Since I have to take about a week off from running thanks to a minor ankle sprain, I had to find some sort of work out to keep me on a fitness routine. I know myself, and I know that one week off from working out can lead to a very slippery slope that ends in cupcakes and self loathing.
A bad ankle rules out a lot of possibilities, but when looking through my Amazon Instant videos, I remembered that the Ballet Beautiful work out involves relatively little ankle strain.
I know that sounds counter-intuitive; when I think of ballet I think of it being all about strong ankles and being en pointe, but this workout is more of a mat workout, with a lot of pilates-esque moves to strengthen your core and limbs.
Ballet Beautiful is a workout system created by Mary Helen Bowers, Natalie Portman’s trainer for Black Swan. We all know ballet dancers have graceful muscle tone, and I wanted to see if this video would deliver on the promise that it transforms your body. That, and I love the convenience of workouts that are available on Instant Video on Amazon. Anyway, there’s a whole Ballet Beautiful series, and classes that you can buy online, but this is just a review of the workout that you can buy on Amazon.
As I said, there is very little ankle strain involved. The first section is a bridge series– you know, that move that was in all of the 80s aerobics videos where you lie on your back and thrust your hips in the air?
She has you do a lot of these, with various modifications to work different muscles. With my bad ankle, I was relieved to hear that it was perfectly acceptable to do them flat footed or in demi pointe.
With each of the series, you do 4 reps of 8 counts of each movement, much as you would in a dance class. In many of the exercises, she has you pause on the last count and do 4 more reps of 8 counts in a smaller, more pulsing movement– this would seem familiar if you ever took dance classes, and it definitely pushes your muscles when they are fatigued.
The next series, the abs series, really kicks my butt. She’s basically having you do crunches, but I discovered that by focusing on maintaining a long, elegant neck, keeping my shoulders down and my toes pointed, that the crunches became that much harder and more effective for me.
The inner and outer thigh series are very similar to most pilates workouts. They’re challenging, but doable.
The arm series follows, and that is my least favorite part of the workout. Sitting on the floor, you do “ballet push backs,” where you push the air behind your back with your arms over and over. My triceps and shoulders were definitely feeling the burn, but it also felt awkward. You do several sets of them, and to be honest, I started feeling bored. The muscle fatigue was good, but it’s not my favorite upper body workout.
The last few minutes are a standing series, and this part I often skip over. I don’t really get much out of it, and it’s too short to really feel any substantial cardio. It’s a nice cool down for all of your muscles, but if you’re short on time, skip it.
Even though I skip the last portion, I do really like this workout. It leaves me incredibly sore the next morning, especially in my abs and butt. I like Mary Helen’s guidance and encouragement, and it helps that she sighs and grimaces during the last few counts of most exercises too. The music is all classical piano, as if you were in an actual ballet class, which I find relaxing. But more importantly, it makes me focus more on my posture and keeping my movements graceful.
As I watch Mary Helen, I know I will never look THAT graceful, but it’s a nice compliment to the huffing and puffing of a long run on other days of the week.
Most workouts make me feel like a bad ass, and I love that, but this one makes me feel, well, pretty.