Why You’re Running 5ks But Still Dying In Your Treble Jig!

If you were to sign up for a 100 meter dash how would you train? Would you go outside and run 10 miles?!

How about a marathon? If you were to sign-up for a marathon today, would you run a few sprints up and down your block?

What about a high jump competition? Would you do the same training for a high jump that you would for a marathon?

Probably not…or if you did, it wouldn’t end pretty. Let’s talk about WHY and HOW this relates to Irish Dance training!!!

Any muscle contraction (or force) our body produces requires a molecule called ATP (I promise I’m going to try my best to keep this as least science-y as possible to prevent us both falling asleep). When ATP is broken down, it releases energy. We use this energy to generate force (i.e. dance, run, sing, laugh, sleep, walk, etc. etc, etc).

Our body has different methods of producing ATP depending on the duration and intensity of our activity. For example, if we are jumping across a building, our body will need quick energy to help us with that quick intense muscle contraction.  If we are going on a casual 3 mile Sunday stroll, our body doesn’t need a HUGE burst of energy like the building, but rather a steady stream of low-key energy to help us put one foot in front of the other for an extended period of time.

Our body relies on 3 different energy producing systems to help us generate ATP. Here is the Spark Notes version of what those systems are used for:

  1. ATP-PC System: Used for high power short duration activity. The ATP PC uses our body’s readily available/stored ATP. It only lasts about 12 seconds. Think jumping as high as you can or a sprinting up a flight of stairs.
  2. Glycolytic System: Used for moderate power, short duration activities. From about 10 seconds-2 minutes. This one is important because it is what we use primarily in dance!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
  3. Oxidative System: Think with OXygen. We rely on oxygen when using this system so it lasts longer than 2 minutes. This is low power, long duration. Like going on that casual 3 mile Sunday stroll. Long distance running falls into this category too!

No let’s talk dance training! Our dances last around a minute and a half so it’s important we train our body to produce maximum force for that time frame. We want to train our glycolytic system to be CRAAAAZY strong! If you can run a 5k, that’s great, but it is focusing on an entirely different energy system than doing your treble jig. If the judges looked at who could do the MOST treble jigs in 20 minutes, we’d consider the 5k plan…but what we want is quick, explosive, intense dancing for around 90 seconds. (NOTE: Maybe “20-minute race treble jigging” could be a new sport…  ???)

Energy system training also comes into play when talking how many times to go all the way through your dance while practicing/adding in steps. If you do more than 5 steps, you will switching into more of your oxidative system vs. staying in that powerful uber-important glycolytic system. Instead of continuously adding steps onto your dancing, try this: Train HARD for 2 minutes by doing 4-5 steps, take a break to recover, then repeat. If we just keep adding on steps, it’s like following a 5k training program when we are preparing for a 400m race.

Here’s a sample stamina practice plan:

Do 4 steps of your TJ (treble jig) HARD

REST 2 minutes

Do 5 TJ steps

Rest 3 minutes

Do 3 TJ steps

Rest 2 minutes

Do 3 TJ steps


Here are a few stamina cross training circuits to help you out as well! 

Circuit A

30 seconds of jump squats

30 seconds of sprawls

30 seconds of jump lunges


Circuit B

45 seconds of burpee box jumps

45 seconds of jump lunge, jump lunge, jump squat