Guest Post: Plus Sized Ballet

Plus Sized Ballet

When most people picture ballerinas in their head, this is what they see:

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It intimidates a lot of people.  Can you blame them?  Look at the strength, the balance, the grace.

But this is what I see when I think of ballerinas:

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picture courtesy of Festival School of Ballet

That’s me on the right. All 200+ pounds of me.  At my heaviest I was 260 pounds.  I never saw myself as that heavy but I also never thought of myself as ballerina material either.  Boy was I wrong.

When I first started my weight loss journey, I felt like I didn’t know my body anymore.  When I lost 30 pounds I knew I had to do something.  I felt like a clutz.  Not at all like the graceful person I knew I was.  So I started searching for an adult ballet class hoping to reclaim some of that grace. I just wanted to go through the basic positions, do some barre work and maybe, one day, try some floor combinations.  But please, don’t make me wear a leotard and tights.

Do you know how hard it can be to find an adult ballet class like this?  Well around me, it took me well over a year.  Every time I called a studio that had an adult class, I would ask the same two questions:

How advanced is your adult class? 

Most of the time they were full of former dancers.  I was told as a beginner I was welcome to try and keep up or I could take their little ones basic ballet.

Do you have a dress code for the adult class? 

The minute they said yes, leotard and tights, I said thank you very much and hung up the phone.  I wanted to try ballet and I was insecure enough about that.  But throw in my insecurities about being in a leotard and tights at my size and it was just too much to overcome.

I was lucky though and finally found a studio that said, come as you are! Yes, there are former dancers in the class but also people who have never danced before.  Come, try it!

I have never felt more at home than I did at that first class.  I wore my workout capris and a t-shirt.  I did invest in a pair of ballet shoes since I wanted to make the point, I wanted to work my way up to dance.  I didn’t just want the barre workout or a ballet booty class.  Those are great options, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted the grace of ballet to help me learn my now rapidly changing body.

I started with one 90 minute class a week.  Turns out floor combinations were always part of the class so I stumbled, tripped and slouched through my first weeks.  Slowly but surely, however, I got the hang of it.  I was doing floor combinations!  Already!  Next thing I knew it was two classes a week and hoping for more.

I found ballet was seeping into my everyday life.  I stood taller and in better alignment which in turn made lots of other things take on a whole different meaning.  My walk became more efficient since I was standing taller and using more of my lower core.  My biking became more challenging.  I had to add more tension to the stationary bike to accommodate my stronger legs.  And something very simple, but major happened – I don’t slouch anymore.  My core and back feel so much better.

Leaving class is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.  I spend 90 minutes stretching, lengthening, reaching.  I feel so tall and lean at the end of it all.  I feel so confident and self-assured.  And let me tell you, THAT feeling will change your life in ways you could never imagine.

Why should plus size people try ballet?  It’s a great way to build lean muscle mass.  The entire class focuses on your core and the large muscle groups of your legs.  So even at the barre, you will burn lots of calories.  It’s an excellent way to build your lung capacity and stamina.  It teaches you about your body and how it works.  So no matter how big or small you are, your body will work better for you.  If you think your weight makes you appear clumsy, ballet will teach you to control your body better.  Even if you never lose an ounce, you will naturally become more graceful and self-controlled.

And most importantly, it is empowering.  When you feel confident, graceful and in control, nothing can stop you.   Anyone can do ballet.  There is nothing special required.  But ballet can certainly make you feel special.  There is nothing holding you back from trying it except you!  So get thee to a ballet studio and start dancing!

PS:  I’ve been doing ballet now for almost two years and I’m still not wearing leotard and tights.  But I’m starting to consider tights, believe it or not.  And maybe a leotard under a big tshirt?  I think I might becoming confident enough to try.

VB6 Eating Plan and Other Updates

51qV9xWV3OL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_ Last week, I stumbled upon Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before Six book/diet plan on Twitter, and thought it sounded like the perfect plan to get me eating better. Although I haven’t been able to get a hold of a copy of VB6 yet, the plan is pretty simple. Eat vegan and mostly unprocessed before 6, and then eat mostly normally, in moderation, after 6. I’ll be trying to eat healthier, although probably not vegan, dinners.

I’ve tried to cut back lately (and I’m so inspired by all the ladies I talked to about their clean eating), but it’s been a mostly failing effort. My biggest weakness seems to be mac and cheese and other forms of pasta.

I’ll be making a few slight changes to this meal plan, since I can’t seem to part with yogurt (I love Chobani, and I think otherwise I’d struggle with finding good sources of protein given that I’m a pretty picky eater). It’s also the reason I’ve dubbed this the diet of my childhood. I refused to eat cheese (except for the occasional pizza–go figure)  and cream cheese and many other processed foods until my senior year of high school. I also weighed about 100 pounds as a result (although that’s not my goal here, I just want to develop a healthier lifestyle).

While I’ve done a lot of meal prepping and shopping for breakfast and lunch ideas (lots of fruits and veggies), I’ve yet to figure out what a lot of my dinner meals will be. I’m planning on attempting this avocado pasta sauce recipe with some whole wheat pasta tonight, but after that, I’ll probably be trying different combinations of stir frys and other healthy recipes. I’ve you’ve got healthy dinner ideas, feel free to send them this way so I don’t fall into a pasta rut again!

How do you figure out new and exciting healthy meals to eat?

In other news, I will finally be heading back to ballet either tonight (probably not because I’m having some lower right calf pain, again, ugh) or Thursday. I really want to go tonight, but since it’s the advance class, I’m thinking it’s probably best to just chill out and not push it, but I’ll probably throw on some Kinesio tape and see how today goes.

Poll: What Content Should We Post More Of?

Polling Station

Since we’ve recently gone through a transition, I want to get an up-to-date feeling for what I should be posting more of: interviews, tips, how-tos, etc.  Please take a second to fill out the poll below. I will still keep doing blog type posts on a regular basis, but I’m looking to do more. If you have any specific how-to or tips posts, ie. you want to learn more about tendu tips or grand battements, leave me a note in the comments! Generally my tips or how-tos come from something I personally struggle with and do research on, but if you’ve got something you want to see, let me know. If you’ve got something you want to share, feel free to send me an e-mail (info at adultballerinaproject dot com) about contributing.

 

Taking It on the Road: Ballet Away from Home

Hotel room stock photo

This past year, I’ve had occasion to do a lot of travel. Most of it has been business, some has been personal, and all of it has presented me with a challenge if I want to practice ballet. A handy chair or railing can substitute for a barre, but you probably don’t want to do grand jetes in the hotel corridors.

Here are a few solutions I’ve found to the “Where can I dance?” problem:

1. Local Dance Studio: If you have transportation, Google the area ahead of time. Don’t be discouraged if the only thing you can find is a studio that requires students to sign up in semester-long blocks of classes. Sometimes you can get permission to join a class on a drop-in basis.

2. Local Gym: Some memberships give you access to facilities in other cities, and most gyms offer day passes. Even if a gym doesn’t have a dance studio, you can often make use of a fitness room when there isn’t a class. If you want something more private, consider appropriating a racquetball court. Gyms often have several of these and they make great private spaces for floor work.

3. Hotel: This one is hit and miss, but here are a few things to try:

• Your Room: If you are in a suite, you may be able to move the sitting room furniture out of the way and dance in the privacy of your own room.

• Pools and Exercise Rooms: Some hotels have a separate area of the fitness center for yoga and aerobics classes. Be sure to also check out the pool. Many hotels have a poolside area for small functions. You should not dance on bare concrete, but a thin carpet with low nap will often work just fine.

• Ballrooms/Conference Rooms: Sometimes you can find an unlocked door to a ballroom or conference room. If it hasn’t been set up with too many tables and chairs, you’ve got yourself a dance studio. If all the rooms are locked, explain your situation to the front desk. They have heard stranger requests than yours and may be happy to help.

A Few Considerations:

1. Scheduling: If you are angling for an empty conference room, your best chance of success will be weekday evenings and weekend mornings, so plan accordingly. This may mean skipping the drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres at a conference reception, or skipping a reception altogether and meeting a few colleagues for dinner and drinks after your dance practice.

2. Music: If you don’t like dancing while wearing earbuds, consider buying a speaker for your mp3 player. I use the iHome 3.5 mm portable speaker, but there are many options out there.

3. Shoes: Unless you have made arrangements to attend a ballet class, leave the pointe shoes at home. You don’t know what kind of floor surface you’ll be on, and you don’t want to spend your vacation or conference covered in bruises and nursing a sprained ankle. Bring several different types of ballet slippers if you can. The shoes that are your go-to at home might be too slippery or too grabby for the dance space you find. You might even have to dance barefoot or in socks.

In sum, dance practice is very doable while away from home, but requires creativity and flexibility. Luckily, this is what ballet is all about. Just remember to get outside and see a few sights while you’re away, too. Have a few adventures, because when you get home the last thing your non-ballerina friends will want to hear about is your perfect pirouette by the hotel pool.

Workout Motivation and Ballet Class Slumps

  Workout Motivation helps beat the heat

Everyone has their off weeks, and last week I had a bad one and I’ve seem to lost my workout motivation. Although I got 2.5 miles in on Monday while I was still at home with my sister, I only managed to get in .75 on Wednesday before I started to have knee issues while I was running on the indoor track and decided to quit since the Urban Scramble (a scavenger hunt with a lot of uphills and running on sidewalks) was the next day and I didn’t want to be hurting for that.

Once I got to the Urban Scramble, while my legs were feeling better, I decided to pass on two scavenger stops in University City since they were fairly far away from the other spots and all uphill. We ended up walking a lot of the first 2 miles (I was being pouty as my Garmin wasn’t starting up). We ran the last 1.3 miles roughly when my Garmin magically started working. After that race/scavenger hunt I was extremely sore (I did something wonky to my hip, but I’m not sure what), so Saturday morning ballet was a bit rough. I also woke up extremely tired, so I struggled through most of the class. Sunday became an unintentional rest day.

Yesterday I had the intention of running for 30 minutes on the track, but only got about a mile done since HQ and I didn’t get out the door until about 11, and even the indoor track was brutally hot. Since I had to head into work extremely early this morning, I’m hoping to fit in a bit of spinning plus about a mile on the treadmill and then some easy (if there is such a thing) fartlek training on the track (probably still indoors, the temps are super high here in Philly this week). I just need to pull myself out of this workout slump.

How do you pick yourself back up after a bad week of workouts?