Kinesiology grad student is research-strong

Lauren Warnecke, instructor and Ph.D. student in kinesiology, dancer

Lauren Warnecke is spending the semester as an intern with the women’s softball team, studying athletic conditioning for her doctoral studies in kinesiology. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services


Lauren Warnecke is a dancer, but she’s spending the semester as an intern with the UIC women’s softball team.

It’s part of the research for her doctorate.

“I realized I had zero experience in sports,” said Warnecke, a visiting instructor and doctoral student in kinesiology, who received her master’s degree here in 2009. “I wanted to learn how athletic teams train. I had the idea that dancers should train like athletes do. But I didn’t know what that would look like because I had never done sports.”

Three days a week she’s out with the team at 6 a.m., “shadowing the strength and conditioning coach,” Warnecke said. “This is an incredible group of women,” she said. “They’re wide awake at 6 a.m., and not one is ever late. It’s amazing to see their work ethic.”

She’s hoping to learn about exercise programming for athletes. “And I’m doing that,” Warnecke said. “What I didn’t realize was the difference in the group dynamic of working with a team and working with dancers, who are very individual.”

For her master’s degree, Warnecke created, “initially a WebMD for dancers.” The website included a lot of information about injuries.

Warnecke tore a ligament in her foot in 2003 and didn’t dance again for six years. “I looked into how we could change teaching practices so injuries would not be as prevalent,” she said.

After finishing her master’s, Warnecke started using for blogging. It also includes her dance reviews. “Last year I went to 100 dance performances,” she said.

In a recent post, Warnecke wrote, “Many dancers consider dance to be a part of their identities. I’ve interviewed a lot of dancers, and they commonly state things like: ‘I was born to dance.’ ‘Dance makes me who I am.’ ‘I have to do it.’ ‘I can’t imagine my life without it.’

“I’ve never encountered an investment banker who ‘can’t imagine his life without’ JP Morgan Chase.”

Warnecke has written hundreds of articles for her blog, Huffington Post,,, and other sites. She’s the monthly dance columnist for Windy City Times.

Her dance training began as a kid taking lessons at the Judith Svalander School of Ballet in Crystal Lake. She started her undergraduate studies at Barat College in Lake Forest and completed her bachelor’s degree in dance at Columbia College. Warnecke spent her early years in California and Colorado, moving to Cary when she was in the third grade.

She enjoys long bicycle trips. In July 2013, for the Ride for AIDS Chicago, she cycled 200 miles in two days, from Chicago to Lake Geneva and back. She may add swimming and running for her “pipe dream of doing a triathlon in the next couple of years,” she said.

Warnecke lives in Edgewater with her partner, Julie Ballard, production manager for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. They met while working on a show together.

“The thing I love about my area is that it’s so diverse,” she said. “It never feels like I’m narrow. In one moment I’m teaching undergraduates how to do pushups, in another I’m sitting at a dance performance as a critic. Fortunately, everything I do I really enjoy. Time spent working doesn’t feel like work to me.”

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