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Finding time to stretch

Guest FlyHigh

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Guest FlyHigh

How do you all find time to stretch? I am student teaching this semester and teaching 7 dance classes and taking 3 of my own. I need to stretch so I can succeed more in advanced ballet but i cannot find the time to do the extra stretching i need. My extension sucks and I really need to imporve it because the one girl I have a duet with is super flexible i am talking 180 degrees of turnout, all her splits, and heel extensions to her head. So how do you fit it all in?

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Guest sally-mandy

Fly High: Could you take a few minutes to do an intensive stretch on one muscle group in each of the classes you teach? The students would probably appreciate it, and maybe if you only do one muscle group it wouldn't take too long. You know, the old cut up the problem into manageable pieces idea.


Maybe there are other ways to find small chunks of time, if a big chunk is impossible.


My needs are not the same as yours, but I stretch while I'm reading to my daughter at night, while I'm waking up, while I'm reading posts on Ballet Talk, in the shower, etc.

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Finding time to do anything that you really want to do is a matter of prioritizing. The time is there, it's just a matter of reorganizing it. This might mean a few minutes less sleep, or it could be just getting yourself to the studio earlier every day or staying a bit later. If it's important to you to do it, you will make the time. :)

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I have had the same question, but mostly because I've been under the impression that it's extremely important to warm up first. I could do stretches while reading, etc, but not if I have to do a warmup first! :angelnot: So do you think it's safe to carefully stretch throughout the day without a warmup?

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Guest sally-mandy

This is totally unscientific, but what with running around after a child, walking to and from school and up and down stairs, and moving around at work, I figure my muscles are moderately warmed up during much of the day. My doctor says, the most important rule is to listen to your body. If it hurts, stop. If it doesn't, it's okay to proceed--with caution.

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My view is that it is nearly completely a waste of time for an adult to try and stretch unless he/she is thoroughly warmed up. Little stretches in the day may be counterproductive unless you are very gentle (in which case it will be having little effect) because the muscles will get irritated over days and tighten up. The intensive stretch on one area in a class, assuming you can be thoroughly warmed up first, seems the best suggestion so far.


I do something which is fairly fast and very effective for hamstrings, which is to go on an exercise bicyle as hard as I can to exhaustion in about 5 minutes, after which the hamstrings stretch easily. You need to be sure to warm down afterwards. But this may not be suitable for real ballet dancers. You also need an exercise bicycle.


It is a difficult one.



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Guest sally-mandy

Jim, I'd love to try this if it works for hamstrings. How often do you do it, and how long to the results last? Have you seen improvement over weeks or months, or does this stretch out your hamstrings for, say, the day?


Also, seems like you must have to warm up before jumping on the bike and going at it hard?


Also, my teacher told us last week to stretch whenever are warmed up from being in a hot tub or bath. Is this a legitimate, non-exercising way to get warmed up?

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About being warmed up before stretching.


I definitely prefer to be warm (sweating in fact) before I stretch and believe that works best for me. Nevertheless, I know yoga people who do their yoga stretches at like 6 AM and who enjoy doing it, suffer no ill effects, and are quite flexible. My guess is that they would say that stretching is about feeling muscles stretch, which both minimizes injury (perhaps even eliminates it) and promotes flexibility. Many yoga gurus in fact recommend doing their postures in the early morning.


About inserting stretching into daily life.


This is unbelievably easy. You just have to get into the habit and be mindful about it.


My favorite way of doing it is whenever I take a break from work or TV. Just now I went upstairs to get a cup of tea. On the way I spent about 30 seconds doing a downward facing dog stretch, with hands on the lower step and feet on the floor (I’m not so flexible), walked up the steps and did a lunge up the steps with each leg, holding the stretch for only about 15 seconds (probably not long enough, but didn’t care). So it added about one minute to the trip.


I don’t watch that much TV, but when I do I like getting up and doing a stretch during commercials. Geez, you can watch TV and stretch at the same time.


There are literally 1000s of ways to stretch during the course of a normal day. We are dancers, supposedly creative people, so it shouldn’t be difficult to do (feels good in my opinion too).

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I often stretch while watching television. I sit on the floor, back straight and bottoms of feet together (I used to call this a butterfly stretch, but who knows what the real name is) pushing down on my knees gently. I also do half splits (one leg in split position front or back, the other bent). I'll also do a straddle split against a wall focusing on turning out. I'll scoot as close as possible, turn out and relax...wait a little while then scoot a bit closer. I also do a ton of handstands against my living room wall...really pushing and stretching my feet toward the ceiling...I do variations in my legs (going into a straddle position). I find the handstands really help with strengthening my abs and back (which leads to better lines IMO).


I end up getting a few hours of intensive stretching done without missing a second of CSI, Desperate Housewives or Grey's Anatomy. ;)

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"Jim, I'd love to try this if it works for hamstrings. How often do you do it, and how long to the results last? Have you seen improvement over weeks or months, or does this stretch out your hamstrings for, say, the day?"


I do it once or twice a week. It leads to clear a long-term increase in flexibility (ie some hours after stretching, you usually return a bit to where you were, but over a week or so, you notice a clear improvement). I went from a flat forward split to a 9" or so oversplit on my right leg almost immediately, and on my worse leg where I had been sticking just above the floor for ages, quickly onto a flat split.


About warming up for warming up - I suggest you build up the exercise level gradually.


There are two views on stretching. One is that the muscles have to be "hot" - vikram yoga or a hot bath can do this. The other is that the muscles have to be absolutely tired out, so they cant pull back. It is difficult to decide between these views, but I prefer the second one, though I may be wrong. My view of the period of exercise is: muscles have two types of fibres. A very short period of intense activitly may wear out the fast-twitch fibres, but the slow twitch fibres will still be active. You need to exercise long and hard enough for both to be exhausted, so neither type can pull back during the stretch.


However it is achieved, if the muscles dont pull back during the stretch, stretching is much faster, and has fewer after effects with no soreness afterwards, meaning you can stretch harder. Nevertheless I recommend full, maximal, stretches only once or twice a week, as this allows time for the muscles to adapt.


About the bath: Maybe as its winter where you are, you could sit with your legs in a hot bath, and stretch immediately afterwards. I found it worked, and in fact I stretched so fast I went immediately to my limit and pulled a muscle! (in other words, I think it reduced the feedback from the muscle before the limit, and I didnt realise when I got to the limit, but it didnt make the muscle more stretchy at the limit- this is my impression from the only time I tried it). The exercise method has always been good however, and also gives me exercise. Maybe you could see if the hot bath method is good/conventient for you - I dont use it myself (I live in the subtropics and hence tend to avoid hot baths!).



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I'd rather say that warming up before stretching can be very individual. In class, we stretch after barre and I always have to be extremly carefull that I don' t overstrecht. I don't have the feeling where my personal limits are when I am warmed up. It took me over a year to realize that I always went past my limits when I stretched fully warmed up. I was afraid to strecht completely cold but my teacher recommended me to do so and it worked for me much better. Now I don't have any pain in my legs after stretching.

When I stretch cold I can feel better the pain that I have reached my limit.

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Just got a mild lecture from my chiropractor. Whether during Monday night ballet or during my sleep, I somehow got my pelvis out of whack. Easily adjusted (by a professional) and some sonogram therapy. I'll be able to do ballet tonight.


However, while there he checked out the rest of me. He said surprisingly that while my hamstrings are very limber, my thigh muscles (quads) are tight. Recommended some stretches to release that area. I never even thought that was an issue.

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Couple of points - to TemptressToo - it is very important not to have tight quads. If they are tight, they tend to pull the pelvis down at the front, and not only does this make it difficult to maintain proper ballet posture, it leads to excessive lordosis (curve in the lower back) with a whole host of problems (such as back ache and damage) following on from that. Loosening quads (e.g. by lunges) is essential.


To Claude_Catastrophique - I would say that "after a barrre" you are not sufficiently warmed up for stretches, if you are hoping to extend your range of movement.


One of the problems is that people mean two different things by "stretching". On the one hand, they mean getting back the range of movement that they have already routinely achieved. Some people call this limbering. This can be done by mild stretches after a relatively modest warm up, such as is achieved during a barre.


The other type of stretching is to extend the maximal range of which you are capable. This is altogether a different fish. In an adult, reasonable progress (i.e. faster than over decades) can in most individuals only be achieved by hard aggressive stretching with a very thorough warm up. This degree of warm-up might be achieved at the end of a hard class, or by the techniques we've mentioned in other posts. But I would suggest that after a barre, you are not warmed up enough for really hard stretching, and stretching then should still be done with caution.


For me, I never even try to stretch cold. Yes, I can feel my limit, but it is so near my normal range, that I never get a stretch. If I try to push through it, the results are disastrous.


I'd finally add the reminder that all hard stretching should be followed by a brief warm-down, to ensure the blood flow is maintained at higher levels just after the stretching session.



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I just began my career in nursing (not sure if it's going to be my life long job or not, but that's for another thread :unsure: ) and I am training in the hospital every weekday on first shift (beginning at 7 AM). I MAKE myself get up at 4:30 AM, or earlier, every Mon, Wed, and Fri to stretch-culminating in the splits at around ten to 6 AM-and then a mad dash to work. I was reading somewhere in Pointe Magazine once and a teacher described a dancer's body as a machine and that top priority should be given to keeping the body a "well-oiled" machine and that by not keeping the body healthy one will just reduce one's dancing life in either years or in quality. Just that little statement is motivation enough for me to forgo some hours of sleep during the week.

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Guest sally-mandy

Jim, I think it's really useful to point out the two kinds of stretching as you've done. When I said I stretch during the day, I now realize I was talking about just working out tightness that adds up in the course of a day. Not hard stretching. Limbering, I guess.


I was making myself a little crazy earlier in the week after reading these posts, worrying--am I going to injure myself if I do a routine calf stretch without warming up to the point of exhaustion? I am still learning what my body can handle since starting ballet, and have had two minor injuries in the last two months so am very sensitive to what I might be doing "wrong." Distinguishing the various purposes and types of stretching helps.

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