Category Archives: fitness for ballet

New Class, Soreness, And More Crappy Pirouettes

Another busy week with plenty of dancing, after last week’s almost-break. Predictably, I’m very sore – ha. I’ve been rolling out my roller and tennis balls like crazy. Some of it just needs time to rest though, like my bottom. This week, in Modern M Teacher had us doing much more floorwork, and my behind is especially sore from rocking back and forth on it as we rolled from one side to the next. The thing we did was like a spinning in a circle, but on the floor (from the middle laying down to each side coming to seated, then using our arms to rotate. I can’t come up with a better way to describe it) and it made me so dizzy. I guess there’s no such thing as spotting your turns when you’re on the floor! I was dizzy enough that I was grateful I was already on the floor, actually.

This week I took a ballet class, Beginner, with a somewhat new to me teacher I’ve mentioned before, G Teacher. He seemed to recognize me/remember me since the last time, so that was kind of nice. It was a good challenge and change of pace to take an unfamiliar barre, because with my other teachers, even if they change it up slightly from class to class, I still somewhat recognize their “patterns”. G Teacher’s barre is just so different to the other classes I’ve been taking, and I’ll make sure to ask what style of ballet it is next time I make it in to that class (which I don’t know when it’ll be exactly, since the time is quite inconvenient for me).

At barre, the grand battement combination included that swivel leg thing where you grand battement a la second, then bend the leg and turn in and bring it across the body and then back out, you know, that thing. The newer beginners looked mystified, even after it was demonstrated a couple of times. I don’t blame them – the first time I saw that in person it was like ‘what is that?!’ It’s one of those things that gets more fun with familiarity, and feels so good (I especially like doing it after a grand battement on releve). There was also a rond de jambe conbination that had the ronde de jambes with fondu and port de bras, like the ones we do in Intermediate.

In center, we did lots of glissades (just one after another all the way across the floor), and then tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, grand jete over and over. This is a Beginner class, and we usually only do that in Intermediate, so it does seem that G Teacher’s beginner class is more advanced than F Teacher’s or Teacher’s. Either way, I really like – and find very helpful – the amount of repetition in center. By the end of class I was feeling pretty confident about all the steps we’d done. During the glissades, G Teacher told me “Good!” (and for once, I didn’t start messing up immediately afterward), and I do feel proud of how far I’ve come in glissades.Back when I first started ballet I couldn’t glissade at all because I was too weak and my balance was terrible. I wasn’t able to land glissades without losing my balance and tipping over. Then, once I was able to land, I was able to start working on pointing my feet and all that. And now, my glissades, at least a la seconde, are not bad if I do say so myself…

In Intermediate class we did  4 balancés, pique arabesque, plie down, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, soutenu, hold sous-sus balance, other side. Focusing on the good things:I can hold the balance after the sous-sus well, also the plie down from the pique arabesque. Bad things: I’m a little hesitant about my pique arabesque, and the pirouettes to the right are more often than not terrible. That said, I actually landed a pirouette en dehors from fifth to the right (basically, my hardest pirouette), which was nice. To my better turning side (left), I’ve actually felt a little off lately, weird.

We also had a tendu combination that I can’t remember, but it was different from the tendu combinations we’ve been doing. It included a pirouette en dedans, among other things.

This week, across the floor we did saute arabesque, saute coupe, saute arabesque, faille, pas de chat x2 instead of the usual combination. Teacher had us focus on making sure our working leg’s foot was super pointed when we jumped off it for our sautes (technically, temps leves,  I guess). The ones in arabesque are much easier for me to point my feet during, but the ones in coupe not so much – Wonder why? It was the same way to both sides, so it wasn’t a right-left side imbalance.

At home, I had Boyfriend film me going over the choroegraphy as full out as I could in our kitchen to see what specifics I need to work on. Well, specifically I need to work on my attitude devant (higher, more turned out, just cleaner. Actually, this week both Teacher and NS Teacher pulled my leg higher during my attitude balances, so maybe it’s a hint), my bourres (smaller, tighter, and quicker steps), and, of course, that piroeutte en dehors that I’ve mentioned before. Ugh, I’m pretty discouraged about that part right now honestly. Advice, both requested and unrequested, had not been helping me. And yes, I can intellectually undetstand the concept of ‘I’m overthinking it and trying too hard’, but that’s not helping me to put in action ‘under thinking and not trying hard enough’ or whatever would be the opposite. Or maybe I’m just supposed to go for a happy medium, something like thinking and trying just the right amount? But seriously, so frustrated!

But – there’s the bright side –  in addition to practicing my pirouettes, I’ve also been working on my placement and balance, just trying to make sure I have a solid muscle memory platform to build on (and my balances in center on releve retire have improved so much, as a nice bonus).  Since I’ve gotten told by teachers to use a smaller fourth position, I’ve been working on that. I have disproportionately long legs, so it feels really strange, and not too far from a really bad fifth. However, it does seem to keep my alignment in place, so I’ll trust that my teachers know what they’re talking about. I also practiced rising up to passe releve, balancing, and closing in front in fifth, then I did it with closing back into fourth, before trying my pirouettes again. One thing I noticed is that I come off my highest releve some time during the turn, and that’s what may be causing me to fall out of it. So, just to rule out that it’s not lack of strength that is the issue, I made myself do something like 24 single leg releves and eleves (no, not all at once on one leg – I’m not going to lie and pretend I’m at that level of strength – though that is a goal I’m working towards. I did three sets of eight, alternating legs with a pas de bourre). I think I’ll be doing this often, as well as my rotator muscle exercises. I should do the feet theraband exercies (flex and point with articulation) as well, but when I do them it almost feels like they’re not doing anything. Maybe I need to switch to the heavier resistance band, or just do more of them.

Even if it doesn’t improve my pirouettes, I’ll have freakishly strong and powerful feet. Which is kind of cool.

Like A Flashback

Once again, what a week (and I say that in both the positive and negative aspects).

Ballet’s been going well. In the first few weeks of the sessions I do a lot of remembering at what level I was at in the beginning of the past sessions and assessing my progress as I remember doing that same step back then. In Beginner class we’re doing stuff like basic weight shifting tendu combinations in center (just a la seconde) and chasses across the floor. The memory of not being able to even tendu in center without falling over is still with me, although it does feel more distant every day. I do feel like I’m trying to hold on to it though – I mean, compared to where I was when I started, my progress has been nothing short of amazing for me. If I were to lose that memory of where I was where I began, somehow the accomplishment seems less impressive to myself. When F Teacher demonstrates the chasses, for example, and she tells the class “Then you’ll be able to take the back foot en l’air,  then go up on releve, then jump it” (with a little demonstration as she says it), I almost feel like I’m transported back in time three years ago. I remember thinking ‘Yeah, right. Like I’m ever going to be able to do that – I keep falling over even with both feet flat on the floor’. But, what do you know, with enough time and practice I could! So even if I’m a crappy dancer by anyone else’s standards, I continue to impress myself. That makes me happy.

The more challenging Intermediate classes have been fun as well. So much more fun than last year! I still definitely struggle with remembering long combinations, especially the second side (and it does seem like in the moment all my own advice about remembering different phrases completely flies out of my head. I got to learn to notice the patterns!), but I feel like I’m able to jump back into it with less of a delay than before. Still not at the level needed to make it actually look like beautiful dancing beyond the first phrase, but at least I can start off and finish it in a somewhat presentable manner. Petit allegro, of course, is not even close to looking how it should, but my speed has increased enough so that I’m keeping up the tempo. I’m not trying any beated jumps yet though, just working on making my changements look nice first. Luckily, Teacher gives us the option of going at a slower or faster tempo (I usually attempt both) and of adding the beats or not.

I seem to have figured out the glissade forward (as opposed to a la second. The kind found in saute arabesque, saute coupe, tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, grand jete) which was really giving me a hard time several months back.   We worked on pique arabesques, which are so much harder for me than to chasse atabesque  onto releve, and I’ve been working on getting over my fear of stepping up onto releve. I guess it happens all the time when doing chaines or pique turns, but for whatever reason I find it scarier to just pique arabesque. Even harder adding that plie while coming down off the one foot releve, and holding the balance. But by the end of my second Intermediate class of the week I was able to do a few, even on my bad balancing side.

My single pirouettes en dehors have been ok this week (well, at my regular school – at NS for whatever reason my body just did not want to cooperate this week and I did not do any full pirouettes at all), not good just ok. I’m getting around all the way pretty often, but I haven’t been attempting any more doubles. Perhaps it was a fluke, perhaps not, but either way I’ve just been focusing on getting singles with correct technique and most importantly for me, getting rid of the anxiety surrounding doing pirouettes.

All that being said, I did not end the week having a very good opinion about myself as it relates to movement (not specifically dance). As part of a certification program I’m doing, I have to take these exceptionally challenging Pilates classes on top of what I usually take. Oh man, it was awful!

During (and after) taking it, I felt the closest I had felt in a very long time to when I first started ballet – like I was old, weak, clumsy and uncoordinated (not the agile, in tune with her body person I’ve started to become since starting ballet) . I honestly wanted to cry several times, but I held it in, forcing myself to think about later on that night when I could allow myself some private time with my feelings. As it happens with me, when I repress sadness it turns into anger. So as the hour progressed I found myself angrier and angrier – and unfortunately a good deal of that anger was at myself, for thinking that a person’s body, mine, can really change. There were exercises that I couldn’t do at all no matter how hard I tried, and there were some that I could do, but worried that by doing them I was putting my body in an unsafe position. I was tempted to just leave after the mat portion, but went on to the Reformer part anyway – it was a terrible idea. I managed to get out of doing some of the exercises, but the ones I was made to do sucked. I worried that my hip flexors were going to be angry at me, or worse (due to my weird long leg-short torso ratio, my knees were somewhere around the back of my ears, while other’s knees were still out in front of them).

To make matters worse, the instructor said something along the lines of ‘some exercises aren’t for everybody. Some very inflexible people, or a pregnant woman, wouldn’t be able to do them.’ Ok, maybe I took it the wrong way, but hearing that just about destroyed my mood (I was the only one who couldn’t do that particular exercise (when she said it) in the whole room, and last time I checked I’m neither pregnant nor extremely inflexible (by this point in my 3 year stretching regimen)). It’s been days later and I’m still feeling extremely down on the whole thing. This is so how I felt when I first started ballet. The big difference is that although ballet was the hardest thing I’d ever attempted to do, I cared enough to get over the horrible inadequacy and just keep going (and nowadays I’m so glad I did). But I don’t have that same passion for Pilates – sure, it’s a great way to stay in shape and condition the body, but there’s no need for me to do the extremely challenging exercises at the harder end of the spectrum. To me this is a body conditioning method, and I wouldn’t want to risk not being able to dance by injuring myself while doing what to me is woking out.

So I’ll probably just leave, because that’s so much easier for me than talking to the instructor. I keep trying to ask myself if it is that I genuinely worry that I may hurt myself, or that my pride is extremely wounded for not being able to keep up. Perhaps it’s both.

Long Weekend, Long Walk, Short Break

It’s been an extra long weekend, which meant a shorter week, and less days of ballet class. My mini-intensive ended as well, so I’m sort of on a break – at least until the long weekend ends. Been doing lots of ballet obsessing, but also been spending more time outdoors in the real world. Actually, quite a lot of time, especially in my garden. The weather has been just lovely these last few days, and staying it seems like such a shame.

Ok, honestly I only went to one class last week. Other ones I’d usually have the option of going to were off because of the holiday weekend. Compared to the amount of classes per week I’d gotten used to taking, it’s felt like quite a change, but not necessarily a 100 percent horrible one. I have been practicing at home, though not as much as I had originally planned. On Friday we went for an extremely long walk and it left me much more sore than I had expected (It was close to ten miles, but relatively flat terrain. I usually walk and jog around 4 miles). So that ruined my balletful weekend I had been planning, as I figured it would be better to play it on the safer side. It did confirm to me the necessity of cross-training, because as usual it was my weak quadriceps that felt like they were giving out. At least it wasn’t the same leg I hurt a few months ago, so I’m not even more lopsided, ha ha. Anyway, my leg is feeling much better.

Let’s see, stuff I remember from the class I took…

We did this barre combination, fast tendus with alternating working leg, then this somewhat unusual en croix pattern and reverse. It was two devant with the outside working leg, two derriere with the inside leg, then (all outside working leg) tendiu devant, a la second (close front), a la second (close back), derriere, reverse. It doesn’t sound too hard on paper (on screen?), but it was at a super fast speed, and when I hear en croix I tend to automatically think of the regular pattern. I had it by the second side, though the tendus themselves felt sloppy, like my feet were not warmed up yet. Oh, and did I mention that I had forgotten my ballet slippers? I was already halfway to the studio when I realized it, and was too lazy (and on a time constraint) to turn back. So I did class in socks over my tights and dealt with it. Can’t say I enjoyed taking class in socks over slippers.

Perhaps because we jumped – a lot. After doing 32 changements. We did a combination: 8 changements, then echappe to second,  echappe to fourth, echappe to second, echappe to fourth (with a different foot in front than the last time), repeat, all with port de bras. Amazingly, especially because the last time we’d done a similar combination I was all over the place, I was getting the coordination of the ams and landing in the correct positions somewhat. It was exhausting, and then we followed up with another jumping combination, this one with sissones after the changements. I like sissones a la seconde (and think I’m decent at them), but this was sissones en croix and the tempo was really fast. It was not pretty.

On the positive side, ever since those landed double pirouettes last week, single pirouettes have seemed easier. I didn’t become great at them overnight or anything, but I feel less nervous about attempting one, less likely to mess up, to use too much or too little force. Even from fifth position, or to the right, both of which have given me difficulty. Let’s hope I still have this going on when I return to class!

 

 

These Hot, Lazy, Late-Summer Days…

Well, I haven’t been too lazy to actually do ballet – I’ve been taking class on average 3 times a week.  Just been slightly lazy about the writing about it part, though I have been doing plenty of offline writing.  WordPress has been glitching like crazy on my tablet (which I do all my blogging on), and I’ve lost some stuff that I’ve written before pressing the “save” key – argh! But I do have this obsession with keeping a timeline of my progress, so that, more than anything, compels me to write some more – eventually.

Beginning with things that are going well, I have seen much improvement in my promenades lately.  We did this nice adagio combination in center in class, developpe devant, tendu, close and brush to the back, then brush to the front again, developpe a la seconde, tendu, close, developpe derriere, tendu, close brush front, brush back, balance in arabesque and then promenade. Repeat to the other side. I’ve felt so much more stable during the promenade ever since I’ve been making my foot movements as small as possible – no more super high releves for promenades. Another thing I’ve been extra mindful of is my head placement and my core/upper back connection.  However, while I did get all the way around and not lose my balance, I did notice that my arabesque leg was significantly lower by the end of the promenade than when I first balanced in arabesque.

So then we were tortured worked on this exercise to strengthen our muscles for arabesque. It started out with us laying prone (facedown) on the floor, and pushing up our upper body with our arms (like the cobra pose). Then we had to lift our legs off the floor, trying to lift our thighs all the way off. Then (as if this wasn’t presenting enough of a challenge) we were to let go of our arms and bring them to our sides, and hold the position (I think it was for either a minute or 30 seconds, can’t remember).  We did this five times, before doing a similar exercise in which we stretched on arm out in front of us, while stretching up and out the opposite leg – so right arm, left leg. I’m proud to say that I got through the whole sequence without collapsing – not that there was much distance to collapse, since we were already on the floor.

After this we went straight into a saute combination.  As part of the combination we did turning while doing echappes from 5th to 2nd. It was similar to when we turn while doing changements, though before I had a chance to try it I thought it looked pretty intimidating. Another saute combination we did was 3 changements, pause, 3 changements, pause, 2 echappes and close, 3 changements. I liked this combination because stuff like taking a pause in the middle of jumps – in correct timing – can be tricky for me, and this day I sort of did it ok.

Another petite allegro combination we did was glissade, glissade, assemble to the right, glissade, glissade, assemble to the left, glissade assemble right, glissade assemble left, 3 petite jetes. This combinatio was fine when we marked it, but when we did it it was so fast and I sloppied it up a bit. Also, I was in the first group, so that didn’t help as I was a little nervous.

We also did this basic turning combination: chasse to arabesque, lunge position in 4th, and pirouette en dehors, then repeat with the other leg in front (and turn on the other leg, also en dehors). I was happy because I think I’m getting closer and closer to clean  en dehors pirouettes. But then, these were from fourth, so I guess it’s not something that feels as difficult for me as from fifth.

The hardest thing we’ve done, in my opinion, has to be tour jetes.  NS Teacher started giving out a combination, and it included tour jetes. I think a few of us looked terrified because she was like “Who’s never done a tour jete?” Those of us slowly raised our hands, so we worked on tour jetes by themselves instead. They’re so scary! It was like chasse sideways, then brush out and at an angle with the leg opposite of the side you’re turning to, then brush out the other leg behind you. I was starting to think it was beyond my current skill level for sure, but then at the end of class I practiced a couple of them when the whole class wasn’t watching and it felt less terrifying. I think i just don’t want everyone to see me go flying onto my face!

Another day, only one other person showed up, so it was almost like a semi-private.  There is really no way to hide then! Luckily, we mostly worked on technique at the barre and on our balance.  While my balance has improved so much over the last two years, I still need all the help I can get.

This next week my classes at community college start up again, so I’m excited about that. Yay, full dancing schedule! Possibility of ballet 6 days a week! Of course, how many days I actually do end up going to class per week is going to depend on my soreness level.  Sometimes I have days when I just feel so sore and it’s very discouraging – it’s the closest that I ever get to feeling old.  I still feel really energetic and hyper, but then I stand up and it’s like everything is sore. Makes me feel like I should take it easier, but at the same time I have all this energy and if I don’t work it off I feel so restless – and grouchy.  I still do my best thinking on my feet.  In order to not be excessively sore for ballet I’ve been refraining from running or hiking on class days, and it’s been frustrating. I think I’ll just stop this train of thought before it starts getting really whiny and negative…

Boyfriend and I have been playing tennis lately, which is kind of random.  The new place we moved to has a tennis court, and nobody else seems to ever use it, so we’ve been out there working off some of my excess energy.  Ballet has done wonders for my coordination – surely I wouldn’t have been able to actually get to and hit any balls before doing ballet.  And since Boyfriend is still refusing to take class with me, at least this way there’s an activity we can do together. Well, we’ve been watching Dance Academy on Netflix together lately, I guess that counts. Oh, and we just got tickets to see a production of Swan Lake in about a month and a half. Yay, getting Boyfriend to do ballet-related stuff!

Bun cover, by Danskin

Bun cover, by Danskin

Wrapping up this random blog post, I finally got a little bun cover!

A Taste of My Impossible…

…or at least my not yet.

As someone who struggles with doing “basic” ballet jumps like sautes (on a bad day) and changements (on the regular) correctly, the idea of actually doing beated jumps doesn’t often cross my mind.  I mean, I do think about how awesome it would be, but not actually about doing them. It’s something that’s far off in the horizon, if I even get there at all…

In Pilates class, lately Teacher has had us working on the jumpboards on the Reformer (ok, so a jumpboard is this thick, padded wooden slab that fastens to the Reformer (which is this wooden, medieval torture device looking Pilates apparatus that you lay on, that provides resistance in the form of springs) so that you “jump”, but horizontally), doing horizontal sautes, changements and soubresauts. I’ve been working on my heel’s tendency to lift off when landing, pointing my feet, not losing my turnout, the usual stuff.  Making sure your feet are perfectly pointed is so much easier when you’re not struggling against gravity – and worrying that gravity will win!

After going though these jumps – and lots of them – Teacher suggested that we do beated jumps.  And honestly, I was like “What?!”, as I’ve never tried to do beated jumps upright – I know my limits.  So I tried it (first were entrechats with the front leg beating behind and then closing front again), and to my immense surprise, I was doing it!  It was so surreal! I stared at my legs and feet in the mirrors the whole time, as it was that unbelievable that  was actually doing beated jumps. I needed the visual confirmation as I often do.

The first time was a few weeks ago, but let me tell you, the novelty has not worn off. Today in addition to entrechats I tried royales (front leg beats front again without switching), once again remaining fixated on my reflection.  These were a little harder, but I was actually doing it!

Anyway, I don’t even know what the point of this post is. I guess I’m just excited about getting to get a glimpse of something that I may never get to otherwise.  I love seeing my perfectly pointed feet outstretched, seeing them almost flutter in the air.  At some point Teacher said “This is what I want to see in ballet class!”.  I think I replied something like “I’m trying, but it’s so much harder standing up!”

Pilates has done so much for my dancing.  Besides ballet, it is definitely one of my favorite physical activities!

Here’s a video so you can get a better idea of what I’m talking about, if you’re curious. The jumping starts at around the 4:30 mark.

I’d love to have one of these at home! In the meantime, so grateful to have access to this at all…

Fitness Goals Update 11

Whoa, it’s been a while since a Fitness Goals Update! No class today – ballet or otherwise (school holiday, Cesar Chavez day) – so I will be discussing Fitness, Pilates and how far I’ve come in the last 6 months or so.

As you may know – if you’ve read through the archives – I started working out last September after acknowledging that I was just not improving at certain things in ballet (like sautes, it’s always the sautes!) without some additional help.  After starting out with some general strengthening I moved on to jogging a couple of weeks later.  At my most active, around December and January, I was running 4 or 5 times a week.  Since mid-February though, my school schedule has completely destroyed my running schedule, and now I’m lucky to get to run Friday thru Sunday – though of course I took advantage of my day off today.

Anyway, as I’m not running as frequently as I was a couple months ago, I’m not too surprised that my running abilities have not improved since then – though when I first started I quickly improved from a 1 minute jog to my current level.  Still doing around 10 laps at the field (give or take 1 lap), or two miles on the treadmill. Occasionally I’ll use the elliptical after the treadmil just to get a more well-rounded workout, but in general I prefer running outdoors. Just wish I was disciplined enough to get up at the break of dawn to avoid running under the hot sun (with the added bonus of getting to run before it’s time for school).

Pilates has been going great. My whole body feels so much stronger and flexible since I started in the beginning of January (taking on average 2 hours of class Monday through Thursday, on my own on weekends).  While my workouts on my own did help, it wasn’t until starting Pilates that I gained a greater understanding of my body – actually, the body – and how the muscles work in harmony with each other for efficient, injury-free movement.  I’m actually quite passionate about Pilates now, and definitely want to work on bringing this amazing method of body conditioning to a broader audience (as there seems to be a belief that Pilates is unaffordable to most people).  My school offers a Pliates teaching certification program which I’m currently pursuing while deciding where I’m going with my other educational goals, so at some point in the future hopefully I will get to do some teaching.  As it is I’ve taught a few exercises and stretches to a couple of friends and they’ve said it’s helped them with their back pain and shoulder issues.

One of the Pilates classes I’m taking is focused specifically on dancers, and we do exercises that complement the moves that dancers do.  We did the funnest thing the other day: on the Reformers (the medival torture device looking thing) we put something called a Jumpboard (which is just a padded wooden board that fastens to the Reformer) and practiced our sautes.  It is such a weird feeling, jumping as high as you can while being horizontal, but a great way to practice the pointing of the feet. As the Pilates studio has mirrors all the way along the wall it is possible to see what we’re doing, and it was so cool seeing myself jump with perfect – though horizontal – form.  The pointed feet were not a problem, though when landing I did notice that my heels have a tendency to lift.  I actually think I need to talk to Teacher about this, as my heels tend to want to lift during regular sautes all the time. This combined with the fact that even my best grand plies do not go that far down make me think I may have Achilles tendons that are on the shorter side.

My abdomen area – the core – has gotten so strong.  One of my classmates poked me and then exclaimed “Wow, you’re buff!” LOL.  Sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever have a six-pack as the flabby loose skin from when I was more overweight remains around my lower abdomen.  Actually, on that note, I’ve gained weight since I started working out.  Not sure how much, since after I noticed the numbers on the scale climbing I stopped weighing myself – didn’t want to stress myself out. I’m sure some of the weight is muscle, but it’d be real optimistic if I said it all was.  Some days I’m ok with it – I actually have a butt now – and others I miss my smaller shape (and fitting into some of my tighter pants).  When I’d first started working out my appetite increased, but I figured you got to give the body fuel, you know? I’m not too worried, as I know how to lose weight quickly, but I don’t want to lose my muscle either.  Ideally I would like to get to the point where I don’t care how much I weigh as long as I have a healthy and fit body, but overcoming years of social conditioning is hard!

(Wearing a leotard in front of a large number of people does not help.  When  I’m totally thinking of overindulging I always have to remember the leotard.)

My arms and upper body strength have increased as well.  While I still can’t do any pull ups, my push ups and planks (called “Front Support” in Pilates) have improved so much. We do lots of exercises for the triceps, biceps, shoulder rotators, back extensors, and chest and the result has been that my arms finally look toned. All my life my arms have been one of my problem areas, so I’m glad to have found some exercises that work for me.

Overall, I’d say I’m in great shape though.  We’re learning new exercises in my Pilates classes all the time, so I can’t wait to see how I’m doing by the end of the semester. Now, has all this helped with my ballet technique? I would say yes, as you can never have enough leg strength. The stamina gained from all the running has helped me when doing countless sautes or petite allegro. My “turnout muscles are much stronger as well.  I can finally identify my lats and know if I’m engaging them for my port de bras. My calves are much stronger – and, incidentally, bigger – and I can do one-legged releves super easy (though balancing while up there is still hit or miss). We have done stuff for our balance (like standing on the foam rollers on both feet and then one at a time), but I still struggle with balance.  Perhaps I always will…

Physics, man. Blame it on physics!

The start of my work out adventure: http://www.balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/as-strong-as-the-weakest-limb-i-mean-link/

All other fitness-related posts that followed are under the category “fitness for ballet”, for easy viewing, if interested…

Fitness Goals And Pilates Update

At this point, 6 weeks into my daily Pilates course, Pilates is just about the only exercise I’m doing, not counting cardio and, of course, ballet.  But ballet is more for fun than for exercise so it doesn’t count…

I’m still loving my Pilates class. It’s gotten progressively harder, and there’s been so times when my muscles have been aching like never before. Some of those abs sequences, having the muscles tensed for minutes at a time – my core feels worked out like never before.  And then, just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, here come the exercises for the sides (obliques). There’s been so many times when I’m thinking ‘Lady, you’re killing us!’. In a good way, of course. In general my abdomen area feels so much stronger than before, even when I was doing the ab wheel exercises at home.

Thanks to my habit of laying sprawled on the couch  on my right side, causing the muscles to be stretched unevenly, my left side is stronger. I have noticed this during any  of the oblique-targeting exercises, as one side is much easier to do. Since noticing and making sense of it, I have started alternating the side I’m sprawled on. As a whole, I tend to pay much closer attention to my body’s alignment and all the asymmetries that need fixing, as well as to what my habits are doing to my posture.

It’s so interesting how the body works and how if the different parts are not used efficiently it  will wear down, how our habits and posture shape our bodies.  I’ve pondered long about how my body got it’s (pre-ballet, and definitely pre-pilates) lack of shape, and have come to the conclusion that it was likely due to me doing any movement the easiest way possible (such as standing with my knees hyperextended rather than engaging my muscles or slouching when I should be standing straight, dragging my feet while walking). I was always uncoordinated growing up, and nobody ever taught me how to use my body otherwise. Does a child need to be taught  how to use their body? Many may not, may have their ease of mobility be naturally-occurring, but others, like me, do.  From the time I was a baby who learned to walk at a late age, to being the only kid in the preschool yard who couldn’t climb on the merry-go-round, to falling over while trying to sprint at age 8, physical activities have not been my strong point.

Before I would have thought that there was no fixing it, that I’m just naturally clumsy, but I don’t any more.  I simply just had no idea of my body’s range of motion, of what my body could actually do. Sometimes I feel like this is what Physical Education class is really supposed to be about, except just mindlessly walking laps in the hot sun and being a prime opportunity for school yard and locker room bullying.

Anyway, at least I’m learning now. You have no idea how grateful I feel…

And the whole “shoulders back” thing, that alone has helped my body so much.  My upper back and shoulder  soreness is gone, my all-over-back tightness greatly reduced. I would say it’s gone, but the other night I slept in the wrong position and felt super stiff. My arms are so much stronger and I can now push up into the backbridge position like it’s nothing. While up in the backbridge position I’ve been working on tapping my feet, lifting them up slightly, trying to get comfortable with the feeling of just being up there. My upper body strength has increased enough to make a walkover possible in the near future, if only I get over my fears.

As for cardio, I’ve hit a plateau. On days that I use the treadmill, I’ve slowly increased my speed until most recently been averaging  a little over 9 minutes a mile.  But I haven’t increased the total amount of time ran (around 20-25 minutes). It’s not that I’m completely exhausted so much as I get bored or start thinking about other things I need to take care of. I’ve been good about getting myself motivated to go out there and run; I don’t want to ruin it by putting increasingly higher expectations upon myself. Better to keep it fun!

I’ve still been doing the jumping jacks and squat jumps as well.  These have helped me so much with jumping in ballet class.  I can really tell the difference, and when before jumping felt like it took huge amounts of effort it now feels almost effortless.

I’m really glad I made the decision to begin working out (5 months ago) and especially take that Pilates class.  I’ve read somewhere out there on the internet that it’s not necessary to cross train with ballet.  I don’t know why people say this, or if that advice only applies to children and not to an adult’s body.  For over a year and a half I refused to work out to supplement my ballet, telling myself that I would get stronger just through ballet.  And this did work – to an extent.  My barre work improved, and the small muscles that help you hold your balance or fondu or point your foot did develop, enabling me to get better. But as for my jumps – I was getting nowhere! I did countless foot exercises with my theraband, thinking that weak feet were the problem (to why I couldn’t point my feet midair).  My feet got stronger, but still, my jumping sucked. It wasn’t until after doing cardio consistenly I started to notice results. Perhaps this is because I was extremely out of shape and didn’t know it.  Perhaps this doesn’t apply to anybody (or any body) else. But all I’m saying is, if your seem to hit a ballet plateau, and you don’t already, it may be beneficial to do some cardio. I wish someone had told me…