At almost any health club or full-service gym these days you can find a class that incorporates ballet-inspired moves. I initially resisted the classes offered at my gym because I didn’t think I needed to add anything to my already way-too-crowded exercise schedule. And, if I was going to add anything, I wanted it to be something really really different, and hard. I mean, how difficult can it be to pop up onto my toes 100s of times?
All I can say is, IT IS HARDER THAN IT LOOKS. And I’m obviously late to the party, since these classes are now pretty much all the rage, and plenty of celebs are crediting them for their lean physiques. If you haven’t tried it, don’t be fooled by what you might observe or think is going on in these classes. Every teeny tiny movement takes amazing effort and it is easily one of the hardest workouts I do. I can honestly say that doing these classes has changed my body the most in this past year, and that is saying a lot for me, especially given my very long history of dedicated exercise, and now being north of the half-century mark!
For those of you who might be curious and haven’t heard of or seen a class like this, let me describe the 60 minute (unheated – there are some that pump up the temperature) class I typically attend, called Ballet Body. It starts with an upper body warm-up ala early Jane Fonda – lots of arm circles and presses that set your shoulders on fire! That is followed by a few sets of pushups, and then the quad component begins. The first exercise can either be a series of lunges and curtsy lunges, or – my personal favorite – something I call the kneeling squat. I don’t know what it is actually called, but basically you get in the kneeling position, put a squishy ball between your knees, and sit back on your heels. Then raise your rear end a couple of inches off your heels – the reps are up and down FROM THERE. It doesn’t sound bad, and for the first 24 reps or so, it isn’t. But believe me, your quads will burn after a couple of minutes. Sometimes we do upper body moves at the same time, with 3-5 lb. weights. Yowza.
We then move to the bar and do more quads – squats, half-squats, lunges, and lifts, both on flat feet and on the toes. After about 25 minutes, we move on to the glutes, which could be more lunges or squats, but often includes some kind of lifting one leg at a time up and behind for endless reps, and/or on all fours for the classic donkey kick and all of the wonderful variations thereof. If there is time, we might do some abs at the end.
There are some things to watch out for with this kind of workout. One standard move for the quad portion is a relevé to demi-pointe (I think those are the correct terms – I googled them to find out, but I could well be using them incorrectly!) in first or second position, or with your heels and toes together. Once in this raised position, you bend your knees into a kind of half-squat, but you are still on your toes. The very small movement up and down then takes place from that (squat-ish) position. This movement really works the quads, but can be hard on the knees. It can also be tough to spend so much time up on the flat part of the toes – there is a lot of pressure on the ball of the foot. Some people wear cushioned shoes, others stand on a mat for comfort.
If you haven’t tried one of these classes because you feel you are too advanced, or too beginner – get over it! This workout will absolutely tighten up loose bits and increase your strength and stamina. Go for it!