We dancers are dreamers, and I thought I’d share one of mine with you. It requires blood, sweat, tears, perseverance, and most of all consistency. It’s responsible for pulled tendons, muscles, and other painful injuries. To me, it’s the loftiest goal I have at the moment. I’m talking about the splits. It’s worthy of bragging rights, and a crucial skill for me as a dancer.
First, a little bit about the splits. People may tell you they can do the splits, but some people I’ve met who say they can, actually can’t. A splits is a roughly straight 180° angle made with your legs. Either leg can be in front, or splits can be done facing the center. A true splits has both legs straight. If one is bent, but the other is straight, it isn’t a true splits. This also my problem. Whenever I try to get into my front splits, the back leg is always bent, no matter which leg is in front. However, I can always get my front leg straight down on the ground without bending it. This is good news because it means I’m close, and I just have those frustrating last inches left. For the record, a bent leg is not a sign of low flexibility. Rather, it is a sign of inadequate muscle tone. By regularly stretching, one can build up those muscles, increase their elasticity, and eventually achieve those splits.
That’s right, consistency is key. Optimally, you should stretch everyday, but if you’re a typical, busy human being, then making the time can be difficult. Personally, I only stretch three times a week. This take me much longer to get my splits, but I know I’ll eventually get it because I plan to post a celebratory post when I do. Want to join me in my quest for the splits? I do have some tips for you, most of which I use when I stretch.
The above picture just about sums it up. But, I’ll elaborate: for the love of all that is pure and holy, please stretch a good fifteen to twenty minutes before you even attempt the splits. Your muscles are like rubber bands. They are incredibly elastic, and capable of extending themselves so you can perform complex tasks. If you suddenly stretch a rubber band, it may break. The same thing goes for your muscles. If you push yourself too hard, you may pull, or worse, tear something. Be very careful whenever you try to do the splits. First, your legs need to be physically warm. This is a sign of loose muscles. Run on the treadmill for five minutes, take a warm bath, or do lots of stretching. Breathe while you stretch and push yourself to go further in your stretch. However, if the pain becomes too much, back off. At the bare minimum, hold your stretches for ten seconds, but try to hold them for thirty seconds. I’m going to direct you here for stretches specifically geared toward the splits, which I use when I stretch. A disclaimer, the front page of link tells you to never stretch to the point of pain. I find the statement a bit ambiguous. The way to increase your flexibility is to push yourself bit by bit, and that does involve pain. I’m a true believer in the old “No pain, no gain” slogan, and building up any muscle will hurt. What I think the article is trying to say is what I’ve been saying this whole time: be careful.
To all my fellow dancers out there, wish me the best, and my best wishes to you in all your endeavors.