After four weeks of starting my Get Fitter For Better Ballet Challenge, I’m totally starting to see – and feel – some progress! At least in some areas, other body parts are still lagging behind. Starting with the positives first…
Been doing the Theraband turnout exercises practically daily and I would give them credit for the majority of the improvement. Once again, those exercises are found on a video on a blog called If The Pointe Shoe Fits, and there’s lots of other helpful videos there as well. While I would say they have improved my ability to maintain my turnout, especially when doing grand plies, there are so many other things that stronger thighs help with!
My standing-to-floor and floor-to-standing transitions are much better. As I mentioned in my first back-to-fitness post four weeks ago, last semester my thighs were so weak that I needed to use my hands (by putting them on my upper thighs and pressing) for support in order to transition from a standing position to a one knee on the floor position. In my 2 week update, I mentioned that I can now do it without using the hands for support on my thighs, but I was still using my arms for leverage or clenching them. Well, I’m happy to report that by now I have worked up to keeping my arms in second position as I get up and down. For an extra challenge, I like to lower myself very sloooowly sometimes, getting to the point when my knee is about to touch down and then raise myself back up. Reading that back now it sounds like I’m talking about lunges, which I suppose I am. But the pretty, graceful ballet equivalent, with the arms out to second.
Also, when practicing long sustained balances on releve at home this past weekend, as I was squeezing squeezing squeezing my core to maintain my balance I realized that the “core” is not synonymous with “abs”. No, turns out there is a whole bunch of muscles underneath the abs that I now know I have! The first time I felt them it was like “Whoa, I didn’t know you were there!”, they must have been hiding, waiting for me to discover them. Since I haven’t been doing any sit-ups or crunches – hate them! – once again I will give the credit for those new muscles to the Theraband turn-out exercises.
Besides the turnout exercises I’m doing the feet and ankle strengthening exercises that Teacher taught us as well as stretching. It’s starting to become a habit, a regular part of my routine, and it makes me feel like a “real” dancer.
In general my legs feel much stronger and I have a new-found stability, as I found out the other day when I found myself wearing uncomfortable high heels (not by choice, it was a Family Function). My feet hurt like hell, but my balance was amazing. I felt like I could run in those suckers! But I didn’t, of course, not looking to tempt fate and all.
My upper half is trying to resist my efforts at shaping up. While I’ve been doing Shakeweight about three times a week, my arms don’t seem to be toning up more than they already were and they’re not particularly stronger either. I’m still stalled at about 3/4 of a pull-up. Even though I mentioned in my last fitness update that I was considering hitting the gym, to be honest I haven’t. I keep myself pretty busy and making time to do something that I don’t particularly like doing is kind of a last resort. So for now I’ve just been sticking with the Shakeweight, some pushups and yoga.
The whole cardio issue is another thing that I’ve been thinking about. Last semester, during my ballet final exam I totally got out of breath during my dance. We’d been practicing the dance together as a class, but since it was crowded when we would practice I would just kind of mark the steps for safety; I didn’t do the jumps and the ballet-running parts full out. Definitely didn’t want to land on someone or crash into them. When it was time to get graded and we performed one at a time was the first time that I gave it 110%. By the end of the minute and a half or so performance I was panting and was so out of breath that I couldn’t hold the balance for my last pose. My muscles just didn’t listen when I told them to tighten up.
It was a bit of an eye-opening experience – the notion that someone can be sort of thin and still be in such horrible shape as to get winded from a minute or so of activity. I’m also starting to wonder if this may come into play with my difficulty with sautes. The problem appears to be related to doing many sautes in a row, because if I just do one feels so much easier to focus on pointing my feet. But many of them gets me out of breath, so perhaps the diminished oxygen flow to the muscles is not helping?
But what to do about it? During the more steep uphills of my walks I’ve been trying to walk faster, in efforts of getting my heart rate up. If I don’t see more improvement I may have to actually try jogging the uphill parts, though I’d rather not. Mostly I worry about the ground impact and my knees, though on grass or sand it may be ok. Maybe I’ll even learn to enjoy it. We’ll see…