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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Increasing class load and stamina when sore/tired


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Warning - this is a long post (sorry)!


I have been happily lurking for a while but this is my first post, so I will quickly introduce myself: I am an adult in my 30's, started dance/fitness about five years ago but up until last year was only taking two-60 minute ballet classes a week (and some other styles of dance as well). I felt like I had plateaued in ballet, and thanks to this board I realized that wasn't at all enough to really improve, and I really love ballet and want to improve my technique as much as possible, so I changed my schedule completely and now I'm up to four-90 minute ballet classes a week. (Thank you everyone so much for all the info on this board!!) I stopped the other types of dance and fitness temporarily so I could just focus more on ballet, although I do a bit of core/strength at home still.


Now it's been about four months since I got up to four classes a week. I was extremely tired at first, even when I was just three times a week, now I feel that I have mostly adjusted but still tend to be a bit sore after two days of classes: my legs will feel tired and achy, sometimes my hamstrings and calves will feel pretty sore too. I can still go about my day fine, but I'll definitely feel like I'm recovering from a workout. Some weeks are worse than others. I have to be careful to have light days so that my body can recover. For example I don't think I could do four days of ballet in a row yet (currently I have a one day break after two days of classes). I'm being careful now because in my first few years of ballet/fitness I often overdid it (mostly with other fitness classes, and flexibility training, not really ballet-related) and I lost many months sitting out for one thing or the other. Now I think I understand my body better and I'm better at pacing myself, but I'm definitely still learning.


I stretch/foam roll, see a chiropractor regularly, and I think I eat pretty healthy (of course there's room for improvement but I do my best). I've had a recent physical and blood work and everything came back normal.


My question is, is this normal? Do other people experience this and just ignore and push through it? Does anyone have tips on how I can continue to add more classes without burning out? Do I just need to be more patient and slowly ramp up? How long should it take until I don't feel any next-day soreness at all? I would really like to get to the point where I could do five days of ballet in a row and also include other styles of dance and fitness classes as well, without overdoing it. I've read about some of your schedules of 6-8 ballet classes a week and you all make it sound really effortless - I can't really imagine doing that right now, but I'm hoping some day I'll get to that point! I would also love to take a few weeks off work at some point and try out a more intensive schedule, but I'm starting to doubt my capability for that since I still need break days.


I should also add that I have a full time job and a long commute, and even though my job isn't physical I do feel fatigued and sluggish after a normal day. Ballet really does help get my energy up after work though, even though I feel tired after it's a different kind of tired! I'm sure if I didn't have such a long work day I would have a lot more energy though.Oh, also I never felt sore after the two-60 minute classes, but I had several days in between them and they were just a lot less demanding.


Perhaps it's because I was never really athletic or even super active at any time in my life before, although I was always healthy and naturally on the slender side. I wonder if I just don't have the same level of stamina (yet?) that more active people have built up throughout their life. Or maybe it's just a limitation of my body, or maybe it's too late for me?!


If anyone has been through a similar experience I would love your feedback.

Edited by ballet-girl
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I'm an old man (72 years of age) who both dances and lifts weights (heavy). Retired so don't have a problem with time and either dance or train 6 days a week.


Soreness is my constant companion. It has been that way ever since my early 60s, which at that time I was only dancing.


I distinguish between soreness and injury. Injury is bad and needs some type of outside remediation. Soreness is your body adjusting to the work level you are doing and is generally good. With time and experience you learn to distinguish between the two. One indicator is how you feel after class. If after class you feel good both mentally and physically, any kind of soreness that you had before class is probably a good soreness. If you feel bad during class that probably means you are over doing it and need to back off some.


In my old age the only time I feel really good physically is when dancing or training. Lady soreness rests then, at least for a few hours. By the time I get home after class (about a 30 minute drive) when I get out of the car, I'm walking like the 100 year old man for several minutes.


The good thing about being physical as you get older is that you begin to understand your body better. You also have the ability to experiment. You try different things for a few months and then decide. It's all an adventure. Give everything a chance. There is no hurry. Patience, practice, and persistence is your best exercise.


I'm not saying you should do or think as I do. You have to figure it out yourself.

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I'm in my early fifties and I didn't start ballet until I was 38. Went en pointe about 3 years later. I was dancing 4-5 days a week for a few years but more recently I've reduced it to 2-3 days. If you want to continue to improve you must continue your push yourself but listen to your body. Soreness never ends if you continue to get stronger and better. They go together. As an adult especially when you hit the mid-forties you really need to listen to your body. Eat right (personally I eat a high protein diet), sleep enough, drink lots of water, and remember to take your Advil with food ?

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Of course you're sore; you upped the intensity.


Like Gary, I lift as well as dancing. One thing I would suggest is that you should consider eating before you train. I spent two years or thereabouts doing the opposite and feeling bad - sore, cranky, and tired. It improved hugely just by training fed.

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Welcome, Ballet-Girl - glad you found us!


And the discussion so far is really helpful. Some great guidance here: I particularly think Gary's point about learning to distinguish between soreness & injury (I have both at the moment, and only one is dance-induced!) Also protein & water.


Maybe you need to introduce more exercise into your life - not necessarily hugely exerting exercise though. But you say that


I stopped the other types of dance and fitness temporarily



and I wonder if actually, you need to go back to some of those activities? I'm a great believer in cross-training, and that can be just going for a good long walk when your legs are sore - or a swim, or Pilates or yoga.


The other thing is: my physiotherapist gave me this "task" as one to keep going back to: dance without tension.


I find this very difficult, and I wonder if it's generally difficult for adult dancers, as we haven't always built up the strength & muscle memory from the age of 10 or so. I've danced on & off all my life since I was about 12, but never in any really concerted "pre-professional" way, so although I know what I'm doing, but I realise as I age (I'm in my late 50s now, eek!) how much I have achieved in the past by tension, rather than strength and alignment.


I think it's because as adults, we think that our legs should be high, our feet very extended, our backs able to do all the bendy stuff - I know I sometimes push my body through tension rather than release.


It's a really difficult thing to use strength without tension, but thinking about that might help?

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My first question would be whether you have also increased your energy intake to match your increased activity level as you add classes. Many active women chronically undereat, by a little or a lot, due to a variety of social/cultural factors and personal variables [speaking with my scientist hat here on based on peer reviewed studies].


However, more activity requires more fuel, and building new muscles/new brain patterns to coordinate those muscles requires sufficient raw material. Class/effort provides the stimulus for growth, but the growth actually occurs during recovery and rebuilding, which require rest and food :)

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You need a year or more to adopt to a stronger packed schedule.

I have a 5 times a week schedule at the moment, 3 dance hours a 90 minutes, 1 pilates and one jogging (sometimes with intervall training). And after spring outdoor activities with family and friends...


I needed several years to get used to this schedule, I'm only sore now if something new or especially intensive happened, for example 5 hours of shopping at the weekend with partner & friends, ouch.

Or the replacement teacher in modern/contemporary does urban contemporary - new moves come together with new soreness.


And you have to know your body what to do and when - or when not. Hold back at Gran Allegro if you notice it's not your day. Go out with everything if it's your day.

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@Redbookish: "The other thing is: my physiotherapist gave me this "task" as one to keep going back to: dance without tension."


Thank you for this - it is so valuable. I'm in my 50s now and have always danced with tension - and I've been dancing since I was a child. It was just two years ago that I finally had a teacher phrase this in a way I understood! I'm finding that my extensions are finally getting higher as I let go and don't force them, and occasionally I can manage a triple pirouette or so. . . it's a strange balance though (no pun intended), because by releasing tension, I feel like I'm being lazy. I have to fight to remind myself that I'm not.

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Yes, it's a struggle isn't it? I think I've always mistaken tension for strength. I still don't have the balance right, so any tips? I try to let go, but my hips feel increasingly jammed up, especially to second - I suspect because my job means I tend to sit at a desk 12 hours a day writing.


I did class on Thursday with a really badly stubbed little toe (purple bruising over half my foot), and my lower back very sore from a pulled muscle - mobilising it helps, but nothing too vigorous (I did jumps at the barre, for example).


But I did try to use my rather compromised mobility as a way to think about relaxation, and keeping things very low (nothing over hip height) and trying to remember to breathe.

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Thanks everyone for the feedback, your comments are really encouraging and I really appreciate all the points you've brought up.


I forgot to mention but part of my expectations probably came from something that I had heard once and really stuck with me: that you adjust to a new exercise regime in 6 weeks. The one year plus that Old_Faun mentioned is likely more my reality though, at least for ballet!


@Garyecht, I like your point about injury vs soreness. Normally I feel pretty great in class, just sore and stiff hours later or the next day.


@TYR regarding "training fed" - I think I need to try this. I've been having a small snack before class and wait until I get home for supper, which is way later than I would normally ever eat, and I usually feel distractingly hungry mid-way through class. To kylara7's point, I've been doing this partially in an attempt not to overeat, because I know if I eat before class, I'll still feel like eating again after class. Anyways something I should probably try adjusting.


@Redbookish I love your comment about dancing without tension. That is something I will really try to keep in mind.

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@Redbookish: "The other thing is: my physiotherapist gave me this "task" as one to keep going back to: dance without tension."

I don't know exactle how this is meant - perhaps it is kind of overtension?


You need tension, the faster or higher you go the body has to be compact, center strong, all these routines. Otherwise you won't have a stable position, and can even damage joints by jumping with not enough tension when you are very flexible. Control comes with tension.


What's contraproductive is to cramp yourself - the typical error trying to reach a high developet. Perhaps this is what is the therapist said.


Cramping and pressing is also the nr. 1 producer of soreness, even before overschedule. So watch it, especially when increasing class numbers.


Nice thing: During a contemporary workshop, the choreographer of a company here who led it showed us using tension as additional language. She made us do the same move with low, medium high and very high tension - to create a totally different picture of the same move.


It got from "I am just told do dance here" over "nice little dance on a spring day" until "Lion right before the jump" with the same movements.

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It seems to me that we're getting into semantic hair splitting here. I sounds like what you're calling cramping Redbookish is calling tension, and what you're calling tension Redbookish might call strength.

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My chiropractor once said to me that I need to work on keeping my muscles activated but without gripping. Basically finding the right balance without overdoing it. That is how I interpreted dance without tension. I actually really like that way of saying it, I related to it immediately, but it will probably resonate differently for everyone.

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