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Flexability/opposite toned muscles for a runner

Guest sherimessman

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Guest sherimessman

Hi, I am new at this forum. I started Adult Ballet 3 years ago when I was 30. I did it for about 6 months, then I moved and I can't find anywhere by me that does Adult ballet. Anyway, when we would just do stretches or positions at the barre, for some reason I could not hold up my leg. Not even up to my waist. I am a pretty toned person. I used to be a runner all through school. I stayed pretty active since. Bike riding etc. My instructor told me that it is because my muscles in my legs were formed short from running, no long like ballerinas have. Is this true??? How do I Fix it?? :wub: It is very frustrating because not being able to do this, how can I go any further. I have always wanted to do ballet since I was a very small girl. I had no idea that I could pursue this at an older age. It was to bad I didn't find this out until I turned 30. Boo Hoo!!


Please, if anyone could help I would love you forever!! If it works of course, hee hee!


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Hi Sheri --


I am new to this forum, and I have been doing adult ballet for a little over

3 years. (I started when I was 39). At that time I was in fairly good shape from

tennis and sometimes running, especially (so I thought) my legs.


(you can tell where this is heading, right?) :rolleyes:


I don't know if my muscle fibers are long/short/whatever, but I found that I had

a LOT of work to do on flexibility, even if cardiovascularly I was able to handle class

just fine. Those long, slow stretches hurt me more than anything else in class, both

when I was doing them, and the next days. Like you, I could not raise my legs to

waist level easily.


I still can't, but after three years of classes, I can see a big difference, especially after

class, when my body is hot and my muscles feel best. Then, sometimes I see my legs

doing things that amaze me. (I have low standards for amazement, but you know what

I mean :) ) So, my first comment is that over time you will see improvements. I still

wish I was a flexible as some kids/adults that I see, but it feels neat to see my body changing

in its own quirky way too.


Another thing, which I think is also important, is that I have found my leg will go higher

to the side when my feet are properly turned out. For me, that's far from perfect turnout,

mind you, but I still notice the difference.


I'm sure the more experienced dancers on this forum will have much better advice for

you, because they know the kinesiology and physiology of it all. What I know is simpler,

but I have seen it myself: if you work at it, you WILL see changes.

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Welcome to the forum, Sheri,


I started ballet for the first time last June at the age of 27. Before doing ballet, I was a competitive runner. In school, I was a middle distance runner, running mainly the 800 and 1500 or 1600 and then ran longer distances subsequently. My personal opinion is that it is just too simplistic to assume that running made your muscles short. For someone coming to ballet so late, I would say that I actually have pretty good flexibility, especially my hamstrings, and also have pretty good strength for holding my extensions. However, I will say that running generally doesn't do great things for turn-out, which is a whole other issue.


I wonder if your body type might contribute to some of your difficulties. Perhaps your so-called "short muscles" proceeded running rather than resulted from running. My understand is that the mesomorph body, the body type known for its muscularity, isn't always the most flexible body type (but I am not sure on this).


Regardless, in my experience, ballet has got to be one of the most "unnatural" things I have ever done. I think it is just the nature of the beast. Because it is not "natural," it just takes lots and lots of time and dedication to improve. Sometimes you don't know what your body will be able to do until AFTER you really dedicate yourself to the discipline. (Granted, I am saying this only after dancing for eight months, so I probably don't have the right to even be saying this). Nonetheless, if ballet is something you really want to do, I guess I would encourage you to postpone judgement until you have given it a year of working really hard at it because change just isn't immediate in ballet. As adults, I think ballet has a lot less to do with what you bring physically to it, and a lot more to do with what you get out of it. It is so rewarding and worth every ounce of frustration you might experience.

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Guest CyberDancer

I danced for a long time, then quit and ran for a number of years. When I stopped running and returned to dancing my flexibility was greatly diminished -- probably because I didn't stretch at all when I was running. I lost my splits, my extensions were low, and my quads were very very tight.


It took a couple of years of classes, and lots of stretching, to get my flexibility back.


So, while your muscles may have been "shortened" by running, if you continue to stretch (on a regular, diligent basis) you will become more flexible over time, its not permanant damage. How flexible you become, or how quickly, will depend on your body type.

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Guest loriegwen

Hi Sheri !


I am new to this forum, I am 45 years old and have been doing adult ballet for approximately 8 years. I did ballet all through my childhood and quit when I was 13. I missed it so much over the years and finally found a wonderful place where I fit in as an adult student.


I had been running on and off over the years in between and I did notice a huge difference in the feel and the shape of my leg muscles. I don't know how to describe it other than to say that running made my leg muscles feel very hard and tight. Ballet gives them a completely different feeling. More elongated.


I have regained some of my flexability. My only advice would be to stretch, stretch, stretch....and then stretch some more. I dance 4 days a weeks for 2 hours or more at a time. I never stop stretching throughout the entire class. While the instructor is giving a combination I am stetching. We often sit in the splits for an entire band of music. (thats an entire band for each side) I also arrive at least 15 minutes early in order to stretch before class even begins.


Stretching increases blood supply and nutrients to joint structures. It increases tissue temperature, which in turn increases circulation and nutrient transport. This allows greater elasticity of surrounding tissues and increases performance. Stretching also increases joint synovial fluid, which is a lubricating fluid that promotes the transport of more nutrients to the joints' atricular cartilage. This allows a greater range of motion and reduces joint degeneration. This all means less chance of injury of course!


When I stretch with my legs on the barre, after I have done the stretch, I raise the leg up off the barre and hold it there as long as I can, before moving to the next position. Same thing with jamb a la main. This is the best thing I have found to build the strength to hold the leg up once you have gained the flexibility.


I hope this helps to answer your question. It takes time, hard work and persistance. I did 20 fouettes on point last night! Talk about a natural high!!!! I hadn't been able to do that many since I was a kid. Wow! Only took me 8 years! :P

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Guest sherimessman

:( Thank you everyone for all your input. It could very well be my body type. I am very muscular. I am only 5'1" and have been very active my whole life. I have broad shoulders and very muscular legs. They definately are not elongated. I also was wondering if it is a stomach muscle issue. I have very tight abs, but 7 years ago I underwent a c-section, they cut through the muscles and also I have so much extra skin just hanging there from being so large, I can't get it to go away. To make a long story short, I was in a car accident 1 year ago and had to go through therapy, she told me my whole life I have been stretching wrong and doing sit-ups wrong also. To do the leg stretches, you have to keep your back straight and shoulders back, then stretch the leg, I did notice a difference. I hurt more. Hee Hee, but that just means I am stretching alot farther. Then for the stomach muscles, you have to pull your belly button into your pelvic area, keeping your hips straight and square and don't roll your back up, this has really helped also. So I just thing it is a combination of the two that helps to raise your leg up to waist level. This is my own observation any how.


But thanks for all your support and input. I will stretch, stretch and stretch like you said. And also, kudos to every one for having the courage to continue with your dreams.


God Bless,


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Hi Sheri -- we've discussed this (how other forms of exercise hurt or enhance ballet) in other threads. I've been doing racewalking and swimming in addition to dancing over the years, and find it all works just fine. I'd never recommend running to ballet dancers. Ditto for aerobic "dance." As to body type, keep in mind that it's rarely just three types out there. Many people are combinations of ecto, meso or endo. Also -- I've seen short round people who are vey pliable, and long slender people who have to work against stiffness (I'm more of the latter). Ask your teacher for assistance if you're not sure about stretching correctly, and remember "each at his own pace."

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Guest petiteanise

Funny face that is so true. While I wouldn' say I'm round, I am on the curvy side (Hispanic women usually are). I'm 5'1 and weigh 110lbs. I know thats not really ALOT of weight but people say I have a very distinct hourglass figure (which teachers have told me is horrible if I want to become a professional ballerina someday, I'm not suppose to have hips or any sign of a waist I guess)


but anyways...


I'm the curviest girl in all my classes and I'm also the most flexible! I'm pretty proud of that! and I know I'm alittle :P but I just wanted to agree with Funny Face


by the way- I run a good 3 miles everyday, not jog but run,(its great for your complexion) I also try to take a 20 minute swim everyother day.

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