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Triathlon can be an exercise in contradictions: You need to be strong in three sports that only go in one direction (forward, right?), but it can’t be at the ultimate price of functional, multidirectional strength and flexibility. To be a good swimmer, biker, and runner, you need to do those things (a lot), but that can’t be it.
Specifically, biking and running can be counterproductive when it comes to two important pieces of the swimming puzzle: posture and flexibility. The good news is that other sports can lend you a hand (or a pair of pointe shoes) to help out. If you want to increase your excellent body position (your posture) and your flexibility, turn to the activity where those two things are paramount—ballet.
Using a combination of ballet posture work—from Jenessa Connor at Backpacker—and tri-specific flexibility—from these two pieces by Erin Taylor and Dr. Caitlin Glenn Sapp—this unique routine will pirouette its way into your regular core and stretching program. Read on for these movements to help bring your posture and flexibility from á terre to en l’air:
Movement #1: Plié Pulse Tabata
1. Feet together, using your hand on an object for balance, stand tall with your core engaged and shoulders back.
2. Spread your toes, keep your heels together, and create a “V” with your feet.
3. Lift up your heels and balance on the front of your foot. Now bend your knees about six inches, keeping them over your toes by pushing your knees out to the sides. Congrats! You’ve done a plié
4. Pulse up and down at a one-second tempo for about 20 seconds, then pause at the bottom for 10 more seconds. Complete eight rounds of pulse/pause.
Movement #2: Wide Plié Series
1. Keep feet wider than hip-width apart, point your toes 45 degrees with shoulders back and core engaged—similar as above, but without heels touching.
2. Lower your hips six inches by bending your knees, and push out your knees to align with your toes.
3. Use a one-second tempo to bend and straighten in the following:
10 heel lifts: Raise and lower your heels, keeping the front of your foot planted.
10 knee push-backs: Pulse your knees back and away from each other. Pretend you are touching a wall behind you with the sides of your knees.
4 rounds of above
Movement #3: Glute Series
1. Make like a table with your hands and knees on the floor, keeping your core engaged and hands below your shoulders.
2. Use a one-second tempo to do the following with your right leg first:
10 donkey kicks: Raise your knee to hip height, then lower—keeping your knee bent and foot flexed.
10 donkey kick pulses: At the top of a donkey kick, pulse your leg up and down.
10 leg extensions: At the top of a donkey kick, straighten your leg, then bend it back to starting position.
20 leg circles: Straighten your leg and lift it to hip height. Move clockwise, and trace 10 small circles with your toes. Now do the same counterclockwise, 10 more times.
3. Three sets each leg, moving quickly from set to set.
Movement #4: Ankle Flex with Resistance
1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight, a resistance band around your foot, and a towel roll under your ankle.
2. With the band loose, point your toes away from you. Then with a taught band, pull back and slowly move your foot back toward you. Repeat for three sets of 10.
Movement #5: Half Kneel Stretch
1. Begin in a kneeling position with your legs at 45 degrees, one knee on the ground, the other foot in front of you at an angle.
2. Slowly shift your weight down and forward over your non-kneeling foot until you feel a gentle stretch in your foot.
3. Repeat for two sets of 20 reps on each leg.
Movement #6: Standing Calf Stretch on Step
1. Begin by standing on a step with your heels hanging off the edge.
2. Slowly lower your heels toward the ground until you feel a stretch in the back of your lower legs and hold.
3. Repeat three sets with one-minute holds.
4. Stretch the deeper calf muscle, the soleus, by putting a slight bend in your knees—you’ll feel the stretch further down the leg.
5. Repeat three sets with one-minute holds.
Movement #7: Happy Baby Stretch
1. Hug your knees into your chest.
2. Separate your thighs wide apart and grab your calves, ankles, or inner arches of your feet—whatever you can reach while keeping your feet flexed.
3. Turn the soles of your feet so they point toward the sky.
4. Keep your butt heavy and touching the floor, spine as neutral as possible.
Movement #8: Flank Stretch
1. Lie on your back and extend your arms open to the sides at shoulder height, palms up.
2. Bring your feet wider than hip-width apart, and drop your thighs to one side.
3. Put your foot on top of the other thigh, using the weight of that leg to encourage the thigh to rotate farther in the hip joint and drop toward the floor.
4. If it’s too difficult to keep your foot on the other leg or if either of your knees is uncomfortable, just rest your foot on the floor instead.
Movement #9: Reclined Butterfly
1. Lie on your back and extend your arms along your sides, palms up.
2. Bring the soles of your feet together, and drop your thighs toward the floor.
3. Feel the stretch along the inseam of your upper legs and into your hips—if it’s too intense, move your feet farther away from your body.
4. If your knees are uncomfortable, insert blocks or pillows underneath your legs so that your knees have more support.