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Ballet and Triathlons


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I'm wondering if the Ballet and Triathlons topic in the Men's forum could be transferred to the general adult forum, as it does not appear to be a topic specific to just men. I don't know a lot about ballet, but I do know a little about running. I would enjoy the opportunity to engage in that dialogue.

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As a runner, I find this topic of interest as well. I was wondering why it is so detrimental to do activities involving turn in. In sports training, it is pretty common to work opposing muscle pairs - the aim being balance. Therefore, wouldn't it be good to work both turn out and turn in. I don't really know much about the topic, I'm just curious.

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Nope, afraid not. I think because the amount of rotation needed for ballet is so extreme, so far beyond normal, that any use of turn in will not help things at all. Dancers spend most of their lives trying to get better outward rotation. I don't think working on things which require a total lack of outward rotation would be beneficial at all. :angry:

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If turnout is practiced in the wrong way, it can result in muscle imbalance --- and kneecaps that don't track right. But proper balance is built into the ballet training, when done correctly.

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I guess this discussion has officially been tranferred to the general adult forum.



I am really trying to find "the middle ground" and avoid all/nothing thinking when it comes to running and ballet. First, I disagree with Gary's notion that running has no impact upon one's capacity for turn-out in ballet. If you ask any five college track/cross-country coaches (who have a solid understanding of biomechanics) what some of the major problems distance runners have, I guarentee you that TIGHT HIPS will be pretty close to the top of the list. Biomechanically, this makes sense. Runners seek to be as efficient and effortless as possible. In order to do this, the runner exploits gravity by tilting his/her pelvis slightly forward which shifts his/her center of gravity in front of him/her. Gravity does some of the work. Unfortunately, in my case, the downside of this has been that I have developed a nasty swayback over the years, partially, I think, because of really tight hip flexors and partially because I didn't do my sit-ups :angry: . Tight hip flexors seem to make it really difficult to stand up straight, hindering turn-out. This is just one of many reasons why I do believe that running has the potential to hinder turn-out.


While I know that I could never train for a half-marathon and expect to improve my turn-out substantially, I do believe, however, that seeing the "middle ground" is important with respect to running and ballet. Running is partially responsible for some of my greatest weakness AND some of my greatest strengths in ballet. Biomechanically, running is like doing thousands upon thousands of "little leaps." It is like doing nonstop petit allegro jumps, and if you are really running hard and fast, it is like doing lots and lots of grande allegro jumps. Needless to say, I can really jump, and I can also really travel! Because of running, my dancing, though still very ackward at this stage in the game, has lots of energy and vigor. I am not afraid to travel across the floor at a relatively high velocity because my body is used to doing this (I think this is called proprioception). So I guess I am not willing to say that running is all bad for my ballet, but it certainly has its limitations. Will you see me training for a half-marathon anytime soon? Probably not. Could I, on a rare occasion, be caught prancing along the Chicago lakefront? I have to confess, despite my greatest efforts, I can't always resist the temptation.

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hart... I think you've answered your own question here. Tight hip flexors are death for proper turnout --- and that will endanger your knees. Based on what you've said, it seems that running seriously and trying to dance could be dangerous for your body.


As for petite allegro --- running is nothing like petite allegro. When you jump in ballet, you do it in a very specific way by changing the shape of your feet --- and you pad the landing also by changing the shape of your feet. Feet don't change shape in running, and the landing is padded with foam under your heel. Runners don't straighten their legs (I've watched them) and they don't train their feet --- two of the most importantant things in petite allegro. On the other hand, running a lot COULD train your body to not straighten your legs or use your feet when you jump --- definitely detrimental to safe jumping in ballet.

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Your points are well-taken. I appreciate your feedback, as I have much more knowledge of running than ballet. I am still trying to process what role, if any, running is going to have in my life now that I have started ballet.


Your right, runners don't straighten their legs because it would be inefficient and dangerous (if you were to land on a straight leg). Runner's pad their landings by bending their knees when they land and rolling through their foot to disperse the shock, as well as by wearing good running shoes. I will admit that really straightening my legs is an issue for me with ballet. My uneducated guess is that, as a runner, I haven't learned how to really pull my thighs and calf muscles up to get a really straight leg. (I would guess this is also why many runners can get such big thighs).


I am not sure if this is correct ballet technique, but whenever I jump, experientially, I try to do two things: (1) do a nice, deep plie (which long achilles tendons seem to help me do) and (2) roll all the way through my foot so that the tip of my big toe is the last thing I feel leave the ground. It seems like this action helps me to point and shape my foot with less likelihood of my foot sickling as a result of trying to point my foot too much. When I land, I just reverse everything, making sure to control my foot as it roles back onto my heel. (I am very open to corrections if I am doing this incorrectly; I haven't had formal training on this). Although your turned-out (an obvious difference), the process of bending your knee and rolling through your foot feels similar to me as it does in running, except you extend your foot to a greater degree in ballet, and, of course, you don't reverse this action when running. That is my working hypothesis as to why running seems to help my ballet. But, as I said, I am really open to seeing this from multiple perspectives. I want to learn. Ballet is absolutely my first commitment over running right now. I do not run high mileage because I know that would impede improving my turn-out. Running is a form of transportation and, occasionally, a form of stress management. I guess I am still just trying to determine if and/or to what extent running has a place in my life with respect to ballet.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I missed this appendix to the "ballet and triathlon" thread. From most responses it seems that whether running has a true detrimental biomechanical affect on dance or simply wears one down before class, it's not ideal to do both. There's no big surprise in that. However, if you started from ground zero (overweight grad student) I think the combination is mutually beneficial. I've only begun to consider dropping triathlon training now that I feel I have reached the body proportions of a dancer and have a chance to move into the intermediate II/III level at my studio. Whatever detrimental effects/habits I've acquired in the past year I'll have to live with or try to correct. I think the bottom line of my original question was whether there was any benefit to maintaining some degree of athletic training while pursuing ballet seriously, and not how to be a competitive triathlete and a dancer at the same time.


For LRS: I did primarily sprint distances (500 m swim, 30 k bike, 5 k run). However, I've trained with teamates for half-ironman distances. This includes 60 mile bikes and 15-18 mile runs and 1 mile open-water swims. Our team is currently preparing for the California International Marathon, which is December 7th. I plan to leave this craziness for ballet beginning in the new year.

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Just another two cents: I don't find anything detrimental about combining ballet with power and/or race walking. I do straighten my legs in both of these modes of walking. I also keep an erect spine -- something you don't always see with runners, particularly heavier runners. I get great stretch from this sport, and it increases my cardiovascular health. I love ballet, but it simply does not provide enough sustained elevation of the heartbeat for me. I am a member of a multi-ethnic dance company, and the walking also helps for the serious amount of wind I need for some of the ethnic pieces (particularly Eastern European and Russian suites). And, since after all of these years, there are many people who dismiss walking as inferior to running, I will clarify for the runners in this debate that while I am not sprinting at their speed, I do keep up a pretty good pace -- averaging a 10K in about an hour, sometimes a little less. Not a sprint, but certainly not a snail's pace.

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