5 Easy Remedies for Your Post-Class Soreness

For a ballerina, there’s no bigger pill to swallow than starting a warmup with all-over muscle soreness. You worked your buns off the day before, and today, you’re feeling the consequence. Your legs each weigh a ton, your arms are like cooked noodles and your abs are so sore that even a chuckle sends you into the fetal position.

How are you supposed to dance when your body feels like this?

Despite what you might think, muscle soreness can be a  good thing. It can be frustrating and dreadful at times, but it’s a sign that your body has been challenged and is doing the repairs it needs in order to build muscle tissue.

Of course, by stretching and working responsibly, you can prevent unnecessary damage to this tissue — but if you’re pushing for significant improvement, it’s almost impossible to totally avoid soreness altogether. Because we all experience it at some point, here’s a list of our favorite remedies for those pesky aches:

1. Water

We all know that our bodies are largely composed of water and that it’s crucial to stay hydrated especially when we’re active. Get as much of it as you can during your rest periods and you’ll decrease the amount of soreness you experience after your workouts. By drinking lots of water, you’re flushing out the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles, which is what causes soreness. Try an electrolyte-infused water to replace what your body loses in sweat, and you’ll keep your muscles lubricated for your next session.

Beyond drinking it, the next best thing for sore muscles is soaking in it. Epsom salt baths are extremely beneficial as they provide the crucial minerals magnesium and sulfate, which help to form proteins and to flush toxins such as lactic acid from the body. Try adding about two cups of Epsom salt to a warm bath (it will dissolve more quickly under running water) and soak for at least 12 minutes. Your muscles will instantly feel more relaxed when you’re weightless in the warm water.

2. Massage

It might seem counter-intuitive to squeeze and rub your muscles when they’re already throbbing, but it’s the best way to push out that lactic acid that makes you weep in pain. Aside from the tried-and-true method of manual massage, here are some really helpful tools that can do the work for you.

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  • Foam roller

This one’s especially great for pressing out that IT Band, the “turnout” muscle. It gets knotted up easily, and ballerinas can benefit from massaging it regularly.

  • “The Stick”

For lack of a better name, The Stick is an awesome alternative to the foam roller. It’s thinner and made of a firmer material, so it reaches smaller areas with more pressure. Also, it’s handheld, so you can do it just about anywhere you can sit down.

  • Tennis ball

If you have one of these babies laying around, try using it to get localized pressure on those tiny areas your hands can’t find. Though most people use them to massage sore arches, there are tons of ways to use them. Experiment with lying on floor with the ball underneath your back — the spaces between your shoulder blades and spine carry a lot of tension, and the tennis ball works wonders here. Depending on the kind of pressure you like, a bouncy ball or golf ball will also work.

3. Stretching

Sometimes it feels great to sit in a straddle when your inner thighs are sore and you might think that stretching is exactly what you need. This is partially true, but in general, try to stay away from static stretching when you’re sore. For the most part, muscle soreness is caused by tiny tears in your muscle fibers. By sitting in a stretch for a long period of time, you’re probably only adding to the torn tissue, and your soreness will probably only get worse. Instead, try some dynamic stretches to warm your body and bring blood flow to your muscles. A great place to start is with sun salutation or some grand pliés.

4. Nutrition

What you eat is a extremely important to how you heal. Make sure you’re getting a balanced mix of lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. Eating foods such as bananas or spinach which are high in potassium will help soothe muscle cramps and anything with vitamin E will help reduce inflammation. Nuts, for example, are a great after-class snack because they have tons of protein and vitamin E.

5. Rest

What your mother always told you is actually true. Beyond all else, rest is what your body needs most in order to recuperate, whether it’s from illness, injury, or just exhaustion. When your muscles are telling you to stop pushing them, listen. Sometimes trying to push through the pain will only create more pain, and it’s important to know when to just stop and rest. Allow yourself plenty of rest and sleep, and if after two full days of rest you still feel too sore to move, ask your doctor about how to treat the pain. If your soreness is actually a more serious injury, you should find out as soon as possible so that it can heal properly.

Body Positivity in the Classroom

Screenshot 2015-06-23 11.18.37In the studio, we all want to do our best. We’re always looking in the mirror, trying to make our bodies do something new or challenging, and we’re always raising the standard for ourselves. It’s what makes us grow. Unfortunately, sometimes this feeling of ambition and expectation can make us feel inadequate. Sometimes we analyze our bodies so closely that we think there’s something wrong with us.

We talked body image with Katrina Errico, instructor and choreographer at Studio 19 Centre for Performing Arts in Eustis, Florida. She shared her experience with her own students and gave us some valuable advice about keeping a healthy attitude.

Is this a common issue among your students?

I see this a lot, especially with my teenage girls. For our adult students, we’re a lot more lenient with our dress code because we know how intimidating tights and a leotard can be. A lot of our adult students are women who have had children, haven’t danced in years or even have never danced before, and they don’t feel comfortable having their bodies on full display in class. If they can wear their favorite yoga pants and a tank top, they feel more secure and confident, and the experience can be about learning, not about comparing body types.

Why do you think we feel the need to compare ourselves?

Unfortunately, I think it’s natural to want to compare yourself. You’re in a room full of mirrors with a bunch of people you barely know, and you want to measure up. It can make you feel vulnerable — I don’t think there’s one of us out there who hasn’t looked at their body and wished they could change something about it.

Any tips for beginners or ballerinas intimidated by the big mirror?

  1. The most important thing to remember is that every single body is unique and special. Be grateful for the things your body can do for you, and recognize your unique talents. Maybe you’ve got a great extension, or a flexible back, or elegant epaulement. Whatever it is, your body is amazing for it.
  2. Compare yourself only to yourself; watch your progress and be proud of it. Don’t hold yourself to expectations meant for someone else’s body, and never talk down to yourself when you don’t get it right.
  3. Know your nutrition. Every successful ballerina knows that health comes first, and that a well-balanced meal is what your body needs to grow stronger between classes.
  4. Be patient with your body. Muscle tone and flexibility aren’t achieved overnight, and pushing yourself to rush the process can cause serious injury. We want healthy, happy bodies that can dance for a lifetime.

Image via Katrina Errico

(Almost) 30 Day Yoga Challenge

EDIT: Oops. It appears I can’t find today’s (May 7th) yoga video anymore, so pick one you’ve enjoyed so far or try a new one! (I did yesterday’s since I was in a yoga class yesterday). I will find replacement videos for the other times this one appears in the schedule.

I’ve decided to go with a yoga challenge for the month of May, since it’ll help with my general flexibility (and for those of you who voted for splits challenge, I focused on a lot of leg yoga stretches). They’re all beginner level videos, so feel free to participate no matter what skill level you are at!

Here’s the challenge:

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All the videos can be found on my favorite yoga website, www.doyogawithme.com. Just do a quick search using their search tool and you’ll find the video. I still think I’ll try to post photos of my flexibility throughout the month for motivation.

How are you challenging yourself during May?

Catching up on the Stretch, Plank and Squat Challenges!

King Pigeon Pose

My favorite yoga pose (Photo credit: lululemon athletica)

Good news is, while I’ve missed a few days of my squat and plank challenge–I’m completely caught up. While my boyfriend and I have a few days–we’ve caught up on the challenge’s days off. I’ve even managed to pull off a 1:30 plank, and I’ve been thinking about incorporating side planks and straight-arm planks.

Stretching has not been going quite as well. I was getting slightly sick of doing videos, so I basically ended up skipping stretching this weekend after a two-hour long ballet class and a super stressful Sunday (my 5k did not happen because of my shin splints). So I’ve been working on getting that back on track and Monday and Tuesday I just did some of the yoga poses and stretches I had worked on. Hopefully these will help me get closer to my splits in the end. Maybe I’ll get brave enough to put up some split photos when we reach the halfway point of our April challenge.

I’ve added another element of fitness to my daily routine to try to strengthen my calves for running and for pointe work (eventually–I’m taking baby steps in getting back to pointe work!). I’ve just been incorporating 3 sets of 12 calf raises and 3 sets of 12 single calf raises.

Now I just need to work more theraband stretching into my routine.

How have you been challenging yourself this April?

Help Me Deal with Crazy, Unruly Hair

Picture of the back of a woman's head, with he...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Someone help me out, please. Share your perfect ballerina bunhead secrets.

We’ve discussed how to make the perfect bun (and trust me, I’m not there yet either). But I want to know  how do you make the rest of your hair–even when it’s just in a ponytail–look less unruly. My messy bun that I usually rock to ballet class looks way more messy than it should.

My hair is super unruly–it seems like no amount of headbands, bobby pins or gymnastics clips can help keep my hair from looking like an absolute mess. I got a hair cut a couple of weeks ago, and instead of making my hair less messy, it made it worse. My hair is in an awkward stage and I can barely get it to stay up in a messy bun because it’s too thick to get a hairband to wrap around 3 times–but when it’s only wrapped around twice my hair falls it out of the bun.

My bangs are also short and messy and I usually have a bunch of stray pieces coming out all over my head resulting in me using a headband or a billion bobby pins, clips…or both. While this is sometimes effective, other times I just like a hot mess. When I use most headbands, I have to use bobby pins to keep it in place. ICK. I recently bought a Bondiband which is super wide (and thin, too) so it keeps all my hair in place, but it’s not perfect and it seems like it slips a bit, although not much. I’m super looking forward to trying it out when it’s cold out cause it’ll cover my ears. I’ve also found that my headbands stick best when my hair is completely dry–and it’s tough to get my hair dry in a hurry, so I shower at night sometimes but it’s not always helpful.

So girls out there with the perfect hair–how do you get yours buns (and messy buns and ponytails) to look so good? I’m looking for hair product, hairband, headband, bobby pin, etc. recommendations. Whatever will help me out, even if you’re not a ballerina.

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