Intensity EMOM
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ATTACK, STAMINA & POWER Blog series
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