Tag Archives: flexibility

Fitness Goal Update 9

Still at it, doing my best to be in shape, 18 weeks later!

Cardio:

Running/ jogging about 5 times a week.

When the weather permits, I’m still running/jogging outdoors at the park.  I’ve been doing interval running – jogging part of it, sprinting (or as close as I get to sprinting, lol) the other parts – for anywhere from 16 to 22 minutes, depending on how I’m feeling. The other day (Sunday?) the park was kind of flooded so I ran uphill on my old walking route. It went pretty well, I wasn’t even more exhausted than usual or anything. Soon I will put my fitness to the test and try going for a run on this one very steep mountain with a paved road I know about.

Previously I’d been apprehensive about running on a surface harder than grass, sand, track, or treadmill, but I got myself a new pair of running shoes a couple weeks ago and ever since then it’s felt like I’m running on air. I was long overdue for a pair of running shoes…

My running shoes. Such an improvement over the shoes I had previously been running in!

My running shoes. Such an improvement over the shoes I had previously been running in!

On the days that are just too rainy to run outside I’ve been running on the treadmill at my apt’s gym.  I read that running with no incline on the treadmill is comparable to running downhill, so I always set the incline to 2 or so.  I’m going to start working up to a higher incline though. Right now, my mile time (on the treadmill, no idea about outdoors) is at around 9 minutes, which is better than my high school time but definitely nothing to boast about. Not that I’m a particularly boastful individual, or anything, but I do get a kick out of feeling younger than I did at half my age…

I’ve still been doing jumping jacks, immediately after my run, 100 of them. Then I’ve been doing squat jumps, but only about 20 before it feels like my legs are on fire, and “gallops”.

Strength:

Ever since I started my Pilates class last week I haven’t been doing much strength training at home, just stretching (and doing a Pilates mini-session on weekends).  After my posture assessment during Pilates class I realized than I’ve probably been performing most of my strength  exercises in bad form, so I’m taking a short break on that so I can get my posture and alignment right (those darn shoulders!).  Honestly, just writing right now that I’m “taking a short break” made me feel so lazy! But 2 hours and 15 minutes of Pilates daily is enough (non-cardio) exercise, right?

My backbridge is still struggling along. On some days I feel like I can’t do that push that it takes to lift my head up off the ground, other days it seems effortless. No idea what it has to do with, or if it’s just a mental block still.  On the days that I do get myself into a backbridge, I’ve been practicing rocking back and forth on my hands and feet and tapping my feet. Still haven’t attempted to take a foot off the ground yet, but I am able to stay in the position for longer every time. And I do feel so much more flexible when I cambre back.

In other news, about a week ago I taught myself to do a cartwheel (with the help of youtube videos). It was the first (successful) cartwheel I’ve done in my life! Hooray!

And I have ballet tomorrow! Yay!

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Fitness Goals Update 7

Another Fit Tuesday finess goals update. 14 weeks since I started working out in hopes of improving my ballet-ing abilities.

Cardio:

Still running/jogging five times a week.  One week I tried to run daily and my legs just felt so tired, so two rest days it is. I go for an extra long walk on those days instead.

I haven’t increased my running distance, just been trying to run faster for intervals. It’s supposed to increase your metabolism throughout the day, not just during the run. It does feel like I’m getting more of a leg workout at least, so that works for me. On the rainy days I’ve been running on the treadmill – not as fun.

Quick ballet stretch pose at the park at the end of a morning run and jump session on a non-rainy day.

Quick ballet stretch pose at the park at the end of a morning run and jump session on a non-rainy day.

Strength:

Just been doing what I’ve been doing. It’s been working so far…

Lunges, push-ups, Ab-wheel, yoga stretches. Still can’t do a pull-up, and I’ve gained several pounds recently, so unless I get my weight back down I see it as unlikely.

Remember on Fitness Goals Update 6 (two weeks ago) I set the goal for myself to be able to do a back bridge – for the first time of my life, no less – after Teacher said it would greatly help with our back flexibility. Well, I did it!

Backbridge! Seeing this has got to convince me that I can do it finally...

Backbridge! Seeing this has got to convince me that I can do it finally…

After the initial shock of just pushing up with my arms wore out, I began to explore pushing up my back and stretching out my head.

After the initial shock of just pushing up with my arms wore out, I began to explore pushing up my back and stretching out my head.

On my third day attempting it, I surprised myself by pushing up about 3-4 inches. I was so startled when I realized this that I immediately dropped myself back down. The next couple tries (over the next few days; I never attempted it twice in one day) I wasn’t able to lift my head off the floor again. I wasn’t discouraged, since I knew that it had technically happened, if only to fail due to my fear. Of what? Falling on my head, breaking my neck, breaking my wrists, my arms, who knows?!  I do realize now, looking back over my progress over the last two weeks, and my complete lack of progress throughout my life prior to that, that while my lack of upper body strength played a factor, so did my fear of how to get back down.

So, the next time that I began to feel my head lifting off the ground, I forced myself to forget about the fear, forget about getting down, and just push. So I pushed, and felt myself going up higher than ever before in my life. I forced my self to slowly count to 10, just to reassure myself that it was real.

Then came the hard part: getting down. I slowly lowered myself back down, making sure to keep my head down, chin tucked in. Breaking my neck would surely ruin this triumphant moment!

Well, I made it through without a broken neck, but the last of the getting down part is for sure my least favorite part of all of this. But, yay, I did it! Since then I’ve been doing the backbridge pose every day, holding it for a longer count each day. My next goal? To be able to lift a leg off while doing this, eventually to be able to do a walkover. I’m feeling pretty optimistic and happy about these goals right now, I just feel like a lot of my childhood dreams are coming true. That probably sounds dumb, but it’s the best way I can describe it; like a lot of the things that I’d seen as a child and wished for but didn’t get, (like doing ballet, being flexible and strong, being healthy and athletic, becoming comfortable in myself and with myself), are happening now.

I guess I’m having a good day today…

Fitness Goals Update 6

Yes, I realize this Fit Tuesday update is a week late… too many things on my plate last week (looks like an accidental pun… get it? because Thanksgiving and “too much on my plate”?).

Cardio

Been running/jogging for going on 7 weeks. (It’ll be exactly 7 weeks on thursday)

Running/jogging is going great! By now I have worked up to doing up to 12 laps around the park, though on lazier days I’ll only do 9 or 10.  My speed may have also increased, because as I increased to 10 laps I noticed that I was still taking around the same amount of time as I had been with 9 the week before.  I have still not invested in a pedometer – but I’m definitely thinking about it, especially as I get more and more into fitness – so I have no idea what distance I’m actually running.

Today, since it was raining – don’t want to slip on mud and twist an ankle – I did something different: I went to the gym here at my apartments and ran on the treadmill.  It had been about a decade since the last time I used a treadmill, so it took some getting used to. While I had feared that it would be boring – as I like to run out at the park and enjoy the early morning sights – since I took some headphones it was actually not that bad.  The gym overlooks the pool, so I got to listen to some music while watching the rain fall into the pool.  It was actually quite lovely, and my 25 minute run went by faster than I had expected.

Apparently (going by the stats on the treadmill), I was running at around 11 minutes per mile, or 5.5 mph. Hey, it’s better than high school!  Perhaps I will periodically run at the gym so I can see if my stats improve.

For my records...

For my records…

After finishing my jog, I’m still doing jumping jacks and galloping lunges.  100 jumping jacks, 4 sets of 8 galloping lunges on each side. One day I was able to find the energy to do 5 sets, but most days my legs feel like they’re gonna give out by the time I’m on my third set and I can barely force myself to do 4 sets.

Don’t know whether to include these under strength or cardio (perhaps both?)  but I’ve also been doing additional exercises for the past two weeks or so after finding the fitness guide that came with my ab wheel. Specifically, I’m doing mountain climbers and burpees.  I’ve seen youtube videos of people doing these like it’s nothing but they get me so exhausted – I love it!  The fitness guide says to go from one exercise to the next without a break, but I find that – at least for now – I totally need to rest in between.

Strength

It has now been 12 weeks since I began strength training (which to me means any kind of non-cardio exercise, not including ballet)

Continued doing slow lunges for my thighs, theraband exercises for my turnout (also thighs) as well as ankles, ab wheel exercises and bicycle kicks for my abs, push ups for my upper body strength.

While I feel that my push ups are getting better, I still can’t do them in the regular position, only the knee-assisted position.  No big deal, I’m sure I’ll get there eventually.  Also, I still can’t do a complete pull up, just kind of pull myself up to the bar but I can’t get my chin up over it like I used to three years ago.  According to the fitness trainer instructions that came with my ab wheel, I’m supposed to keep attempting them until I’m finally able to do them. That’s very, ummmm, discouraging for me, to keep attempting – and failing – the same thing over and over, so I don’t really try them as often as I should. Perhaps that’s the mistake I’m making… but 3 years ago when I did them for the first time in my life it had been so easy. Just walked up to the bar, grabbed it, and pulled myself up. Weird, how quickly strength can leave unless those muscles are being constantly used.

I’ve still been doing some yoga to help with my overall flexibility and relaxation.  Some day I’ll be able to do a handstand and that’ll be really cool.  In the meantime, still working on it and enjoying my increased stability and flexibility.  This is the most flexible I’ve been my whole life, and given how some people go on about flexibility going downhill once you hit your 30’s, I’m thrilled.  I’ve always had a thing about defying expectations…

Which reminds me, Teacher said that to increase our back flexibility (for cambres) we could do bridges to stretch and strengthen our backs.  To be honest, I have never, ever, ever in my life been able to do a back bridge. It’s not for lack of trying; my best friend in elementary school was this freak of nature that could do bridges, walkovers, handstands, cartweels (2 and 1 handed), backflips, you name it – all without training or classes of any kind.  I would tag along, attempting to imitate her, but never managed to do any of the things I just listed. So, I’m kind of hoping that in adulthood I’ll be able to do all those nifty things someday. For now, my goal is to start with bridges and go from there.

In fact, let’s make this day one of a new goal: to do a back bridge.  In order to reach this goal I will continue to work on my upper body strength, as well as attempt a bridge after each workout. Since today is day 1, I attempted it and got my head about an inch off the floor. My arms were trembling! I wonder how long it’ll take to reach my goal? I’ve got to stay positive and assume that if I put in the work I will reach my goal…

Fitness Goals Update 5

Another Fit Tuesday (get it? like Fat Tuesday, but Fit rather than Fat), time for another goals update!

Overall, my fitness goals are really coming along! This is what I’ve worked up to by now:

Cardio:

When I started running/jogging, about a month ago, all I could handle was jogging to the park and then doing one or maybe one and a half laps.  By now I’m up to running to the park plus 7 laps! Uninterrupted, as I’ve been doing my jumping all the way at the end of my run now.  I’m doing over 15 minutes of running without stopping, which is a huge deal for me. Hadn’t ran for that long since maybe P.E. class in jr. high, or maybe never.

Running is so fun once I get the rythm of it down. I find it incredibly relaxing.

Still, I haven’t been able to recreate the feeling after my first run, as I gasped for air with ragged breaths.  Besides increasing the duration of my run, I don’t know what else to do to get there again.  The way it is now, I feel a little tired, but like I could keep going given the right motivation – which could be as simple as the thought of something yummy. Homemade mashed potatoes, here I come!

After finishing up running comes jumping.  Rather than continuing to do wannabe-ballet jumps, I’ve been doing jumping jacks – both the regular kind and the kind where you touch the ground every time  your feet are in the “open” position, bringing your arms up when the legs close.  The main reason that I switched out the kinds of jumps was that I didn’t want to get into bad habits by doing “ballet jumps” but not being able to practice them correctly. Ever try pointing your feet in tennis shoes?!

I’ve been doing about 100 jumping jacks per workout session (5-6 days a week).  Afterwards I do little “gallops”, 4 sets of 8 on each side, alternating sides.  Although I keep telling myself that I have to work up to doing more sets, I’ve been stuck on 4 sets of 8 for over a week now; my legs just feel rubbery and exhausted by the time I’m nearing the end of my 4th set.

Today I also tried doing these sideways jump-gallops that I saw on a youtube exercise video.  Perhaps I was doing them wrong because they didn’t feel like much of a challenge…

And then I skipped home. Because skipping is fun – and the weird looks you get from others for being an adult skipper are classic! At least if I’m in a good mood…

Strength:

I’ve still been doing my slow lunges with my arms either in second or high fifth, to help me with my getting on and off the floor transitions.  Lately, I’ve noticed that after we do our leg-on-the-barre stretches and get on the floor to stretch some more, Teacher asks us to stand back up gracefully with no hands. Could this be a harbinger of things to come? If so, luckily, this time I will be ready!

Remember in my last update I said that I was going to start doing something for my abs, as Teacher said that  strong obliques are the key to stability during turns? Well, first I started doing that exercise where you lay on your back, spread your arms, put your legs up (straight), and then slowly lower them from side to side, making sure to not twist the upper body. Did about 10 of those to each side. Then I follow up with bicycle kicks, around fifty of them.  This was all I did for abs for the first few days – not bad – but then I started thinking of something better.

I found this thing called an Ab Wheel, which apparently Boyfriend and I purchased around the time of the Shakeweight and pull up bar, and then forgot about.  I thought ‘what the heck…’ and decided to give it a try.

The Ab Wheel!

The Ab Wheel! And it only cost about $5!

This thing works! My abs are now in a state of permanent soreness.  I’ve always heard that the abs can be worked out daily, so that’s what I’ve been doing. To use this thing you get on your knees (I use a pillow under them) and then grab on to the handles and roll away, using your abs to stabilize you and roll back in. I’ve been doing these “rolls” both straight out in front of me and at a sideways angle to work out the obliques.  For the first time in my life I’m seeing what looks like the beginnings of ab definition – and this is only after about a week.

After determining that Shakeweight is all but ineffective on me, I’ve instead been doing push ups.  I’m too weak from the upper body to do regular ones, so I do the modified, on-the-knees version.  After doing – more like attempting to do, by the end they’re looking not so good – about 20 or so I stop and the soreness lasts all day.  But in general my form is good; I make sure to not stick out my butt or let my stomach hang down.

Yoga has been going great! My flexibility appears to have increased, especially when it comes to my back.  I’ve found that I really enjoy the pose where you lay on your back and bring your legs up and over your head, resting your feet behind you.  I also like having my legs pointed straight into the air, trying to balance that way for as long as possible.  My legs have also been increasing in flexibility, and I’ve been practicing lifing my leg over my head – and keeping it held there with no hands for as long as possible.

Overall, I feel like I’m getting to be in great shape. I’ve noticed that walking uphill is no big deal now that my legs are stronger.  Hopefully soon my upper body will catch up, but I may have to look up more specific workouts for that. I’m sort of getting Boyfriend on the fitness bandwagon too, which is good. We both eat extremely healthy but that only takes you so far, as I’ve found out…

Getting Reacquainted with Yoga, and Jogging

AKA Fitness Goals Update 2.5 (since I was going for this every-two-weeks thing and it’s only been a week – but it was a great excuse to wear these ridiculously awesome leggings!)

My introduction to yoga preceeds my introduction to ballet.  Unlike ballet though – and not counting the single class that my college friend Lina dragged me to back in 2001 (yikes! Now I feel ancient!) – I haven’t really had any training to speak of in yoga.  It was more like ‘hey, I’ve heard yoga is good for you’ and my friend Lindsey (same one from my Ballet, Hike, Eat, Repeat post), who had been doing yoga since she was 18 – she’s my age – was like “Oh, you’ve got to let me teach you some yoga!”  Since I had nothing better to do at that moment, I said “Sure!”  Oh, and this barely happened about 3 years ago – as opposed to my 1 year and 9 months of so of ballet.

So that’s the disclaimer, I haven’t actually taken a yoga class in the last 14 years (and the one I did take was at 6:30 a.m., an ungodly hour for a new-adult, so logically I hated it and never returned.  Was definitely not interested in health benefits back at that age! No, had to get slapped around a bit by my 20’s to decide to take care of myself.).

Anyway, my friend was training me, and she wasn’t exactly strict.  So there I am thinking ‘I can do yoga!’ not realizing that perhaps I was not doing it correctly (not my friend’s fault, I’m just naturally weak).And looking back now, I know for a fact I wasn’t doing it correctly – so many bent knees that needed straightening, so many tight muscles with low flexibility and reduced range of motion.  No wonder I was thinking that it was somewhat easy!

Up until I took my first ever ballet class, I continued sort of studying yoga, mostly with Lindsey and using the yoga program Wii Fit on the Nintendo Wii.  The first time I attempted any of the poses I was so stiff and back then I couldn’t touch even my toes.  I did feel some improvement, and increased flexibility so I was satisfied with my progress. Going into my first ballet class I remember thinking ‘No big deal, I’ve been doing yoga!’

Well, if you’ve ever done ballet, or been reading through my blog, you know that I was nowhere near prepared!

When I took my first ballet class ever it went horrible, but somewhere in there I fell in love with ballet.  It became my new obsession, and since I’d honestly never felt that way about yoga, I put yoga on the back burner.  Sure, I do some poses after I finish practicing at home as a cool down, but nothing serious.

This past week, I found myself youtube surfing and felt inspired to do a yoga session. Not as a cool down or to loosen up my stiff back before embarking on my day, but just, like, on it’s own merit.

It felt great! Sometimes all my body needs is a nice long all-body stretch. It was so relaxing, just holding the poses, remembering to breathe. To amuse myself, I was trying to transition between the poses in a dance-ish kind of way, making it smooth and flowing.   And it reminded me of the  apparent superficial (to the untrained eye) similarities between ballet and yoga.  I still remember for the first 6 month or so of doing ballet I thought that passe and the yoga pose with your foot resting on the standing leg’s thigh (possibly called Tree Pose?) were the same – though now I know they most certainly are not!

If I'm not mistaken, this is the Tree pose. Note the foot is flat against the standing leg, knee points down.

If I’m not mistaken, this is the Tree pose. Note the foot is flat against the standing leg, knee points down.

Passe. Foot is pointed, knee points (somewhat) out, rather than down.  How could I ever have thought it was the same thing?!

Passe. Foot is pointed, knee points (somewhat) out, rather than down. How could I ever have thought it was the same thing?!

So as part of my Getting Fit For Ballet Challenge I will probably be doing a longer session of yoga once or twice a week, as well as a few poses regularly as I have been doing for cool down.

According to Wii Fit, this is called the Dancer pose.

According to Wii Fit, this is called the Dancer pose.

Similar to Dancer pose - some kind of attitude derriere with arabesque arms.

Similar to Dancer pose – some kind of attitude derriere with arabesque arms.

In other (fitness) news, this past week I’ve jogged twice.  The first time was last thursday morning, interspersing some bouts of jogging with my uphill walking.  On the jogging parts I made sure to go on the (softer) asphalt rather than the sidewalk, both to not overstress my knees with the impact and because the uneveness of sidewalks at every driveway really irritates me (and my ankles).  With walking it’s ok, but with jogging – given the higher forces of impact – I didn’t want to take any chances.

Jogging exhausted me! My thighs were sore all the way until saturday (or was it sunday?), and I made copious use of the arnica massage oil I had made for my ankle.  I have so much newfound respect for people that jog or run!

Finally, today I decided that  enough time to rest and recover had passed and I jogged again.  This time I found this nice grassy – yet uphill – field near home in which to jog.  I only did one lap, but by the end I was gasping for breath and glad that no one was around to ask me if I was ok.  The whole jog took about 4 minutes – don’t laugh, last time I went jogging before last week was years and years ago. Let’s see how long it takes me to work my way up.  I’m thinking of increasing the number of laps I jog on a weekly basis, assuming of course that my recovery from the soreness keeps up.

As an added bonus, the field is adjacent to a park – I love parks – and I was thinking at the deserted hour of 7 a.m. I can totally practice my sautes there.  Or just jumping in general.  I really need to do something about my weak, crappy jumps.

One more picture, just for fun! The expression on the mask's face just keeps cracking me up, so much more calm that my ballet "game face", lol.

One more picture, just for fun! The expression on the mask’s face just keeps cracking me up, so much more calm that my ballet “game face”, lol.

Oh, and that blue X on the wall? The one that appears in all my pics? I use it for spotting when I practice my chaines.

My Weekly Class Update

I had class today (this summer schedule has me mostly classless and on my own). Unlike the last 2 times that I’ve previously been to this studio, a month ago before I sprained my ankle and last week, we had a full class. Or at least as full as it’s I’ve seen it. There were more than double the number of students today as I’d seen before (5 the first few times, 13 today). There were 3 guys, 2 I’ve never seen before and the same guy from my last two classes there. By process of elimination – or subtraction, whichever way of viewing it that works – that must mean there were 10 of us ladies.

The skill levels ranged from “This is my first time ever. I’ve never done this before,” – two students – to a girl that had the most awesome port de bras so she has clearly been doing this a while. The way she moved her arms and head was like “Wow! How did she do that?!” It was so intimidating because it would just happen that her barre placement was right in front of me – you know, which becomes so I’m directly in front when we turn around ( to do the left side which also just happens to be the recovering foot!) and there’s also no mirror on that side, which also doesn’t help. When we went across the floor her group was also directly in front of mine but her groupmate (partner?) was a beginner so it wasn’t as intimidating, lol.

Since the combinations at this place are starting to become familiar, barre went a lot more smoothly. I hate it when I technically know how to do the move – correctly even – but I mess up by not remembering something, like whether to close in the fron or the back from a tendu a la seconde (to the side for anyone who might not know). On the one hand I’ll feel like “Oh cool, I’m getting the hang of how it goes,” as far as keeping my legs straight or articulating my feet, pointing my feet. But as long as I mess up combinations because of little mistakes like that, or messing up on the timing, I’ll feel like I’m doing some complicated stretches not quite dancing. Of course, everything the best student did looked like dancing, lol.
Since we had the two brand new students (and quite a few that were not brand new but not much more than a few months), we did a LOT of very sloooow tendues. It was a nice warm up and my ankle did not give me any trouble. I finally was able to put my finger on why I kept messing up on the tendus to the side : I’m used to doing 3 counts ( so close back, close front, close back), but in this class we also do 4 counts (close front, close back, close front, close back). I kept wanting to switch legs on the first count out of force of habit the last two times that I’ve had class there but today I was able to keep that in order.

The level of today’s class did feel way easier than the last times though. We did plies and grand plies, tendus in different tempos and counts, tendu degage, ronde de jambe, grand battement. No developpes or frappes like the last times. The teacher spent more time than usual explaining things and possibly conducted class in a slightly more “official” way – at least by my perceptions. It was still fun and laid back, just somehow like a “light” version of the classes I take at community college.

I’ve been working on my arms a lot this week since the correction last week, and hopefully the fact that the teacher didn’t correct me today means it’s worked – at least a little. Of course, compared to the best student’s port de bras my arms looked so stiff and lifeless – though curved!

In center, I decided to go for it and not sit out on the jumps. We did sautes and chagements and my ankle did fine. We also did this thing that I’ll describe as a “fondue-walk”, because we basically walked while fondue-ing. I did ok, but I’m sure after practicing this at home I’ll have it down better.

Today I didn’t really get many corrections – of course not because I was doing everything right but because the teacher had her hands (or her eyes) full with the newer students. I did remember that my ballet teachers in the past said to apply others’ corrections because chances are they apply to us also, so I did that. Mostly the arms, and just making sure to keep the core tight, legs straight. It’s always good to be reminded of the basics, the foundation is very important.

Thoughts on flexibility

I was in grade school the first time I realized just how inflexible my body was .  We were doing some kind of fitness testing at school that involved, among other things that I have long forgotten, testing us on our flexibility and if we could do a pull up.  Most of us kids could not do the pull up but I was horrified to realize that I was in the minority in that I could not touch my toes.  In fact, I could barely reach my ankles, and that was by cheating by bending my knees.

I remember I would sit on the floor at home, trying in vain to force my legs into a butterfly stretch (I think that’s what it’s called.  The one where you put your feet together and open your legs out to the side, trying to get your knees to touch the floor.)  My knees didn’t make it within 6 inches from the floor.

Time passed, puberty, junior high and high school happened and I lost interest in increasing my flexibily.  I think I had just accepted that some people just aren’t flexible.

When I first started ballet, I had been doing yoga for a short while.  I began to see small improvements in my flexibility, but nothing extreme.  I wasn’t putting my foot behind my head or anything.  But at least I had gained the ability to touch my toes without bending my knees.  And one day as I was sitting on the floor, without thinking I put my legs in the butterfly stretch.  All the way down.  At first I was kind of in shock and I kept looking down to make sure.  I took my hands and put them under my knees to make sure. But it was true, something that I had tried so hard for and had seemed out of reach just happened when I least expected it.

My first ballet teacher was very big on stretching.  We would do several stretches with our leg up on the barre. With our leg in front, making sure to keep our hips square to the barre.  With our leg out in second we would stretch our upper body both towards our foot on the barre  and then away from our foot.  We would put our leg in attitude on the barre and then turn around and have it on the barre in attitude derriere.  After all of these barre leg stretches we would then get on the floor and try to stretch into the splits.

At first, my body was not having it.  The barre hurt my ankle and it was hard to do the stretches.  But as time went on, I noticed that it was easier an easier to stretch, especially since I would practice the stretches at home as well as in class.  The splits continued to elude me, however, but since I was preoccupied with the other aspects of ballet like balancing and remembering the combinations I didn’t give it too much thought or importance.

The next ballet teacher I had did not have us do that many stretches in class, though we did do some challenging ones like putting our bent leg on the barre, plie-ing and  and bending towards it.  I still continued doing the stretches the previous teacher had taught us at home, but I didn’t keep trying to get into the splits.  I think I had kind of  given up on it but I was excited with my improvements in other areas.

So imagine my surprise one day when I was showing a classmate how far down I could go and found myself all the way down.  Just as it had previously happened with the butterfly stretch, I was in shock.  I was actually doing the splits! I couldn’t believe it.

At this point in my life I am the most flexible I have ever been and it feels great.  I have heard it been said by various people that flexibility is lost as you age, that you are the most flexible as a child.  While that may be the majority, it doesn’t have to be an absolute rule.  There are exceptions and that is something I find extremely uplifting.  There is hope. It is not too late.

Another thing that I find curious is that I was able to do both of these things after I had given up on them, yet when I was trying my hardest it just wouldn’t happen.  It does make me wonder if I am limiting myself or if I am my own worst enemy.

An even weirder thing a friend once said to me was that you can’t have body flexibility unless your mind is also flexible.  She said you must show that you are flexible about life before your body will respond with flexible joints.  I’m not going to say that she is necessarily correct, but it is a pretty big coincidence…