The Power of Pilates — Using Pilates to Strengthen Your Core for Ballet

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Cross training can sound intimidating: what about time commitment, additional expenses, or  lack of energy? However, don’t let these factors prevent you from adding a new exercises to your daily routine.

During my dance career, I experienced a plateau period when I didn’t notice advancements in my dancing. This was a frustrating time, and I struggled to find a reason why I wasn’t improving and gaining strength. I noticed my most prevalent weak area was my core, so I searched for exercises that would be most beneficial. Over time, I realized that I needed to incorporate some type of cross-training in addition to my usual ballet classes. I found my niche in Pilates, the ultimate core building series of exercises invented by Joseph Pilates. I realized that I needed a strong core, or powerhouse, to get to the next level.

Pilates is a fantastic cross training option that will improve your dancing and overall well-being. Focusing primarily on core strength, Pilates provides the perfect accompaniment to ballet’s core centered exercises. The moderately paced mat classes offer a low impact yet effective workout that will sculpt the body into a long, lean silhouette.

After completing the beginner phase of training, the workout starts with a challenging abdominal series, requiring immediate movement. Not to be mistaken for the series of prolonged yoga poses, Pilates requires swift execution of with rare, brief rest periods between exercises. The movement continues at a steady pace, including targeted leg, arm, and back work. The assortment of exercises prevents loss of interest and provides a full body workout.

Ultimately, the goal of Pilates as a cross training exercise is to enhance the lean muscle mass achieved in dancing. Also, Pilates leads to increased core strength and flexibility, as well as improved posture. For those who are searching for additional ways to improve their dancing, Pilates is a fantastic option for reaching the next level.

Image via Flickr User Migration Museum Project

How Running Taught Me The Importance of Stretching

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Yeah…I can’t do this. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Ballet requires stretching. You need to be flexible. But as a busy college student, the want to be flexible and get my splits just wasn’t motivation enough. If I had actually started stretching regularly when I started I’d probably be there by now–but I haven’t. I developed challenges and plans and even tried yoga–but it didn’t work. I would only occasionally stretch.

 

Things have changed now that I’m running. In order get my calves into tip-top condition, I’m stretching them everyday and after every run. My foam roller is also seeing more use than ever. As my hips get tighter, I keep stretching them out more and more as well. Although my body is probably overall ending up tighter than before I was running, I feel like I’m getting somewhere as I incorporate stretching into my routine because for the first time in a while I feel like I HAVE to stretch or my body is just going to be ridiculously tight. So maybe running isn’t such a horrible thing for dancers after all.

 

How do you stay motivated to keep stretching?

 

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.

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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.

Squat and Plank Challenge and April 30 Day Challenge

 

Through the Sweat Pink Ambassador network I found an awesome Squat and Plank challenge–which I figured would be super useful for helping to get my core muscles and my legs into better shape. It’s being run over at Live. Sweat. Sleep. Repeat. (you can find the chart on her blog!).

 

Plank on The Mat

Plank on The Mat (Photo credit: lululemon athletica)

 

It starts off fairly easy–but at the end of the 6 weeks it gets more intense (Hello 3 minute plank!). I’ll probably be adjusting to do more squats each day (say, like 3 sets of X) and cutting the plank time in half of what’s planned and doing two of them instead (I’m a wimp, okay? And planks are tough.)

 

There’s also a super awesome Facebook Support Group for it as well which I’m part of. Motivation for a workout challenge never hurts.

 

I’ll also be doing another 30 Day Challenge for ballet-related muscles (the idea sprouted from Thanks & Kittens). Like she recommended, I’d suggest working on whatever you feel you need to. Back Flexibility? Splits? Turns? Do it. I’ll be making a slight adjustment and making my goal to wake up every morning and do this runner’s yoga regime, since it will help with my hip flexibility as well as help prep me for running.

 

If you’re doing either of these challenges, let me know and if you have a blog, link me to your challenge posts! I love hearing about how everyone else is doing and we can motivate each other.

 

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