How to dance for six hours at Wembley and not die

DanceWhen the lovely Sarah asked if we would like a guest post about how to basically do this Danceathon thing and not die we leapt at the opportunity.  Actual dying in front of 2499 other people has crossed more than one honker’s mind recently so this post is timely.    Here Sarah aka @ephemeragrrl on Twitter, tells us what we have in store and how to do it without doing ourselves a mischief.
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Six Hours.

Concrete Floor.

Wembley Arena.


As soon as I start to think about it that way, I get a *little* nervous. Ok a lot nervous. Ok I’m worried I’m going to end up like this


(They Shoot Horses Don’t They 1969)

Except Jane Fonda will always look better than me.

Last month, I had the opportunity to participate in the final auditions for the dance instructors for Comic Relief’s Danceathon – 3 hours of dancing, 6 different routines.

What can I tell you from this? Well it’s going to be an absolute hoot, with some varied and fantastic routines. Those routines are graded beginner/intermediate and reflect a pretty broad church. Also and most importantly, I didn’t die. I didn’t even get the feeling that I might die. But I did feel pretty wiped out.

Last year I did a 5K Pretty Muddy, a 2.5K Swimathon and a 10K Street Run. And I am not uber-fit and I do have a rather perilously dodgy knee (that pretty much put the kibosh on any dance aspirations I had in my teens). 3 hours of dancing was worse than the Pretty Muddy, about the same as the 2.5K Swim and nowhere near as horrible as the 10K run. But by the end of it, my lower back and shoulders were killing me and my knee was protesting somewhat.

I’d always known I’d need to do some prep for Danceathon, you can’t just expect your body to move for 6 hours when the most you do most days is walk to and from the train station. So this is my plan for the next couple of months and I hope it can be yours too.

  • DANCE – silly I know, but I mean dance, properly, routines, rather than just bopping around the kitchen to Taylor Swift (although, yes, still do that too, because it embarrasses your Teen daughters and brings on the happy). Dancing to stuff that’s about 130 BPM is probably a good start.  If you’ve got a Wii or an Xbox, I would absolutely recommend getting either Dance Central or Just Dance and doing some sessions. It will give you an idea of some of the styles you’ll be dancing at Danceathon and some of the basic moves. Don’t dance til you fall over, but do try and build up the amount of time. Stamina is really important. Also bits of you will hurt that you weren’t expecting, so while looking at dance stuff I suggest …
  • SHAUN T  – now you may have heard of Shaun, he’s the maniac who created the Insanity Workout. But he’s also a choreographer and has 2 Dance workout DVDs. Ok, so they are rather cheesily called Rocking Body and Hip Hop Abs, and they’re not cheap. But, the good thing is that Shaun likes to focus on core strength and trust me, you’ll need a strong core to do 6 hours dancing. After 3 hours the thing that most hurt me was my back and arms. Shaun isn’t everyone’s cup of T (sorry), but the routines are good for beginners and he’s good at checking on modifiers for people who have issues with high impact moves. (More of that later)
  • SWIM – crazy yes? You’ll be dancing not swimming, but here’s the thing I found last year. When I trained for Swimathon, the 3 months of swim training I did helped me enormously with my lung capacity and stamina once I started running. Swimming is great, it’s low impact, fast results (in terms of stamina build up) and should also help your arms. Because the other things that really hurt after just 3 hours of dance were my arms. So swim swim swim!
  • WEIGHTS/PILATES/ROWING – this is an optional thing, but I’m looking at it because my shoulders and arms hurt so much. I may do something as simple as grab my Piloxing gloves and wear those while dancing. What I found last year doing Hip Hop Abs, was that after a while you will build up strength in your shoulders, even if you have noodle-y arms. Worth considering.

You’ll notice I’ve not mentioned running and there’s a good reason for this. Run if you like it, run if you want to, run for the hell of it, but if you hate running I don’t recommend you start now for Danceathon. The whole idea of this is for it to be fun, and if you’re not having fun while training, then you may fall off the training wagon and that won’t be great on the day. So fun things are the key, along with not expecting to be superwoman immediately.

Some other stuff you may want to consider:

  • CREAKY BITS. I have a knee that hates me. When I run I need to strap it up, when I exercise I need to do low impact modifiers, because too much jumping will cause it to try and shift sideways at inopportune moments. So keep an eye out for things that hurt and if you have dodgy knees or ankles be aware of that. Don’t force them to do things that will cause you grief later. KT tape is your friend as is being aware of moves that you can do instead of jumps (stepping rather than jumping, bouncing on toes instead of jumping on the spot). Trust me I’ll be doing them at Wembley so I can stay on my feet.
  • SHOES. So at the three hour session I danced in a pair of “barefoot” trainers, which was good up to the point where I remembered they’re a little too small and my toes started cramping up! So think about what you’ll be dancing in. Something light is good (after a while your feet can feel kind of heavy) but make sure your foot is supported. Again try them out for an hour long session at least to see if they’re going to cause you any problems. And I’m not entirely sure about barefoot trainers right now, given that Wembley arena has a concrete floor with no give. I’ll be looking at that one a bit more and I’ll share any advice I get!

This is going to be an amazing, fun, silly, communal, boogie till your tits drop off event. With a little prep we can all get through it, red faced, sweaty, possibly more Bella Emberg than Jane Fonda perhaps, but in once piece and having raised a glorious amount of money.

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