A little known secret about me: I'm a big fan of ballet.

Back in my college days, I worked as a stagehand for a premiere ballet company. I toured with them around a few states on the east coast and quickly developed a strong appreciation for the medium. After getting to know some of the dancers personally and seeing what they went through on a daily basis to stay in shape, I became convinced that professional dancers endure harder physical training than professional football players.

Fortunately, ballet for runners is a little easier. And by "a little," I mean a whole lot.

Ballet was the theme for this week's Minimalist Mondays workshop. We added two new drills to our warm-up routine, and they were both stolen ballet movements. The two drills are the relevé and the arabesque. I'm happy to say that going en pointe was not required. Neither was grace.

The Relevé

This is a great drill for strengthening calves and feet, and it loosened up my tight ankle muscles. I'm also going to add that it helps develop balance... if you're as uncoordinated as I am. Most people don't seem to have trouble with that, but I tend to topple easily (I blame my high center of gravity). Here's how you do it:
  1. Stand with your feet as close together as is comfortable for you. Place your hands on the front and back of your pelvis to make sure it stays level and straight.
  2. Keep your knees soft and slightly bent.
  3. Rise up slowly onto the balls of your feet, with the weight centered just behind your big toe. Try to avoid rolling out to the side of the little toe.
  4. Come down slowly until the heels gently tap the ground, then rise up again.
That's about it. Do ten of these slowly once a day or as part of a running warm-up. When that becomes too easy, try rising on just one foot at at time.

Barefoot Running Revele
Sanatan teaching us a one-footed revelé.

The Arabesque

For hips and core... and more balance. Full confession: I had a tougher time staying upright on this one, which I assume means I need to do it more.
  1. Spine straight and aligned, hands on your hips.
  2. Pick a leg to stand on and keep it soft and bent.
  3. Straighten the other leg and extend it behind you.
  4. Keep moving the extended leg back as you let your torso and upper body tip forward. Your body should stay aligned with that back leg.
  5. Stop when you feel your hamstring tighten, then slowly tilt back to the starting position.
  6. When you're standing upright again, you can choose to add a foot lift by raising the knee of the previously extended leg in front of you, as if you're moving your leg through the motion of running.
And if you haven't fallen yet, you can continue into the next arabesque without letting your foot touch the ground. Do 10 for each leg daily or as a running warm-up.

Barefoot Running Arabesque
A perfect arabesuqe? Well, we started with a slightly exaggerated one for fun. 
Hands should stay on the hips.

Here's the official video demonstration:

We ended the class by going through our complete running warm-up routine, as it stands now:
  1. 10 Soft Tops (from week 3)
  2. 10 Switchies (from week 3)
  3. 10 Revelés with both feet (or 10 on each foot)
  4. 10 Arabesques on each foot
We'll be taking a break from Minimalist Monday next week since it's Memorial Day, but we're continuing on June 3 with Week 7, titled "You don't need springs in your shoes if you've got them in your legs." Backpacks are recommended.

Minimalist Mondays is a free injury-free running workshop that meets weekly in downtown Portland, Oregon. It is taught by Dr. Sanatan Golden and Dr. Ray McClanahan. Everyone is welcome! For more details, including recaps of past lessons, visit the Minimalist Mondays website.


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