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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Cycling and the Ballet Dancer


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There must be others out there who also rely on a bicycle to get you places! It's cheap, convenient, and faster than walking. It not only gets me to the library and the department, but also to ballet classes!


Lately, I've been cycling more often than usual and I'm really feeling it at the top of my quads. :shrug: I've been stretching them out and concentrating on using the backs of my legs in classes, but became worried this Saturday when after a quick cycle ride to class, I definitely felt the tops of my quads working harder than I want them to, if that makes sense!


Does anyone else have this problem? What do you do to counter act it? I not only don't want the pop-out quad muscles, but I also don't want it to hurt my technique as well... :blink:

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You're doing the right thing already. After your journey, do some quad stretches, and just generally limber up any muscles that may have been working overtime. It's not so bad, biking, if you're in the Netherlands or Iowa, but get into the Grampian Hills, or the Piedmont and things start getting trickier!

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In one of my previous incarnations, I was a bicycle racer, so you may or may not find what I say helpful. From my own completely biased standpoint, it would seem really difficult to get sore legs (especially the top part of the leg) from just tooling around so to speak. So I am going to guess that the problem resides in your cycling technique.


What I notice in the typical bicycle rider is that he or she uses too big a gear and pedals too slowly. Big gears and slow RPM means big stress and usually sore legs. Ideally, for just riding around, you will want to pedal a gear that you can turn at about 90 RPM. That is much faster than most people are accustomed to, but has the added benefit of really being a fat burner. You may find your legs getting tired at first when pedaling that fast, but you quickly adapt. There is a big difference between having tired legs and having sore legs.


A second possibility is your seat height, which most people also get wrong. Ideally, you should be able to sit on the saddle with your heel on the pedal at a 6 o’clock position and have your leg relatively (not perfectly) straight. If your saddle is higher than that, it tends to stress the knees, at least in a racing context. Lower than that, I don’t know what it does. Racing folk tend to opt for higher saddle heights because it tends also to be faster.


A third possibility is that your problem is just the consequence of more or harder riding and your body is just trying to adjust. Same thing would occur is you added more, or longer, dance classes, or if you spent a weekend painting a house (assuming one doesn’t very often paint). But that is something that is just temporary. Eventually, the body adjusts and your leg problems vanish. If you “sprinted” to class, for example, it’s not surprising that you might notice something in the legs once you got there.


One thing I found as a racer was that how tired my legs were was pretty irrelevant. Many was the race I started with “dead” legs, but after the race started, zero problem.


In any event, I envy your being able to ride everywhere as part of your daily life. Both healthy and fun in my opinion.

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Hi Ami


Have you tried pilates? In my pilates class we have about three cyclists who come regularly; they train very hard but still have beautiful long lean thighs...not bulky at all.


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Guest prokofiev



Garyecht is very, very right. (Garyecht- I was a mechanic at the local bike shop and a USCF Cat. 3 women's racer myself back in the day... from gearhead to bunhead!! Cheers! :) )


There are inexpensive mini-computer devices that you can mount on your bike to measure your pedalling RPMs, and those can be very helpful while you retrain yourself. Your knees will thank you, and so will your quads!


Another useful save-your-legs/effiecient muscle use thing is a pedal binding system - like ski boots, you clip into the pedal itself. This lets you push energy into the pedal strokes on the way down, but also lets you pull on the way up, rather than just letting that leg coast back to the top of the circle. They take getting used to but can also work in the city.


The saddle thing is right on. You may also want to check your frame size (many women choose frames that are too big - you want to have a couple inches of clearance across the top tube from your crotch if you straddle it with feet flat on the ground). This will also ensure that you don't have to lean too far over into the handlebars, straining your neck and back.


Like being fitted for pointe shoes or running shoes, most quality bike places can help properly fit your bike to your body's needs. I, too, wish I still lived somewhere I could bike or walk everywhere... (deep sigh... jealous pang...) :)

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Another useful save-your-legs/effiecient muscle use thing is a pedal binding system - like ski boots, you clip into the pedal itself.  This lets you push energy into the pedal strokes on the way down, but also lets you pull on the way up, rather than just letting that leg coast back to the top of the circle.  They take getting used to but can also work in the city.


Another useful feature of the toe clips or cages is that they help keep your leg and more importantly your knees, tracking straight.


An as was also stated, the seat height is so important, it takes me a good week of riding sometimes more, to get my seat just the right height so that I can actually walk when I get off the bike. Unfortunatly I am not quite there yet as I think I've found a nerve that runs under my seat bone. Yeesh.

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Hi All -


Thank you so much for all of your tips and thoughts! This site rocks! :)


I think you all hit the nail on the head with a few points -


First, just the general increase in activity - combined with the fact that there is a bit of incline to deal with - not anything steep, but quite long.


Secondly - the gear being too high! I never thought of this, especially sometimes when I'm riding with friends (this girl dances and used to train for the university rowing team and cycles up a very steep hill to work everyday -she's mad strong and has gorgeous legs!)... I'll try reducing the gear and see how that feels.


Seat height - Well, I'm only 5'1 so I have the seat as low as it can go, meaning that when I stop I can brace myself with my legs (actually, usually just one leg - have to tilt a bit) on demi-pointe :). My legs are thus relatively straight at 6-o'clock, I think, but I will check. At the time I was buying the bike used and this was the smallest one I found. I actually could probably do with a slightly smaller frame, but unfortunately funds for that (as well as anything else really) are not readily available at the moment!


Luckily, my knees are not hurting/strained at all (touch wood!).


I do pilates at my gym when I can, but lately even the gym is getting pushed to the side as we're rehearsing for our show and on other nights/days I'm desperately trying to write up my dissertation. I did pilates 2-3 times a week as an undergraduate and do incorporate some of it into my stretching...


Again, thanks a lot - this has been really really helpful!

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Guest lucky1122

I also ride a bike to and from class (and everywhere else, for that matter)! I find it's a good way to unwind after class, and while I'm riding back I try to process what we've done that night. The trip is about 3 miles each way, uphill for the return home, but I do stretches and floor barres in the morning and that seems to help. I'm usually feeling so invigorated after class I just zip right home! (And then it's time to walk the dog :) )

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest catiebship

Another biker/dancer checking in. I find using my cadence meter to insure that I pedal over 85 rpm helped me wondrously. At this pace you are moving too fast to hurt joints and pull muscles, it is all essentially aerobic burn and it feels awesome. And do not forget to frequently stretch out. :yucky:


Just an aside--too low a seat puts too much pressure on the joints. So if you have pain in backs of knees and inner thighs and your seat is not too high, it is probably too low. Also, as others said, I agree emphaticly--try lowering your gear and only use the highest gear that you can maintain 85-90rpm. And lastly, every time you stop, you have to gear all the way down and gearup again. I used to do alot of tandem riding with my husband and that was one point he refused to do. I found that one little area the biggest thigh blowout, and energy sapping aspect of our entire ride. In fact it killed my stamina from over 100 mile ability to barely 12 mile ability. And by mile 12,believe me, I was dying! That is how big a difference it made to me! :innocent:

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