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…