Easing Back into Class

In my earlier post “To Return or Not?”, I concluded that restarting ballet has been a surprisingly positive experience. As I dip my toes in the water, I need to preserve my toes (and the rest of my body) by heeding advice from a professional ballerina friend:

  1. “Take it slooow.” (i.e., proceed slowly and with caution)

The first time I rolled up to demi-pointe, I anticipated pain in my left foot and, much to my relief, felt nothing. Just to be safe, for barre exercises I stay mostly on flat because my feet, ankles and calves are relatively weak. For retiré/passé, fondu and pique steps, I sometimes gingerly venture onto demi-pointe. In center during the first class, I marked pirouettes on flat but when dancing full-out, I automatically rotated on relevé – without pain! Although I can dance some steps in relevé, I know that in order not to strain my muscles, I’ll gradually have to work up to a more consistent demi-pointe.

  1. “Don’t be frustrated or disappointed by not being able to do what you used to do.”

When I saw myself in the mirror, I grimaced: feet shaped like spatulas when pointed, heels not raised high when feet in relevé/demi-pointe, and a 5th position resembling 3rd position.  While standing in retire/passé, I noticed that my passé knee was not as turned out as used to be, but instead it drifted forward. Although I know this rustiness is expected, I’ve decided to stop looking in the mirror until I’ve been back to ballet consistently for a few months.

I’ve thought of a few more pieces of advice:

  1. Be aware of bad habits formed by previous injuries or chronic pain.

Before surgery, at bottom of a grande-plié in first position I used to favor my left foot and rest more weight on my right foot because of my injury. The first time after surgery when I lowered into a first position grande-plié, I instinctively braced myself — for what ended up being nonexistent pain in my left foot. So now I need to retrain my body to plié correctly while evenly distributing weight between both sides.

  • Maintain your sense of humor about:
    • coordination: When working on side tendus from 5th position at the barre, I kept closing in front while the rest of the class kept closing in the back, and vice versa!
    • speed: While executing double frappés at the barre, I found myself concentrating more on getting my foot out (front, side, and especially back) on time, rather than on proper technique – wrong priority!
    • combinations: When my teacher marked a long center combination toward the end of class, I glanced at clock and was dismayed to see we still had 15 minutes left!
  1. Just do it. (i.e., GO to class)

Although responsibilities (like jobs, childcare, housework, errands, etc.) dampen my motivation for class, I’m even less inclined to go because I’m out of shape. Yes, you read that correctly: I don’t want to go to class because I’m out of shape. Of course going to class is exactly what I should do in order to get back into shape! While driving to class I frequently ask myself, “Do I really want to go? Eh…. I don’t know. Should I go? Yes, I’d better or I’ll regret it.” Despite these internal debates en route to the studio, I’m usually happy once I’m in class. On the drive home I always smile and think, “I’m glad I went to class after all.”

Featured Image “Untitled” By Alice Barigelli

Adult ballet: injury risks and reality checks

When  I took up ballet as an adult and as a beginner there was a common protest from my friends:

You’ll wreck your body.

Ballet has developed a reputation, deserved or otherwise, of being an injury-prone activity. We accept this blindly without taking into account who is being injured and how.

A recent article in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, barely more than 100 words in length, carried the headline “Ballet hazards high.”

The headline alone invites justification of pre-determined perceptions of ballet.

 “New research from Sports Medicine Australia has found young dancers are at a higher risk of injury than other athletes, with 75 per cent risk.”

That’s a worrying statistic – but read on.

In a quote from the study’s researcher, Monash University’s Christina Ekegren, we learn more about the who, rather than the what, they were studying,

“We found that the majority of the dancers monitored danced six days per week, with each participant dancing an average of 30 hours per week.

This was on top of their normal school work.”

The sample is a very specific demographic.

In fact, as Christina Ekegren tells the ABC, the dancers they looked at were between the ages of 16 and 18 years of age and were at a pre-professional level of dance; studying at the Royal Ballet School, the Central School of Ballet or the English National Ballet School.

When asked if her findings could be extrapolated to the adult beginner demographic, Christina Ekegren says no.

“Í don’t think my results could be generalised to the population you’re interested in,” she explains. “many of the dancers’ injuries were the result of overuse due to high training loads.”

As previously mentioned, the dancers are aspiring professionals who were dancing an average of 30 hours per week and doing school work on top of that. Christina Ekegren also notes to the ABC that there are also potentially getting less sleep than necessary.

“Relative to the number of hours that they’re dancing, the injury rate is actually quite low,” she says. ” The activity itself is quite low risk but what makes it high risk is the fact that they’re dancing for so many hours.”

When it comes to adult beginner ballet classes taken for fun, fitness or even fashion, it would be the exception to dance more than a few hours per week. If you were to dance every ballet class at my studio, you’d only be dancing five and a half hours per week.

Yes, injuries are possible in any physical activity – whether from poor technique, lack of warm up, exerting yourself beyond your capability, or otherwise.

Netball, one of the most popular sports in Australia can lead to broken fingers and even has an injury with its name on it: netball knee.

Likewise, tennis elbow. But would your friends show concern for your new-found interest in tennis or netball?

Pre-existing concerns about ballet-related injuries generally assume a professional, or a pre-professional dancer, but when taking into account sensible measures, there’s no reason adult beginner ballet should be particularly dangerous.

If you select a studio that uses qualified teachers, follow the instructions given and dance to your own level, then there is no reason to fear embracing a new pastime.

This post was originally published here.

Avoiding Workout Slumps & Working Out at Home

Running and ballet prety much occupies all of the time I dedicate to working out. But given my apparently extreme tendency to become injured, I’ve decided I needed to step up my cross-training and strength training game.

For the time being, I’ve decided to forgo a gym membership since it seems like an unnecessary expense. Although, I have to admit, it’s more getting the motivation to take the subway to get to the gym that’s making me push it off for now.

Instead, I’ve turned to at home workouts, both of my own making and some via Pinterest. My current go-to right now is this “Anywhere Workout” via Fitsugar:

Image via http://www.fitsugar.com/Workout-Poster-Week-24187265

Image via http://www.fitsugar.com/Workout-Poster-Week-24187265

Mostly because it varies the workout throughout the week and it gives me something strict to follow, and seems like a pretty good way to start getting fit again (trust me, after what is pretty much months off, I feel so very out of shape).

What’s your go-to at home workout?

Giveaway: One of My Favorite Things: KT Tape

One of my favorite things that has helped me recover from my shin splints has been KT Tape. I tried the original tape back in October when my left leg first started acting up and it was constant use of it that helped it finally start to feel better.

My favorite way to tape for my shin splints!

My favorite way to tape for my shin splints!

Then I discovered the PRO version of their tape, and it’s WONDERFUL. I still use it occasionally whenever my shin splints act up. I’ve had to try to pry it off my legs the day before graduation a couple of weeks ago. I love that they offer a variety of colors (I’m a big fan of the purple and the pink!) as well as a beige option if you don’t want it to be as noticeable.


The empty cases make great storage containers too–I keep my pointe shoe accessories–toe pads and more!–in them

The one thing about KT Tape is that you have absolutely careful as to how you apply it. It’s taken awhile to master it, but once you do, it works REALLY well. You have to make sure you place it carefully and do not touch the sticky sides. Another key tip (one that I’ve struggled with) is to make sure you lay the ends down with NO stretch (they’re attached to the paper backing with a 10% stretch–so be careful).

Other tips that have worked for me including using a blow dryer to activate the adhesive (being careful not to burn yourself!) and sleeping with a sock over a foot application (usually a compression sock) to make sure it sticks down. I first gave this a shot after I put tights on over some slightly peeling tape–when I got home the tape was stuck back down!

For more tips, check out this post from KTTape.

The wonderful people at KT Tape have offered to give one free roll to one of my readers, so make sure you enter the giveaway here!

I was not paid for my review.  The opinions contained in this review are mine and based on my experience, and do not reflect the opinions of KT Tape or anyone else.

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