Tag Archives: theraband

Wednesday: Compliments, Ballet Class, And A ‘Lil TMI

Fun day today, first Pilates, then ballet…

In Pilates class this morning, I was sitting on my mat with my in legs front of me, open about, let’s see, I wanna say about 120° or so, and one of my classmates was like “we can’t even get our legs to do that!”

So, I was like “Oh, I’ve been doing ballet for, like, two years (!) so I’ve gotten a lot more flexible; my flexibility has increased so much!”

And a different girl, her friend, asks, “Is that why your feet are so archy and stuff?”

I’m thinking, ‘Me? My feet, archy?!’ and I was so happy, seriously, but instead I taught her the theraband feet exercises that I do (after pointing my feet for the group a couple times to their ooooh’s and ahhhh’s, lol), and encouraged them to try out ballet.  But yeah, someone noticed something ballet-like about me outside of ballet class; perhaps that means I’m a (real) dancer.

Anyway.

Evening class was fun, though not really challenging today. We had a bunch of brand new students, both new to ballet and new to me.  We did pretty slow and basic combinations at barre (though I totally destroyed the timing of the slow ronde de jambs – impatient me!), and in center we did the same combination as last week but without the pirouettes.  E Teacher had me be in the front row (eeek!) so I was worried that I would mess up – thus embarassing us both (me for my clumsiness, and her for her error in judgment in thinking I could be in front row) – but I didn’t.

Sautes. I think the last time I did an actual saute-echappe-changement combination – (attempted) pointed feet in midair, ballet arms – was last year.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been jumping plenty to keep conditioned for the real sautes, but since I don’t have anywhere outside of class to practice jumping in ballet shoes and last week we ran out of time in class, it’s been a while since I’ve gotten to do sautes.  At least now I can remember to land in plie and it no longer sounds like a crashing elephant.  I think once I saw a ballet teacher wince (though she attempted to hide it) when watching – and hearing – some of my horrible heavy-landed sautes.

I really want to practice this foot pointing thing more, as I hope to get it into muscle memory.  By this point I don’t think it’s lack of muscle strength that causes my difficulties but bad muscle memory patterns that need to be overridden. Which brings me to…

Balancing.  Ever since I’ve been putting my shoulders back, my balances have improved so much.  You know how ballet teachers always say to lean forward, not back? Before I felt like I was already leaning forward, but I think it was just my shoulder positioning that was making me feel that way.  But yeah, my two-footed balances are getting super long and stable now that I have my shoulders back and I can actually lean forward. During my one-footed balances I’m afraid I’m too focused on what the working leg is doing to devote my full attention to shoulders. Hopefully once the “shoulders back” thing becomes  muscle memory it’ll be easier…

And now, the TMI part.  Ok, so I have a few pair of “dancing” underwear – basically, the leg openings are high enough (higher than the leotard’s) that they won’t be visible through my tights – but today I forgot that I had ballet and was wearing regular underwear.  Then I remembered that I read somewhere, possibly a dance forum, that the tights are the underwear (or so the dancers say). Ok, why not, I’ll give it a shot…

It was awesome! As much as I hate to admit it, I sometimes have this fear of looking in the mirror because I won’t be happy with what I see. My “lines” are different, to say the least, but besides the lines I worry about the bulges, the kind that happen between the waistband of the underwear and the waistband of the tights or the waistband of the tights and the bra strap.  With one of those taken out of the equation I looked so smooth, which helped me focus more on my placement and less on my body image anxiety. It was a nice change 🙂

But yeah, class was fun.

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…

Wednesday Class; Some Exciting News!

A few weeks ago Teacher had announced that she will be teaching both beginning and intermediate level ballet next semester, back to back. So today, as I lingered after class to purchase a new theraband – away from other classmates prying ears (LOL) – I casually asked her if I could take both. And she said yes!

I was beside myself with excitement, but I kept my exterior cool demeanor – yay, introverts and our “powers” of Keeping Calm on the outside!  But I seriously wanted to do a little happy dance or something.  She said I need another semester before doing only intermediate, but that’s more than ok with me.  It’ll be two hour and a half classes in a row with a 10 minute snack break in between – 3 hours of ballet!  The best part is that it’s not on the days of my wednesday class (or else there’d be a time conflict), so I can continue going there too.

Up until the part when she said yes I had been worried she was going to laugh and say “You’ve got to be kidding!” or something along those lines…I had actually been putting off asking for that reason for a while now…

morning class

It was slightly less cold today, so my joints were not revolting as much as they have been the last couple weeks.

With the exception of our first combination (plies) we did both sides without stopping, by switching with soutenus.  Teacher also had us balance in first position releve, let go of the barre, cross over to sous-sus and then soutenu several times without holding the barre.

A new combination for tendues that involved 2 regular tendues then tendu to plie in 4th when going front and back, and in second when tenduing a la seconde with a brand new port de bra that involved the arm up in high fifth when returning back from the plie was challenging the first time through, fun tehe second.

We did 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 degages without the barre only today – no “practice” run through holding the barre – and afterward (also barre-less) 8 echappe releves, with a balance in the final echappe releve. My balance was actually pretty good today, way less shaky.

During our really fast tendus with piques (4 quick tendus, 8 piques) en croix, Teacher said “Good timing!”. Yay! Unfortunately, even though last semester Strict Teacher was really on us for our posture, this semester I keep finding myself sway-backing and get reminded/corrected on this often. I really need to stop standing in a “stick out your butt” kind of way at all times, not just ballet class, to get rid of this habit…

My fondues into releve were much better today. Still can’t balance on releve with no hands on the barre when my leg is outstretched in front or behind me, but today I was able to raise up much easier than on monday.  I made sure to squeeze my core so I wouldn’t tilt towards the barre when my leg was in front or away from the barre when my leg was in arabesque.

For center, we used a nice slow waltz for our 4 balancé, step into arabesque, pas de bourree, passe releve balance (optional pirouette), other side combination.  The slower tempo made it much more possible to stay on timing and it was so fun.  I’m still just working on the passe releve balance for now, since my pirouette still only goes around about halfway (see, why I was worried Teacher would laugh at the idea of me in intermediate; an “intermediate” student who can’t pirouette and still (occasionally) falls out of (two-legged) balances, not to mention my unpointed changements and soubresouts).

The echappe, echappe, saut de chat, soubresout, saut de chat, changement, other side, combination was faster today, and pretty much the whole class was lost the first time through. The second time through was much better, though.

Pique turns to the right are coming along, and I’m starting to get comfortable with spotting and doing them one right after another. To the left they are slower and I still pause in between each one.  My passe/retire position with my left leg up is not as open as with my right leg up – for whatever reason my left hip is tighter and won’t open as much – so my pique turns to the left don’t look as nice as the ones to the right. I’m hoping the theraband turnout exercises will eventually even out my leg turnout discrepancy.

evening class

Looks like tonight I didn’t make it in to evening class. Several out-ot-town friends were in town and I ended up helping them make – and eat – delicious foods and drinking hard cider.  And I wasn’t even sure if we were having class tonight for sure anyway…

Another Fitness Goals Update

After four weeks of starting my Get Fitter For Better Ballet Challenge, I’m totally starting to see – and feel – some progress! At least in some areas, other body parts are still lagging behind. Starting with the positives first…

Been doing the Theraband turnout exercises practically daily and I would give them credit for the majority of the improvement.  Once again, those exercises are found on a video on a blog called If The Pointe Shoe Fits, and there’s lots of other helpful videos there as well.  While I would say they have improved my ability to maintain my turnout, especially when doing grand plies, there are so many other things that stronger thighs help with!

My standing-to-floor and floor-to-standing transitions are much better. As I mentioned in my first back-to-fitness post four weeks ago, last semester my thighs were so weak that I needed to use my hands (by putting them on my upper thighs and pressing) for support in order to transition from a standing position to a one knee on the floor position.  In my 2 week update, I mentioned that I can now do it without using the hands for support on my thighs, but I was still using my arms for leverage or clenching them.  Well, I’m happy to report that by now I have worked up to keeping my arms in second position as I get up and down.  For an extra challenge, I like to lower myself very sloooowly sometimes, getting to the point when my knee is about to touch down and then raise myself back up.  Reading that back now it sounds like I’m talking about lunges, which I suppose I am. But the pretty, graceful ballet equivalent, with the arms out to second.

Also, when practicing long sustained balances on releve at home this past weekend, as I was squeezing squeezing squeezing my core to maintain my balance I realized that the “core” is not synonymous with “abs”.  No, turns out there is a whole bunch of muscles underneath the abs that I now know I have! The first time I felt them it was like “Whoa, I didn’t know you were there!”, they must have been hiding, waiting for me to discover them. Since I haven’t been doing any sit-ups or crunches – hate them! –  once again I will give the credit for those new muscles to the Theraband turn-out exercises.

Besides the turnout exercises I’m  doing the feet and ankle strengthening exercises that Teacher taught us as well as stretching.  It’s starting to become a habit, a regular part of my routine, and it makes me feel like a “real” dancer.

In general my legs feel much stronger and I have a new-found stability, as I found out the other day when I found myself wearing uncomfortable high heels (not by choice, it was a Family Function). My feet hurt like hell, but my balance was amazing.  I felt like  I could run in those suckers! But I didn’t, of course, not looking to tempt fate and all.

My upper half is trying to resist my efforts at shaping up.  While I’ve been doing Shakeweight about three times a week, my arms don’t seem to be toning up more than they already were and they’re not particularly stronger either.  I’m still stalled at about 3/4 of a pull-up.  Even though I mentioned in my last fitness update that I was considering hitting the gym, to be honest I haven’t.  I keep myself pretty busy and making time to do something that I don’t particularly like doing is kind of a last resort.  So for now I’ve just been sticking with the Shakeweight, some pushups and yoga.

The whole cardio issue is another thing that I’ve been thinking about.  Last semester, during my ballet final exam I totally got out of breath during my dance.  We’d been practicing the dance together as a class, but since it was crowded when we would practice I would just kind of mark the steps for safety; I didn’t do the jumps and the ballet-running parts full out. Definitely didn’t want to land on someone or crash into them. When it was time to get graded and we performed one at a time was the first time that I gave it 110%.  By the end of the minute and a half or so performance I was panting and was so out of breath that I couldn’t hold the balance for my last pose.  My muscles just didn’t listen when I told them to tighten up.

It was a bit of an eye-opening experience – the notion that someone can be sort of thin and still be in such horrible shape as to get winded from a minute or so of activity.  I’m also starting to wonder if this may come into play with my difficulty with sautes.  The problem appears to be related to doing many sautes in a row, because if I just do one feels so much easier to focus on pointing my feet.  But many of them gets me out of breath, so perhaps the diminished oxygen flow to the muscles is not helping?

But what to do about it? During the more steep uphills of my walks I’ve been trying to walk faster, in efforts of getting my heart rate up.  If I don’t see more improvement I may have to actually try jogging the uphill parts, though I’d rather not. Mostly I worry about the ground impact and my knees, though on grass or sand it may be ok.  Maybe I’ll even learn to enjoy  it. We’ll see…

Fitness Goals Update

Since it’s been two weeks since I renewed my commitment to exercise – all for the sake of improving my ballet skills – I figured it was time for some updates. The accountability factor of writing how it’s going should also help keep me motivated, which is something that I really need.

I’ve been doing my theraband exercises almost every single day.  Besides the ankle and feet strengthening ones,  I’ve incorporated some for my thighs and turn out.  These exercises can be found on an awesome blog that I’ve found called If The Pointe Shoe Fits (which I would link to, but can’t, because for whatever reason the linking feature here on WordPress has only been working for me when it wants to, and it hasn’t wanted to for this whole month. Much apologies, and I will fix it the next time it’s working.)

Anyway, I can see a visible improvement already.  I’m one of those people who carry (excess) weight in their stomach (ugh, especially there, unfortunately), upper hips, back, arms – basically anywhere but the legs – so there isn’t really a lot of fat to hide the fact that my muscles weren’t developed enough.  The past few days though, I’ve felt like my legs looked a bit “meatier” which is good.

It really sucks, because I’m short-waisted, which translates to: my midsection always looks wide unless I’m really thin. In contrast, my legs look too long and stick-like. So the extra muscle in the legs really balances my body out.

image

I cried unconsolably when I first found this picture because I realized that there was nothing I could do, it’s all genetics.  Before I lived in a happy fairytale world where everyone can reach their goals if they only try hard enough. 

My getting-down-and-back-up from the floor transitions are also showing a little bit of improvement.  It generally feels as though the movement is smoother, and I can do more of them.  They are by no means perfect – I keep clenching my arms with the effort – but way better than during last semester when I actually had to rest my hand on my thigh to help me get up or down.

Enough about the lower body. What about the upper half?

image

Yes, I realize my hand looks wrong!  But the main point is me whining about my upper arms while wearing my leotard.

Still been doing the Shakeweight. In my arms I have not seen as much improvement as I would like, to be honest.  My upper arms still look horrible in my leotard when I put my arms out to second.  I’m trying to think positive and not get too down on myself but I worry that this is one of those issues that won’t get resolved.  Thought about switching to a different style of leotard, since perhaps where the sleeves end is aggravating the problem.  Perhaps a slightly longer sleeved style would be more aesthetically pleasing.  Boy, is the next heat wave going to suck… Oh and a tank-top style leotard is also out because I have to wear not one but two(!) sport bras to class in order to not feel “bouncy”, which pushes up my remaining back and underarm flab.

Right before writing this  I attempted pull-ups to see if there is any improvement in that area. Short answer: no.  Two weeks ago I couldn’t do any pull-ups and today I can kind of do almost one.  Don’t know if the problem is that Shakeweight is not very effective or if I’m just so weak that I need lots of improvement before any will be apparent.  Been debating actually going to the gym (well, the free one here at our apartment complex), and I really dislike going to the gym, so that should show how serious I am about getting some upper body strength.

Walking has been going great though. I’ve increased the frequency of my walks and I’ve actually lost a pound or two since I started this fitness semi-challenge, so that’s awesome.  Surely I’m at – maybe even above – my pre-injury fitness level and that makes me happy. Overall, lately I’ve just been feeling pretty darn happy…

Also, this time of year is my favorite, the mild weather lends itself to walking and doing outdoors stuff more than the extreme heat of the summertime. I’m glad it’s fall, which along with spring is my favorite of the seasons. Now, if we are talking about The Four Seasons, then my favorites for sure are winter and summer, in that order.

Anyway, here’s to fitness and the beginning of fall.