I love to dance, but I don’t always love practicing.
Practicing is hard. It requires resilience and tenacity. You must be willing to try something and fail, and then get up and try it again and again.
It is equal parts physical and emotional work, and sometimes I don’t feel like putting in the effort to do that work. Especially after a long day at the office.
I’ve learned, however, that consistent practice is incredibly important to becoming a better dancer, so even on days like these I try not to skip rehearsal or a solo-practice session.
Here are a few tips and tricks I use to motivate myself to get to the studio even on those days when all I really want to do is come home, sit on the couch, and watch Netflix all night.
1. Dress Up
It may seem silly to get dressed up when you know you’re going to start sweating in the studio, but doing so can actually boost your energy and change your emotional state. There’s even science to back this up.
It’s called the Enclothed Cognition, a term scientists use to describe the influence clothes have on how we feel, which comes from the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the experience of wearing them. Studies have show that wearing a lab coat or glasses can make us feel—and therefore act—smarter, simply because socially we associate those items with smartness.
So next time you’re feeling sluggish after a long day at work, instead of throwing on that ratty t-shirt from the 5k you ran sophomore year of college, try putting on something a little bit nicer.
2. Listen To Music
Nothing makes you want to dance more than listening to a great song, so turn on one of your favorite, feel-good tunes next time you’re feeling unmotivated to dance. The frequency of the waves will actually trigger a release of endorphins and serotonin in the brain, which results in feeling happier, more positive, and more motivated.
What type of music is most likely to trigger those feel-good feelings? According to researchers from McGill University, that is highly personalized and depends on what type of music you were exposed to growing up. Audio is a huge part of the way human beings create memories, and thus the music you listened to during different parts of your childhood.
If your family played bachata and merengue at parties, that genre will likely boost your mood, whereas if you and your friends blasted Christina Aguilera in the car, listening to some pop music is more likely to boost your mood.
3. Get Organized The Night Before
Pack everything you need for dance—clothes, shoes, socks, snacks, gum, water bottle, headphones, etc.—the night before or over the weekend if you back-to-back weeknight commitments. That way when you get home after an exhausting day of work, you don’t have to worry about the added stress that comes with trying to get all of your stuff together at the last minute.
Nothing will discourage you from going to class more than running around your apartment looking for your other dance shoe for fifteen minutes after a day of back-to-back meetings at the office. In fact, research from the University of Minnesota has shown that the act of choosing what to wear can actually deplete your energy levels, especially if you have a lot of clothes or accessories to choose from (#guilty).
Plus, by being packed and ready in advance, you won’t be able to use not having enough time to get ready as an excuse not to go to class or rehearsal. All you have to do is walk in the door, grab your stuff, and head to the studio. And if you find yourself with a few minutes to spare, you can use those to do something you enjoy like reading an article, listening to a podcast, or watching some TV. You could even use those few minutes to take a quick nap!
4. Set Goals And Reward Yourself When You Hit Them
Start by writing out your short and long-term dance goals. Maybe you want to impress the dancer you have a crush on at next month’s social, or join a team and perform at a latin dance festival next year. Perhaps you want to enter and place in an upcoming competition, or hope to earn a living from dance in the future.
Whatever your goals are, it’s important to get really clear about them so that you understand how practicing, taking class, or taking a private lesson will help you achieve those goals. On days when you feel like doing anything but dancing, take out your list and read it out loud. (Yes, out loud! It will feel more concrete.) Reviewing your list will remind you what you’re working towards, as well as how far you’ve come. Remembering all of that can be a powerful motivator on days when you’re feeling burnt out.
As important as it is to set personal goals and milestones, it’s equally important to celebrate when you do finally hit them. Acknowledging your success and all of the hard work that went into getting there will help keep you motivated too! So make sure to reward yourself throughout your dance journey in whatever way is most meaningful to you. That could mean treating yourself to a new pair of shoes, going to dinner with friends, or taking a night off for some self-care.
What tips and tricks do you use to motivate yourself on days when you don’t feel like practicing? Share them below!
P.S. If you’ve enjoyed reading my articles, be sure to check out my new blog (https://vitaminb.blog) about dance, travel, relationships, style, and more!