Blog Archives

Preventing Ankle Sprains in Dance

Ballet Strength Ankle Injuries

The most common injury in dance is a sprained ankle. If you have been dancing long enough, chances are, you have gone through this injury and the long rehabilitation process that comes with it. As a dancer who was prone to ankle sprains early on in my professional career, I looked to strength training for help. I will never forget the first time that I “rolled” my ankle in the studio after a summer of Ballet Strength cross training preparation – my ankle rolled over to the outside of my foot, and immediately corrected itself back to standing due to the strength that I had created in my ankle, knee and hip. No pain, no sprain! I was truly amazed and felt accomplished as all of my hard work over the summer had paid off!

While accidents do happen, there are a few exercises that you can add to your cross training routine to help prevent sprains from happening. Two of the exercises that I will outline in this blog are lunges and squats. These exercises are very common in the gym but not so much in the ballet world. In ballet we tend to work hard on the muscles that hold our “turn-out” while neglecting stabilizing muscles that we use in “parallel” or daily life. This is why us dancers have taken on the reputation of walking like ducks.

Lunges

Start standing with the legs together in parallel. Lunge forward with the right leg, striking with the heel first. Pushing back through the heel (no pointed toes here), return to the start position. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions on each leg.

Ballet Strength Lunges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Squats

Start with both legs in parallel, slightly wider than hip width apart. Send the hips back (breaking in the hips) followed by a bend in the knee. Be sure to keep the knees in line with the heels, NOT letting them go over the toes. Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.

Ballet Strength Squats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adding these two exercises to your strength training/cross training routine will help balance out your muscles, keeping you centered and strong. For a full ankle strengthening program, try my Power Pointe Ankle Strengthening Program! As always, be sure to consult with your physical therapist, physician, or Ballet Strength trainer before performing these or any cross training exercises.

Nutrition for Dancers – Career Saving Advice

Ballet NutritionDid you know that proper nutrition can make or break your day to day ballet performance? With the intense physical demands that are being put on dancers these days a solid nutrition routine is a must for optimal performance, endurance and muscle recovery. Contemporary choreography is taking ballet to a new athletic level. Dancers are much like other athletes – They need to eat for energy.

When I landed my first professional job away from home as a dancer with Ballet Austin, I wasn’t used to having to prepare meals and take care of myself. Frozen food and pizza were convenient but were not what my body needed to perform at it’s best from day to day. I was always tired, got frequent migraine headaches, and my performance in class started to suffer. I also gained weight.

All of this eventually lead up to an injury. The physical and nutritional stress that I was putting on my body had finally taken it’s toll. Soon I was called into the office to talk to the directors about not only my injury but my weight gain. The last thing that I wanted to be thinking about while dealing with an injury was “dieting.” Injured, self-conscious, and desperate for answers, I left the company mid-season to recuperate back at home and pull myself together in time for company auditions that Spring.

Through healthy eating, adequate rest, and stress management I was able to catch myself before I fell into a career ending pattern in time to receive multiple job offers that Spring. Luckily I have put together a resource for you to optimize your nutrition and apply the same principles that helped me to your life and dancing!

It’s called Ballet Nutrition and it covers all of the important things that you need to know including; using food for fuel, proper hydration, adequate rest, muscle recovery, daily caloric requirements (super easy to use formula to figure out your needs), and eating for energy. This digital book empowers you to make your own healthy choices and design your own plan based on the principles explained and examples given.

Your dancing deserves the best nutrition! Read more about Ballet Nutrition here >> http://balletstrength.com/Ballet_Strength/balletnutrition.html

 

 

Common Ballet Injuries – Prevention Tips

When it comes to ballet there aren’t a whole lot of dancers out there who can honestly say that they have never had an injury. Whether it’s an injury as major or career ending as an Achilles tendon rupture or an injury as minor as a shin splint, it is imperative that the root of the problem be discovered.

Luckily today there are preventative measures being taken by ballet companies and schools lead by younger artistic staffs to keep dancers fine tuned. In the past there were ballet teachers and company artistic directors who were not educated on injury prevention for dancers, thus indirectly encouraging dancers to continue through injuries shortening the life of their career.

Common injuries for dancing include (but are not limited to);
Achilles Tendonitis
Ankle Sprains
Patellar Tendonitis
Piriformis Syndrome
Lower back pain
Rotator Cuff
Broken Toes/Feet
Check out a complete list on the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries website. It’s very helpful.

Of course there are ways to prevent some of these injuries through core conditioning, pilates, strength training, and ballet cross training. Most ballet companies have on site physical therapists who work with dancers daily aches and pains and can prescribe a correct physical therapy routine. There is also the Ballet Strength DVD which has a library of exercises that you can do to prevent injury and improve strength.

As dancers today, there is no excuse to allow the body to be plagued by injury and pain. With all of the helpful resources available dancers are extending their careers well into their 30’s. Don’t wait to address your injury prone areas…you don’t want to wait until it’s too late!

Ballet Strength

I’ve been working on my Ballet Strength program, so get ready for the launch. To stay updated please follow BalletStrength on Twitter!

In the meantime, here’s an old video from my Ballet Oklahoma days.

Career Transitions for Dancers

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go to one of the Career Transition for Dancers workshops here in San Diego last weekend. I thought it would be nice for me to share my thoughts and opinions of the ideas that they introduced for those of you who do not have the luxury of living in a city that their workshop visits.

There were about 25 dancers in the room of all kinds; Flamenco, Ballet, Hip-Hop, Ballroom, and even Vegas show dancers. Everyone was brought together in hopes of finding answers or getting suggestions as to what their next chosen career path should be.

Out of the 3 hour long meeting, which felt a bit like “Alcoholics Anonymous,” there were a few great things that happened. 1.) They talked to us about finding affordable Health Insurance 2.) They gave everyone a list of things that Dancers are good at naturally, other than dancing 3.) They helped everyone identify skills that they are most interested in learning.

Unfortunately, there were also some negative aspects to the workshop as one would expect. First off, one of the main presenters was never even a Dancer! The other main focus was Grants and Financial Aid. While this is a wonderful thing to offer to Dancers who qualify, (qualification consists of being a paid dancer for 7 years, having made at least $56k,  and 100 weeks or more of paid employment as a dancer) what about those dancers out there who never had the luxury of being paid appropriately? Even more discouraging was when I learned that Dancers who qualified for the Grant would only recieve $2000!

It seemed that if anyone had questions, they were given a “technical support” number to call to speak with a Woman whom i will leave nameless. Most of us were in that meeting because we wanted to talk to a human being in person and address our concerns at that time, not over the phone. I think something valuable for them to add to their website would be a Forum where dancers can interact with eachother and talk about their experiences in transitioning from dance.

Luckily this Workshop was free…I felt sorry for some of the young dancers who were in the room that were looking for answers. Bottom line, if you were looking to be found you probably left this meeting even more lost. The good thing, having found a group of people just as lost as you!

If you are looking for someone to talk to and consult about your career transition out of Dancing this is a wonderful organization. They offer FREE unlimited phone consultations! Don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself!

Give Career Transition a call; (212)764-0172 or Visit them on the web, http://www.careertransition.org.

Ballet Dancers and Ankle Injuries

A sickled foot...an ankle sprain ready to happen.

A sickled foot...an ankle sprain ready to happen.

In class day after day I watch my young co-worker Professional Dancers forcing turn-out and rolling in on their ankles. I have watched ankle sprains put dancers out for entire  seasons. How many times have you had a teacher try to force your body to do something that you know is just not genetically possible?

The most common types of injuries in Ballet Dancers are in the ankle area. Almost all of these injuries are caused by weaknesses or faulty technique. Forcing turn-out is just one example of poor technique that is sometimes encouraged by Russian ballet instructors. The fact is that most ballet instructors have not studied the human anatomy and biomechanics enough, and simply teach based on what worked for them. The truth is that we’re not all the same and it is not possible to clone dancers.

Without proper form and core strength, it is easy to sit into the calves and ankles to take on the whole weight of the body en pointe. Weak glutes or over-flexible hamstrings can sometimes lead to unstable ankles due to gripping of the calves. What happens when the calves are overused? They tighten up, they feel like rocks, they won’t stretch out. And when the calves lock up, you lose mobility in your foot and ankle.

When calves get tight or tired out after a long variation or pas de deux, some dancers think it is weak calves that are causing the problem. They proceed to do more releves, but never address the real problem. Are you pulling up in your legs when you do releves? Do you feel the releve in the upper hamstring, or are you sitting into the calves?

This is where I have my Professional Dancer clients try a few simple exercises on the Smith Machine  to test their hamstring/glute strength. If they are feeling the exercises mostly in their quadriceps, which you don’t want, I know that there is a lot of work to be done. I will then test the dancers balance on the Bosu Ball or Balance Board standing on one leg.

Whether you are an injured dancer or a healthy one looking to test your strengths and weaknesses,  contact a personal trainer exerpienced in working with dancers. Give yourself the confidence you need to maintain a healthy and long career!

-Nikol Klein, CPT, Professional Ballet Dancer

www.nikolklein.com

Dancer Rehabilitation and Maintenance

NYCB Dancer getting rehab on an injured foot.

NYCB Dancer getting rehab on an injured foot.

What are you doing to ensure that your body is in top form every morning when you step into the studio?

There are many factors that contribute to injuries in dancers that could have easily been prevented. Muscle fatigue, lack of proper rest and recovery are essential to keep your body in top form. Here are a few simple maintenance routines to get you on the right track.

Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Without proper rest your body will not have proper time to recover from the day before. Plus you won’t be alert in class and rehearsal making it hard not only on yourself, but also your co-workers!

Don’t forget to stretch. It seems like something so simple, but it is also something that is easily forgotten. Tight muscles are more suseptible to injury.

Supplement. No, don’t take Advil. Try a natural approach. Did you know that Bromelain is a natural anti-inflammatory? Also, try a Calcium/Magnesium complex to relax the muscles while supporting healthy bones.

Drink Water. Enough said.

Soak in the tub. Soaking sore muscles in a few cups of Epsom Salt and hot water can make a world of a difference. Try stretching after the hot bath too!

Seek massage and chiropractic work. Let’s face it, we’d like to have all the answers ourselves, but sometimes we must rely on the help of others. A weekly visit to the chiroprator or masseuse will fine tune you…at least until you have to rehearse some overhead lifts in a pas de deux.

 Practice these simple techniques to help promote an injury free career. Your body will thank you for it!

As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

-Nikol Klein, Certified Personal Trainer/ Professional Ballet Dancer