Tag Archives: getting stronger

Back In Class In The New Year!

This week was my long awaited return to real ballet class, instead of the youtube video kind. I’d missed going to class so much! This session, my school’s only offering Beginner level, but since it’s the short session the classes are much longer (slightly over 2 hours!) and daily during the weekdays (unfortunately, due to other responsibilities, I’ll probably only be able to make it 3 times a week though). I haven’t taken a short session class with Teacher before, so it’ll be interesting to see how the difficulty level picks up as the session progresses.

Class went well the first day. Teacher sent me to the wall barre with the other intermediate (!) level people (I know, I almost can’t believe it myself) so that we could work with one hand on the barre while the newer people did the exercises facing the barre. We did plies, slow tendus, degages, releves, eleves and prances, and rond de jambe combinations at the barre. Then we stretched, swung our legs en ballancoire and got off the barre for center.

Being at the wall barre is a little strange still. We don’t get to see ourselves in the mirror, and there’s no barre to put away since it’s stationary. But the lack of mirror space might make it easier to not overuse the mirror, so I guess that’s the upside.

Center was fun. We did an adagio port de bras (port de bras right arm, left arm, plie, releve balance, temps lie a la second right, temps lie a la seconde left, grand plie, repeat other side), then lots of ballet walks across the floor, followed by a short combination (ballet walk x3, hold in arabesque, lift the leg off, plie on supporting leg, and pas de bourre, repeat other side). We then did chasse gallops across the floor and a saute combination (4 in first, 4 in second, 4 in first, 2 echappes). Teacher then gave the option of a faster tempo group, and doing changements instead of sautes in first. Class finished up with a lovely reverance.

So, afterwards I asked Teacher how she would feel about me taking barre in pointe shoes (it was a different teacher who’d told me I was ready for pointe, but I really trust Teacher’s opinion, and I’ve taken class with her so much over the last couple years that she knows my weaknesses and strengths, and she always pays attention to my alignment in class). She asked me if I’ve done pointe work and I told her that I’v mostly been doing eleves and releves at home with my home barre. She told me to bring my shoes the next day so she could look at them. I was so nervous the rest of the day! There was the problem of logistics – at home I like to wear my pointe shoes over my bare feet (with the ouch pouch) and for class I usually wear my footed tights. I decided to wear some footless leggins under my leotard and my pink tights on top, that way I could remove them if necessary.

The next day, I took my shoes. I was worried that Teacher would have an issue with the ribbon color not matching the shoe perfectly (she was ok with it), but she just had me put the shoes on and roll up to pointe. She said I was getting over the box (yay!) and then when I took them off she told me about how she would sew the ribbons on her pointe shoes and how to flatten the box a little to make it more comfortable. Ok maybe that happened before I put the shoes on, I don’t remember as I was so nervous and excited at the same time. She said I could start that same day, so I ran off to the changing room to peel off the footed tights and tape my second toe before class started.

When I took my place at the barre, I brought along my slippers and a pair of socks in case I didn’t make it through the whole barre on pointe (spoiler alert: I made it!). Teacher had said I could do barre facing the barre if I wanted but I ended up doing the plies, tendus, degages and rond de jambe combinations with one hand on the barre (well, to be completely accurate, I attempt to do them with my hand slightly off the barre for the added challenge except for the actual rise on pointe in which I rest my hand lightly on it). I faced the barre, as did the whole class, for the releve combination (releves, eleves, prances, forced arch stretch, hold balance with no hands in releve in both parallel and first) and was able to get a nice balance up there for both parallel and first. In between combinations I worked on rolling up to pointe and slowly rolling back down, and afterwards, in that little time-space between barre and center I did some bourres at the barre before changing into my slippers for center. Even though I can hold my balance up on pointe on two feet without holding the barre, I’m still not brave enough to bourre without the barre. Maybe by next week…or is that too optimistic?

I really enjoyed taking the barre on pointe though. I especially liked the feeling of resistance when doing the slow tendu combination (tendu to demi pointe, full point, demi point, close, plie, x3 en croix) and having to work through the shoes. And my feet feel so much stronger already (I think I said that in a recent post, but even more now). I was working on my balances on releve on demi point at home, and I noticed that I can get up now even higher and feel almost like I’m suspended in the air. It was a strange but awesome feeling. Basically, I was up on releve and then I was thinking about how if I had my pointe shoes on I would have to press over the box, so I went up on releve even higher, almost forward – as if to press over the imaginary box – and at first my weight almost pitched forward too far (sigh, top heaviness) but I stabilized with my core  and suddenly, all those correctons about having your weight forward made perfect sense and I was just balanced perfectly. So then of course that’s all I wanted to do for the next five minutes or so…

Ok, I’m not even going to downplay it – it was an amazing ballet week! I am so happy, and so grateful for everything; to my Husband for being extra  supportive and giving me this final push to just get the shoes already and follow through on this, to Teacher giving this opportunity to do pointe work in her class (my school doesn’t have a dedicated pointe class, so any pointe work is at each individual teacher’s discretion). And yes, even grateful to my friend who let me try on her shoes and opened up the possibilities.

(As much as I want to just end on a good note, there is something somewhat ballet-related that is upsetting me but I’m not ready to write about it in detail yet. I don’t see the point of whining about how different people have different strengths and how there’s some things I just can’t do (maybe at the moment, maybe ever) if I’m doing nothing about it – and no, it’s not a particular step or anything that might just take more time and practice (so mysterious, lol). As it relates to a goal of mine, I feel I need to do a lot of soul-searching and realize if I really want to do this (and everything it entails – the good, the bad, the ugly… or if it’s just the idea of it that I want. Perhaps I’ll go into this in depth in a later post, if I don’t feel too ridiculous about it…) In the meantime, I cheered myself up by beginning to  work on two variations that I hope to perform at the end of the spring session.

Super Short Update: Practicing & Pointe

As my regular school’s still on break until Monday, I continued to practice at home with the help of the friendly internet. For barre I alternated between Kathryn Morgan’s Barre For Balance And Core and Pointe Barre videos (not on pointe). For center, I did the Easy Center and Classic Center videos by Kathryn, as well as a new video I discovered, Strength Building Center Pointe Combos (also not on pointe) by Ballerinas By Night, which I like because it had lots of echappes and sous-sus. Also, since I’ve done some of these videos so many times that I have memorized the combinations, I like to use the music to make some of my own combinations up and do them.

As for pointe, I’d be lying if I said that I was able to stay away from them once  they were finally sewed correctly. So I’ve been doing some barre work, eleves and releves, and the exercises I’ve seen on videos (like rolling through the feet and tendu, point, and push over the box) and … well, I love it. I am so surprised because before I tried it I had no idea I’d feel this way. I discovered how to tape my toes to reduce the curling tendency of my longest, second toe and while I wouldn’t say it’s comfortable, it’s quite bearable. Of course, that’s on two feet – on just one it’s more difficult (obviously). Which reminds me, I should start doing 1 footed eleves with no barre (without the pointe shoes) for additional strength. Speaking of strength, ever since I started working with the shoes my demi-point balances feel so much stronger, like now I’m really  getting up over my first and second toes and my ankles are aligned better than before. It even looks like I can point my feet more!

While I’ve been having a blast with ballet by myself, I am missing the class environment. In particular I miss grand allegro-type combinations, since I don’t have that kind of room to work with at home. I found a playground to do a tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, grand jete and saute arabesque, saute coupe, but it’s just not the same…

Since Last Time…

It’s been a few weeks (I think?) since I wrote any class notes, but there’s actually been stuff to write down, just busy-ness combined with a healthy dose of blogging apathy. Anyway, since I last wrote some class notes I have:

Actually consistently landed some pirouettes en dehors, both from fifth and fourth (and then noticed and psyched mysel out…). Yeah, I was surprised, en dehors is not my best kind, but as a whole I am feeling much more confident about them. My en dedans pirouettes – the kind that feel easier for me – have been pretty much reliable… hope that didn’t jinx it…

Then I landed some  prouettes in attitude (en dedans). Still though, they’re a mystery to me – the ones I’ve landed have felt purely by chance – although I did look up on youtube the Kathryn Morgan tutorial for these. They’re hard, however, arabesque pirouettes are harder…

I’ve gotten really comfortable with en dehors promenades (I’m used to going en dedans, so now I can do both), possibly because of this little combination from Intermediate: (tendu a la seconde, close in plie, passe releve)x2,  (tendu a la seconde, close in plie, promenade en dehors)x2, (tendu a la seconde, close in plie, pirouette en dehors)x2. All on the same side  – often twice thru – before doing the other side, major strength building there.

We also do a similar combination, but for 1/4,1/2 and full pirouettes instead. And I got happy when I realized that this means I can do at least 16 consecutive full releves on one leg in center. Sometimes at barre (especially in Int/Adv class), on one of those ultralong single leg balances on releve, after the third combination or so of having to do this I feel like I just can’t anymore and I feel like I’ll never be strong enough, so to be able to find the strength to do that in center is just like… incredible. I still remember when I couldn’t even do one single leg releve at the barre (never mind center). When ever I tell people in person they don’t believe me – “But you’re so strong!” – and that annoys me a bit. I feel like I need to hold on to my identity of the-girl-that-started-off-weak-and-terrible, and I’m still working out my issues on that. I don’t see a resolution to that anytime soon though…

My waltz en tournant has gotten much more fluid, especially at hyperspeed or doubletime or what ever it’s called (the tempo we do in Int/Adv class). I’ve grown to really love waltzing.

It hasn’t been all improvement and such, of course.  Apparently gotten into the (bad) habit of opening up too much when I tendue a la second, like my hips are no longer square to the front. Two different teachers have corrected me on this in the past week, so it means I need to pay some serious attention to this.

Ballet running still sucks. I don’t quite mean the slow, somewhat dreamy run off at the end of the combination with the windmill arms, but this quick, almost urgent kind of run, the kind that leads to a pique arabesque or sous-sus mid-cimbination. Don’t know how else to describe it…the Best Dancer Girl in Int/Adv class (the one that was rude to me a while back) does it perfectly, but she’s ridiculously good. There’s a lot of great dancers in that class, but she just takes it to a different level. I’m doing that thing when you learn from someone despite not liking the person, because I think having someone in class who is at a really high level can be really educational. Of course, this is Int/Adv class; in Beginner I think it would  make the atmosphere kind of intimidating.

My futile attemps at dancing continue in hip hop class. I had to miss a class at the beginning of the week because I wasn’t feeling well, and when I returned for the next class I was hopelessly lost (new combo every week). I do like that H Teacher allows us to videotape the combination, so I’m planning on learning them on my own at home (if I find some time that’s not allocated to ballet!).

I’m also still a really slow learner, despite the fact that I can remember longer combinations now in ballet. I still need to go over certain parts of choreography over and over, dozens of times, in slow motion until I can attempt it at anything approximating normal tempo (more on that later). Also – and I found this out in Pilates, not ballet, but it definitely applies as well – I’m distressingly bad at following without some sort of visual or physical cue. What I mean is, when the teacher gives a combination or directions, if they demonstrate it it’s ok, or if I’m able to mark it (preferably with my feet, but I can deal with that obnoxious hand marking if needed) it’s much better. But if it’s 100% verbal, I kinda… I don’t want to say zone out, but yeah…either that or I’m trying to make sense of it, and I can’t so I have to make a little video of it in my head to try to understand and then I’m behind. Once something’s in my muscle memory it’s not such an issue, but mostly when learning new things. I can’t say that I like this about myself…but whatever. The way I see it, at least I’ve figured out a way that works for me (as opposed to not being able to do it at all), so I’m not going to feel bad that I don’t learn the exact same way as everyone else. I’m just going to enjoy the dancing.

So yeah, in order to learn my choreography (contemporary ballet) for the school show and be able to actually pull it off, I need to practice – a lot. The other day, one of my classmates made a comment, something along the lines of ‘Must be nice – at least you have lots of time to practice, some of us don’t’ or something like that, but I felt I could detect some passive-aggresive tones in there. It made me upset, to be honest. I mean, it’s not like I tell people ‘must be nice to have had parents that put you in dance as a kid’ or ‘at least you got to dance when you were young’ or ‘must be nice to get stuff quickly and be so strong without working at it’ or anything else indicating bitterness about the diferences between us. I don’t know, perhaps I’m being hypersensitive, but I really dislike it when people make it out as though my situation (as far as dancing goes) is somehow perfect. I mean, I started ballet for the first time as few months before I turned 30, and it was such an uphill struggle, still is much of the time.

But apparently I decided I valued it enough to prioritize it above other things (I have no social life to speak off – but then evenif I didn’t have dance I probably still wouldn’t), and yes, I practice, I watch videos repeatedly searching or all the subtleties, I obsess. It may seem contradictory, writing it here publically and all, but I feel like it’s no one’s place to judge me on the amount of practicing I do or the amount of energy I devote to dancing, they should just focus on themselves. Boyfriend makes me feel better when I rant to him though; he says ‘they’re just jealous because their hobby’s not really ballet – it’s buying oufits to wear to ballet class – and they’re mad you actually practice and improve!’  That sounded like a cheap shot, but sometimes I get really upset when someone says something ignorant to me and I don’t stand up or myself.  I should work on that…

 

Taking Lessons From Ballet Class Out…

… into the “real” world.

No, this post is not about my tendency to strike up a ballet pose at random, or attempt traveling steps the second I have an open area of more than 8ft by 10ft in front of me… though those things have been known to happen quite frequently. Perhaps a misleading title again…

Anyway.

I found myself with some rare extra free time, so I went “hiking”. I put hiking in quotes because, due to curently not having a hiking buddy for safety, my hiking options are somewhat limited; I usually end up on this local-to-me mountain – more of a glorified hill, I suppose – that, while it does have some legitimate hiking trails, the vast majority of people end up on the main trail, which is a narrow paved road. So, it’s more of a steepish uphill walk. But it’s still one of my favorite local places outside of ballet class and my garden – and a great leg workout nonetheless – so today I ended up there.

Where the ballet relevance comes in is my posture while walking. I like to use the opportunity to really focus on my posture, staying pulled up, core held tightly, collarbones open, sternum up, shoulders back, lats engaged, tailbone down, head up – all the things that a ballet teacher corrects on during class. I’ve found that doing this when I’m doing stuff around the home really helps keep the muscle memory more active than just letting it all go the second I leave class. It’s also a sign of progress for me, because back when I first started ballet – and even as late as over a year into my ballet journey – even just standing there pulled up for a long time was a huge challenge. To be able to keep that posture while doing housework and chores would have been unthinkable. I’m getting stronger, hooray!

There’s also the being in public aspect of it. A few months ago, I read this blog post online that basically stated that our posture and body language is a function of our self-esteem – or lack thereof – and that to work on the posture of the body from the outside in, rather than the other way around (work on self-esteem first, posture will follow) was foolish. I have to admit, I had a bit of a knee-jerk reaction against what he was saying. ‘No way!’ I thought, ‘Give me someone with terrible self-esteem and have me train them using Pilates and ballet, and I will get them to stand up straight!’. After all, it’s about having the knowledge of your body and engaging the correct muscles. I mean, before starting dance I didn’t even know I had lats, let alone how to engage them.

Then I did more thinking (yeah, I’m one of those people who overthinks everything, whatever…) and, well, perhaps there’s something to what he was saying. I mean, no, it’s not impossible to train someone with low self-esteem to stand up straight, but there’s more to it than that. I’ll continue to use myself as an example (I don’t know if I (still) have low self-esteem necessarily, but at times I have a hell of a lot of anxiety).

I’ve noticed, and have known this for years now, that even if I consciously choose to stand up straight, when in the presence of someone I perceive as intimidating my body will sort of close itself down. Like, I’m telling it ‘shoulders back, head up’ and I do it, but slowly start shrinking back down. I found something online that said that I’m subconsciously trying to make myself smaller, to appear non-threatening, to not challenge the other person, to avoid confrontation. Which does seem quite accurate, if I must be honest with myself.

So, I’ve been practicing keeping my good posture even when surrounded by people, especially if I feel intimidated. I’m hoping to lessen the anxiety surrounding it, until it eventually goes away completely. Will it work? Who knows, but for now I am showing signs of progress and that’s all I can ask for.

The “hike” reminded me of my old hiking buddy Lindsay (I wrote about her on here before, mostly about how I haven’t told her than I’ve been doing ballet since she moved away because I didn’t want her to tease me about it), and times past before I started ballet-ing. As a weird way of keeping the memory alive, when I came home I took a nice long bath with candlelight and essential oils, totally a Lindsay thing to do. I took a book with me to the bath, Bunheads by Sophie Flack, which I found at a thrift store a couple months ago but hadn’t had a chance to read because homework and chores. Only got about 60 pages in before the timer went off  (I had set the kitchen timer to go off so I didn’t turn into a prune in the bath…), but still, an extremely relaxing time was had.

 

Three Years…

It’s now been three years since I started ballet. Perhaps because of this I have been in a weird mood lately, contemplating my history with ballet. These last few weeks have been especially packed with ballet and I’ve been constantly sore, fluctuating between confident and not. It’s been nice seeing that with enough time even formerly clumsy and uncoordinated me can become somewhat graceful and agile.

For me at least, there is such thing as too much ballet class. I’m not saying ‘too much ballet’ or ‘too much dance’, because at home I’ll keep wanting to dance around or practice ballet. I mean like in a class environment, with everything that comes along with that, the good and the bad – and what category I place specific things into seems to change on a daily basis. Sometimes I just want to dance without the rest of the class watching on the sidelines, I guess. Sometimes I don’t feel like having an “audience”, I just feel like letting my inner ballerina out – alone.

How much security I feel at the barre! It’s not even a matter of balancing anymore, by this point. When we’re asked to step away from the barre to do the exercise barre-less the second time through, I’m always up for the challenge. But at the barre there’s this feeling of safety that is not there at center – or could it just be that we ALL do barre at the same time, so everyone’s just focused on themselves? Sometimes I strongly lean towards that option.

At one class I took this week, I felt a bit intimidated by some of the beginner students in class. Not because they were good dancers, but just because it was a group of them that came together and I was having some kind of high anxiety day and felt … I don’t want to get into it too much here… but let’s just say off.  I could feel them watching me before class started and it was just weirding me out so much that when class did start I felt awkward, which traslates to ‘I danced awkwardly’. It sounds bad, but I felt less intimidated when I saw that their elastics on their shoes were all tied in bows and untucked. Although I’m not necessarily in agreement (or compliance? I’m oddly attached to and don’t cut my elastics, but make sure to keep the bows tucked away), I’ve often heard that the ballet slippers should not have a bow. But I did feel better, because it would have sucked even more to be pre-intimidated by experienced dancers. Class anxiety sucks, but thankfully it’s not an every day thing.

I’ve read accounts before of a beginner adults class where no one ever has to go across the floor alone or in a small group, or there’s no actual corrections but just a lot of “good job!”s. I didn’t start off in classes like that (most definitely not – in fact it was quite the opposite), and the closest I’ve gotten to something like that is probably Basic Beginner class at Adults Only studio, where it’s just general group corrections (and across the floor in small groups).  By this point, for me that class is somewhat of a ‘feel-good class’ – very little challenge and helps me see how far I’ve come since I started. But as for classes at my regular school, sometimes they can be tough (by adult recreational ballet dancer standards). I’ve seen dancers get singled out and corrected (which definitely motivates me to apply the correction to myself in advance!) in a way that would be quite a culture shock to a brand-new beginner (I remember when I was one!). I’ve seen a teacher go from adult-teaching-mode (which is pretty laid back and keeping it fun with a good technical foundation) to real-ballet-teacher-mode in a mixed class, and it was nothing short of terrifying. I mean, I felt bad for that girl, it was that bad!

The expectations are high, but perhaps that is why we actually improve when we do? Back when I first started, I was so terrible at even the most fundamental things (not to mention weak – and there is definitely a relationship there), that I didn’t have very high expectations for myself. Medium-to-long-term goals consisted of things like ‘get through a basic beginner level barre’ or ‘tendu in center without falling over’, then gradually ‘string along several steps together without forgetting them’, ‘balance in releve’ and, of course ‘point your feet while jumping!'(and, my ultimate goal, which was to be in a performance). As these more or less basic things eluded me (especially the balancing in releve and pointed-feet-jumping), I fixated on them, wanting to improve. And I did improve, and did get to perform, but I feel somewhat directionless now. The gap between decent enough and actually good is so big, and I don’t think I can – nor feel the urge to, I guess – cross it. On some days, perhaps even most days, I’m content at the level I’m at. I feel much more patient about improving. It’ll happen, no need to rush it. Not that all is well, because instead I feel a preoccupation for not losing my improvement, as I seem to have it in my mind that I’ll rapidly lose all the strength I’ve gained if I take a break. So I feel driven to practice even though I’m not actively seeking improvement…

But these things are more my problem ’cause I’m such a weirdo, more than anything else. At least I can rationalize it away to others as ‘hey, I’m off the couch and getting my exercise!’. They don’t need to know that I don’t look at it as only a workout regimen, and it keeps the questions short.

Truth is though, in ballet class I forget not just my everyday troubles, fears and stresses, but also how old I am. For that period of time I’m able to forget that, and to me that is one of the greatest things. It’s almost like laughing in the face of time, as well as gravity.

Anyway, onto some class notes and combinations:

In beginner class, we did frappes on releve, the kind where the foot stays pointed instead of flexed when it comes in. We also worked on beated frappes, at a really slow tempo that seemed to actually make it more difficult.

At NS, we did a fun barre combination with fondues up to releve devant, a la seconde, and derriere, then balance in arabesque on releve, bring the leg to attitude derriere and arms in high fifth and balance (umm, the balance is not going to happen, only on flat for now), allonge, penchee arabesque, sous-sus, soutenu, other side. Although fun, it was a little confusing, and some of the newer students were looking completely mystified.

We did some pretty long (for beginner class) center combinations. One was across the floor  2 waltz step turns, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, 4 balancés, repeat. It was manageable, though I think after the first time through my timing was off.

Another combination was: slow ballet walks with port de bras, faster ballet walk on releve, grand plie in fifth (or third), developpe devant, developpe a la seconde, developpe derriere, 2 pas de bourre, tendu derriere, rond de jambe the leg to tendu devant, pique sous-sus. This one was also manageable, though honestly I have a tendency to blank out what the next step will be the first time through. I’ve also noticed it tends to especially happen when the next step is a pas de bourre – what is up with that?!

There was also a combination that was (glissade, petit jete)x2, 2 regular pas de bourres, 2 pas de bourres with picking up the foot to passe instead of coupe, soutenu in place, glissade, assemble, repeat. It was a really fun combination, possibly because it included a variety of steps and it wasn’t quite up to regulation petit allegro tempo. I really enjoyed it though. F Teacher corrected me on my petit jetes traveling too much from side to side, as they’re supposed to stay in place.

We worked on tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, pas de chat, repeat, across the floor. R Teacher mentioned that on my pas de chats, my second leg to jump tends to lose its turn out. So that’s something I will be keeping an eye out. My glissades a la second seem to be getting much better, but since we haven’t really practiced the glissades to the front in beginner class I’m worried they will still make no sense when I try Intermediate class again (if I do, which I’m feeling like I want to, but being a little more careful this time). But I do feel much stronger in my jumps in general, from basic sautes to assembles and sissones.

 

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…

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!