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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Complimentary Exercises for Time Off?


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Well, in what could probably be termed the shortest "comeback" in history, it looks like I'm not going to be able to go back regularly to ballet for quite some time. A number of reasons, including financial and scheduling issues, means it's just not really feasible or practical right now. (The sad reality of being an adult student, as was discussed on another thread recently!)


On the bright side, just the five weeks I started class again showed me that I still do have some ability left (and that surprisingly, I still have my turns, if not my turnout! Awesome!)... so I'd like to do an exercise program that will compliment ballet rather than just keep weight off.


I'm looking for some recommendations that will help me improve strength and flexibility so that when I get serious about dance again, I don't hurt myself. For that same fear of hurting myself, I don't really want to give myself barre in my living room; I think I really need a teacher to oversee my placement and alignment so I don't do more harm than good or develop bad habits.


For now, I do Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and Pilates at home, both of which I can manage without killing myself. I was also thinking about getting a Floor Barre video and perhaps even a Gyrotonic/Gyrokinesis video as well. I don't have any experience in the latter two. Any ideas on whether those might be appropriate for self-teaching? Any other recommendations?

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I'm not a big proponent of self-teaching of almost anything physical, except perhaps playing the guitar :wub: You might get a blister or two on your fingers, but you won't wreck a knee.


What about your local YMCA? They have personal trainers on staff and they walk around to help make sure people are using machines correctly. It's not very costly for a single to join.

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Unfortunately, there is no YMCA in my area (hard to believe, I know!) and it goes back to the scheduling issue... right now I only have as much time as my 2 year old naps. I know where you're coming from with the self-teaching... but I just don't have all that many options for outside instruction. :wub:

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Personally, I think you have to think of dance fitness or conditioning in terms of components. Those include cardio vascular, muscle endurance, quickness, flexibility, mobility, and balance. I don’t think it matters what you do as long as you enjoy what you do and cover the components.


Since you do Ashtanga yoga and Pilates, one thing you might do that I think you would enjoy is to combine the two along with some floor barre or modern or jazz type movements into one big, long movement sequence. Add some music and you can even turn it into a type of dance. Since the Ashtanga sequence begins standing you can even add what I call ballet basic movements (tendus, balances, turns, develop—promenade). Consider the whole thing a choreographic project or simply a creative project that is most of all enjoyable.

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I would beware of adding too much yoga at the expense of other activities. Coming to ballet after yoga, I found that yoga (which is built on relatively slow movements - even Ashtanga) had not strengthened or used the fast-twitch muscle fibres that are needed for jumps, beats, and the other rapid movements in ballet. I wonder if any routine to keep you ballet-ready should include some of these very rapid movements. If anyone else has any comments on this idea, I'd appreciate hearing.



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Hmm, I didn't expect this to turn into such an interesting thread. Clara 76, thanks for digging that link up. I did browse around first, but with so much information on the board, it's easy to overlook things.


Garyecht, interesting ideas! I tend to keep the different forms of exercise separate just so I can look forward to doing something different every day, but regardless, you bring up a very important point... and that is to not neglect cardio in the equation! Tends to be my least favorite thing to do, but I guess I need to get back to my morning walks. You'd be surprised at what a workout pushing a stoller for a couple miles at a fast pace can turn into (usually listen to disco and vary my pace with the beat, it works well for getting the heartrate up!)


jimpickles- I would definitely agree with you to a degree... I find that yoga is most helpful for core strength, flexibility, and balance, but it doesn't help with those quick movements. That brings us to the topic of isometrics and isometrics with added resistance, which is supposed to train fast-twitch muscle fibers. Does anyone with more knowledge on this subject care to address?

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Here are some simple suggestions for training fast twitch muscles. When doing these, you should rest for a few minutes after each repetition so that you heart rate has returned to normal before repeating.


Any simple jump combination that you might do in a ballet class

Rope skipping

While riding a bicycle in the lowest gear possible, peddle as fast as you can for about 10 seconds.

While sitting, lying down, or in any position other than standing, get up as quickly as possible and run about 3-4 steps.

Dance to very fast music using a jive or swing basic (i.e., triple step, triple step).

During the day when moving to different places in your house, get there as quickly as possible (sprint in fact).


There are many other things, though they all have the same characteristic—i.e., moving as fast as possible for just a few seconds, starting when your heart rate is normal.

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Thanks Garyecht, all great suggestions and relatively easy to fit into a daily routine. My 2yo's favorite thing to do is put on music and dance around the living room, so I guess I've been training those fast-twitch fibers all along. (Might I be posting on the Parents of Boys board sometime? :) )

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Garyecht, great suggestion about the rope skipping. I used to run a 4-mile uphill/downhill loop on grass which built my stamina. But now that I do ballet, I no longer run.


Still, what does everyone think about running on sand at the beach? I am talking about the dry sand. I know that that will resuscitate my endurance for those changements, but will it also shorten the hams/quad/calf muscles to the detriment of keeping the proper shape of my legs?

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By the way, rope skipping is a world unto itself—many many different ways to skip.


When we say that an activity results in “shortening” a muscle, we actually mean that it loses some of its elasticity or in more general terms flexibility. We lose flexibility when we don’t stretch. If you stretch, you pretty much won’t lose flexibility no matter what you do. Besides, if you are running in soft sand at the beach, unless you are true endurance athlete, you aren’t going to run very far or for very long.


In August, once a week I’ll be at the Jersey shore and I’ll take a 15-25 minute run on the harder sand near the water. I do it for a change of pace and because I find it fun. The only problem I have is sometimes with the bottom of my feet (friction with the sand). I enjoy running year around and find it doesn’t interfere with dance at all. But then I don’t run like a serious runner either. Just enough to count it as a cardio exercise to control bodyweight.

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Guest pink tights

Put on a pair of tap shoes. That will get the fast twitch muscles going.

Agree with Jimpickles regarding yoga. Yoga is great for improving flexibility, however turnout is not encouraged.

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"........Yoga is great for improving flexibility, however turnout is not encouraged."


and while I'm thinking about it, a lot of yoga positions encourage sickling, so you need to be careful or use modifications.



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and while I'm thinking about it, a lot of yoga positions encourage sickling, so you need to be careful or use modifications.




Good point. I stay with the lower level sequences (Surya Namaskara A & B ) as well as some sun salutations and poses that are not strictly from the Ashtanga lineage, and none of them encourage sickling, unless I'm doing it wrong. You do have to pick and choose.


As far as turnout goes, yoga doesn't encourage turnout per se, but there are a number of hip openers and foward bends that do encourage flexibility in the hips, which for me is the biggest barrier to maintaining a decent turnout. (Sorry, I just realized I don't know how to add a second quote!)

Edited by rockymtndancer
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I must say that yoga was not a good idea for me - I have done it for a while some years ago, and it was definately not good for my ballet, nor for my body in general - but maybe it is just me.

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