Okay, so hopefully everyone is starting to get back into the swing of things now following the Christmas break. Those first couple of weeks back can be a real pain- literally. After time off, coming back to ballet and re-strengthening those muscles you don’t use often in daily life can equal a lot of soreness. I’ll never forget when I first started dancing full-time- it was the school I was at before my current one, and it was a university degree course training in all kinds of dance. We had intensive bootcamp sessions every week as well as about five classes a day, all of which began with a conditioning warm-up; for the first two weeks I could hardly walk or sit down! Getting in and out of my seat on the bus brought tears to my eyes!
Although I don’t dance anywhere near as much as that now, ballet can be more intense on certain muscles and often just more intensive, so I have developed ways of combatting soreness. Since coming back this January, I’ve been careful to take all of the following steps, and I’ve been almost completely free of muscle pain. These are the things I do to keep soreness at bay…
First of all, warming up properly! Not just before class, but before any stretching or conditioning workouts, and any exercise in general. By warming up, I don’t mean a few gentle stretches- do something that gets your heart beating fast, then follow that with a full stretch. You should actually feel hot. Wearing lots of layers as you warm up will help your muscles to get warm and stay warm during stretching.
After class is the time for more intense stretches- attempting them at this time when your muscles are really warm will mean you won’t over-stretch and tear anything. It is also necessary to stretch muscles after strengthening them to prevent stiffness and, over time, tight and bulky muscles. I also like to make sure I spend a little extra time re-stretching my calves, quads and glutes because these muscles get so tense during class as they are used so much.
After class and having done these stretches, I take my foam roller and spend as much time as I need rolling out my muscles. I spend the most time on my legs, where I find I really need it- when an area is particularly tender, I spend time concentrating on that area until it eases off. This can take a little while, but it’s relaxing and I think it is the best solution to preventing stiffness and, over time, injuries. I roll my calves while I write down my notes from the class, then move on to the rest of my body. I have a small foam roller so that I can carry it to and from the studio easily, and it has raised bumps on it so as to get deeper into the muscle tissue. Sometimes I also do this in the evening before bed- it is a great thing to do whilst watching TV.
A hot bath in the evening is a must on days when you’ve been put through your paces. I have it as hot as is comfortable, with a good measure of muscle salts- I have a big bag from Superdrug that contains eucalyptus and I put a couple of generous handfuls in.
Lastly, keeping warm while you sleep will help you to wake up feeling ready to go again. Wear warm pyjamas that cover your whole arms and legs- you can add extra layers anywhere you want to keep extra warm, e.g. sometimes my calves get stiff so I wear leg warmers to bed. I used to have a teacher who told us to wear leggings, leg warmers, socks, pyjamas and a jumper to bed to stop muscle soreness, which I tried but found I was far too hot to sleep, so I’ll leave that up to you!
If you do get sore, keep using the muscles- although it’s unpleasant, it’s the quickest way to shake off the pain and stiffness. Keep yourself nice and warm, spend extra time stretching it out, and you can even use a heat pad/ hot water bottle and heat cream to relieve the feeling.
I hope that some of these tips help you in the future, let me know if you have any others!
Have a great week!