Insanity Update- Is Insanity Right for Ballet Dancers?



So it’s been a little while since my last Insanity update, mainly because I haven’t been exercising over the bank holiday weekend after our downstairs neighbours’ complaints! Read my Insanity adventures here with the first post and second post about my experiences.

Being around 2 weeks in now, I’m starting to see a lot of progress in my workouts. I can do things I couldn’t at the start, I am coping better with the intense cardio, and I’m looking trimmer and leaner. However… I have gained significant weight! Now, I know that this is obviously because I’m gaining muscle and losing fat- I am looking slimmer overall- but I don’t think that this is the right thing to be doing for my ballet training. I’ve been thinking hard about this, weighing up all the benefits and drawbacks about using this type of exercise to shape my body.

It’s been amazing getting more cardio and strength into my cross-training routine, but my number one goal at the moment is to lose weight, because that’s the biggest thing currently holding me back in ballet. I don’t want to over-emphasise weight loss for success in dance, because that’s not how it works! However, I am much bigger than the average dancer, and as someone aiming for a career in classical ballet, I need to achieve the right aesthetic to improve my chances of success. This is a personal goal- I am at the level of training where I need to be thinking about this, and I am a fully-grown adult, with the correct knowledge about nutrition and exercise to be able to lose weight safely. I just want to make sure that people reading this know that this is a completely individual goal, and not one I am advocating for all dancers. You need to think about what aspects of your health you need to focus on to be a better and healthier dancer. I talk more about weight issues in ballet in this post, which I recommend reading for more detail about this issue.

I feel like these workouts have way too much emphasis on building up the quads for a ballet dancer. Everywhere else, we can afford a little extra muscle, as long as the arms aren’t huge for women, but having overdeveloped quads not only spoils a classical line, but makes ballet technique very difficult. Years of working incorrectly has caused me to have built-up quads, and it has taken years since to begin to correct this, identifying and using the correct turnout muscles without those super-strong quads just taking over and doing all the work. I feel like these workouts are only building up my quads more, making them heavy and muscular, endangering all the hard work I have put in to remedying this imbalance. For anyone not doing ballet, I want to emphasise that this is fine! Having strong legs is a great asset, and having more muscle will help to burn fat. However in ballet, having large and strong quads can make it difficult to lift the legs in a turned-out position, especially to the front, as they take over and start doing the work that the inner thighs should be doing, and weigh the legs down. It’s hard to use the right muscles when you have very strong quads. I also don’t want to get so heavy that I can’t be lifted! That’s a big part of the reason it’s important for ballet dancers to be on the smaller side, and I am moving away from that ideal instead of towards it.

I have decided, on balance, that I am going to stop following the Insanity workouts. One thing I do really want to keep up is that level of abdominal work, because the increased abdominal strength I’ve gained since doing Insanity has been amazing for my technique. I was already doing ab workouts as part of my daily conditioning routine, but I’m going to find a way to step that up. For cardio, what I might do is start swimming. This is a great low-impact exercise for dancers, allowing you to get some cardio into your regime without building the large muscle groups more than necessary, or increasing risk of injury. I have wanted to start swimming for a long time, but it is difficult to afford the gym membership. However, having tried Insanity and seeing the benefits of cardio, and these relevant drawbacks, I am going to make it a priority to find a way to make it happen. I might come back to the Insanity workouts just from time to time if I feel I need a really intense cardio session, especially because even though I have suffered through the workouts, by the end I always feel great.

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I am sad that this hasn’t worked out for me. Although I advise against this for ballet dancers who are like me- female, with already strong quadriceps and a tendency to build muscle, and someone trying to lose weight overall- that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. Some people might need to gain strength in these large muscle groups, and if you don’t dance seriously, then it’s not a problem at all anyway. I imagine that the muscle gained and fat lost would balance out in time, leading to more weight loss and of course a much leaner physique, but all the muscle gain is not right for me. I also think that male dancers would be fine with these workouts. The fact that I was seeing great results such a short way into the programme makes me think that the end results would have been amazing, but I could just see it going down a road that would be ultimately detrimental to my progress.

I am going back to the drawing board to have a little re-jig of my cross-training regime. I will keep you posted on the results!

Let me know your thoughts on these workouts!

Until next time,

Jessica x

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