'Ballerina Body' by Misty Copeland
Misty Copeland, and her legendary calves.
(Photo: Henry Leutwyler)
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Ballerina Misty Copeland shares lessons learned over many years
March 21, 2017
Few people have as much experience with that mental battle as Copeland, 34, the first African-American woman to become a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre. She broke the mold of lithe, white ballerinas, though it wasn't easy. It took years to find a combination of exercises, types of food and mental preparation that left her feeling her best self.
"But when I did, not only did I feel fitter, not only was my body sleeker and more powerful, but I also had come to a realization that was more important than any other — I came to understand, to accept, that all along my body had been perfect for me."
Stretch whenever possible
Copeland drives home the point that exercise doesn't have to be done exclusively at the gym — it's important to move all day long. One easy stretch she explains is a head, neck and shoulder roll.
Start by holding your head high, tilt it forward as far as it'll comfortably go, then return to center. Repeat by dropping your head back, then return to center.
Dance on the floor
While recovering from stress fractures in her tibia, Copeland kept up her training by replicating the warmups ballet dancers complete at the barre while lying on the ground. It's a surprisingly challenging routine that, after one workout, will leave your hip flexers and calves sore but feeling longer. One of the most dramatic segments is the plié, or bending, combination.
While on your back, arms pressing against the floor, hold legs in first positions in the air, making an L-shape with your body and legs. Bend your knees until feet are on the floor, then stretch the lower legs back up, with toes pointed. Repeat (with a tight core!) and you'll feel instant results.