Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fitness guide for a toned body

Dancing is a fun way to keep the body toned and in "working order". Sumeet Nagdev tells us how he does it

At 24, dancer Sumeet Nagdev is arguably the youngest dance director. As founder of Expressions Modern Dance Company, he is on his toes all day. Fitness is crucial as contemporary dance is more like a sport. It requires strength, agility, flexibility, stamina and focus. So instead of clocking hours on a sweaty routine, he stays fit by practising kinaesthetic awareness — the awareness of position, weight, tension and movement of his body.

"I am aware of how many calories I have consumed," he says. "If I have four eggs, in the back of my mind, I know I have to burn them off. I can't diet. If I feel like having a gulab jamun, I'll have one."


Sumeet packs in at least one walk a day. "I let my mood decide where I want to go," he says. "It could be to Five Gardens or the beach. How much I walk also depends on my mood. Some days it's a 30-minute stroll. Other days, I jog for five kilometres." The only thing that remains a constant is the walk itself which works as a warm-up before an active day.


Sumeet takes four hours of class every day, plus two hours of rehearsing in case of shows. Six hours of dancing can take its toll on the spine and muscles if the body is not warmed up properly. "I tell my students to treat their body like a steel rod," he says. "If you bend it while cold, it will snap. But if you heat it slowly, it can bend completely."

All forms of dancing taught at the studio — classical ballet, contemporary and modern — have their own warm up techniques that benefit agility and flexibility. His own class mixes all of these.


Any warm-up should begin gradually, building from slow stretches and movements to more intense ones. In ballet, one starts with leg extensions, while keeping the spine straight. This opens up the joints of the limbs, loosening them and slowly increasing flexibility. "Dancing must come from the core (muscles)," explains Sumeet. "All a dancer needs to develop for good performance are the abdominal, pelvic muscles and thigh muscles. Everything else, development of the calves, chest and arms are just accessories." The stiff and controlled movements of ballet tone the calves, arms and core muscles.


Developed by Martha Graham, this is accepted as the foundation of modern dance. She took classical ballet techniques and inverted them. Where there was a strong spine, she slumped forward; where there were strong open arms, she caved them in. The technique is characterised by floor-work and use of abdominal and pelvic contractions. It contracts and expands, working and releasing the spine and muscles, toning them.


Lester Horton's techniques is characterised by flat back movements. This stretches and opens up the oft neglected tail bone. It also focuses on flexibility, strength and co-ordination.


Sumeet teaches gymnastics at Juhu beach every Sunday, following it up with a session of football. By mixing activities, he stays active every day of the week. Taking a leaf out of his book, here are things you can do for complete wellbeing.


It could be football, swimming, basketball or tennis, even just once a week. Your interest will make it less of a chore and you'll still burn calories. Sports are a complete and functional path to fitness.


You don't have to sit cross-legged in a room. A walk or run can be as meditative. Sumeet is developing his own organic technique that involves standing in silence, with eyes closed, slowly actualising each part of the body, bit by bit to become aware of it.


Take classes of interest. Sumeet attends a yoga class that his student conducts. Scan the newspapers — there will be some in your neighbourhood.


"If you don't cool down after a work-out or dance session, you'll be bouncing off the walls because of
the adrenaline," says Sumeet. He asks his students to visualise themselves as an ice cream that is slowly melting, visualising each part of their body slowly relaxing.


This can be difficult for a non selfemployed person, but it is worth a try. Sumeet loves watching the sun rise, which of course, ensures that he is sleepy by 11-11.30 pm . A good night's rest gives enough time for the body to repair and rejuvenate itself.


Know how your body responds to certain foods and what makes you put on weight. Sumeet is an eggatarian and tries to have as early a dinner as possible. Other than that, he just makes sure he burns off as much calories as he is consuming every day, and doesn't go to bed with a "calorie backlog".


Don't avoid what is necessary; adapt it. Sumeet was forced to go to a gym after a neck injury. Now he is addicted to it, but does resistance training. Instead of doing five biceps curls in as many counts, he takes five counts to do one curl. "People laugh at me, but I'd rather do my own thing," he says.