I often get asked about what my exercise routine looks like - what I do, how much I do, how often I do it. And my answer usually shocks people…to the point that they think I’m lying or covering up important details:
“Is that really all you do?” Which is immediately followed by the I-bet-you-are-hiding-in-your-closet-sneakily-doing-Jane-Fonda-routines-every-night look.
Here’s a little secret about me – I’m an open book. Ask me a question, and I will give it to you straight, no holding back, no embellishment, no twisting the truth. It can be a character flaw sometimes as I can easily breach the TMI barrier, but at least you know what you are going to get with me😉.
So, in an effort to shed some light on how I stay fit & keep my body primed for peak performance – this is what my current weekly training schedule looks like...full disclosure:
Current Training Program:
• 1 full Bulletproof Ballerina workout (which is about 30 minutes of hardcore, focused strength training)
• 3 days of rehearsals (in which I either take a company class or warm myself up with a basic barre or muscle activation techniques)
• 1 mini Bulletproof Ballerina workout (which usually consists of 1-2 upper body exercises, 2 lower body exercises, and 1 core-focused exercise)
Once and a while I’ll have an extra performance day or photo shoot thrown in there, but that’s basically all the physical training I'm doing right now, at least until Nutcracker performances start up. That’s it. No secret Jane Fonda workout. No cardio. No extra classes.
The rest of the time I do what I want. If I feel like moving outside of my cross-training plan for the week, I do. But I don’t consider it “exercise.” I listen to my body and give it what it needs. That can look like any (or none!) of the following:
• Simple stretching (no routine - I simply address the areas I feel need attention)
• Ballet class (I take class for fun & self-expression…not because I feel obligated to)
• Rolling out and self-massage
• Mobility work
• Movement flow (my version of yoga)
• Breath work and moving meditation
• Muscle activation techniques (to combat stiffness and sore joints/muscles)
• A few exercises from my KEY TO YOUR CORE program (if I need to get energized and integrated in my body)
• This also includes doing NOTHING – whether that means sitting down to work on my business or getting cozy on the couch to watch a movie
Again, the key with all of this extra stuff is that I don’t look at it as “exercise.” That’s what gives me the freedom to really listen to what my body needs instead of doing what my demons tell me to do. I know my demons. If I start calling this stuff exercise, they start making rules and obligations. Then it transforms from something that is healthy for me into something I have to cross off my list to earn my worth each day. I’ll wake up every morning with an anxiety about getting my exercise done so I can feel good about myself. And instead of being in the moment and caring for my body, all I think about is banging out some form of exercise or class so I can feel relief from that anxiety.
Been there. Done that. Didn’t work for me. It made me crazy, unhealthy, and NOT in peak condition to dance or enjoy life.
(I see you. I know you have those demons driving you, too. You feel uneasy and restless until you can drag yourself to that spin/yoga/cardio/gym/dance class. Not because you actually want or need to exercise, but because you need to earn your worth…inflict punishment on yourself so you can say, “Well I may not be the best but at least I’m trying my hardest.” Again, I have no problem with these classes and forms of exercise…but I do have a problem when they are used as a source of punishment and self-torture.)
Because let’s face it…often you have to learn how to work smarter, not harder, in order to level up.
Whatever I do outside of my current training program is because my body wants to move, not because I feel obligated to move it. It sounds like a weird distinction…but it makes all the difference in terms of having a healthy mindset that isn’t obsessed with working out but focused on actually improving & preserving your body. This mindset makes your workouts that much more effective too. You can focus your energy into one or two cross-training sessions per week that are intense enough to help you level up instead of feeling pressured to get your "exercise" in every day, which inevitably leaves you worn out and ineffectual when you do need to make it count.
Now, keep in mind that this current training program is a snapshot of my life. This isn’t what I do 365 days a year. I’m a freelance dancer and run my own business as my side hustle…which means my schedule changes frequently depending on company contracts, client schedules, goals, and other circumstances in life. I am constantly adjusting my cross-training to fit with what MY body needs in the moment. That means paying attention to how my body feels as well as considering the specific goals I’m working towards.
Also keep in mind that I’m in my thirties, pay special attention to sleep and recovery, am careful about my nutrition and nourishment, and my cross-training is a very specialized technique that utilizes high intensity and focus to get results. I’ve been playing with these variables and tweaking my formula for peak performance for over a decade. And I will always continue to experiment and adjust since peak performance is a moving target and the human body is in constant flux.
I hope this helps answer some of your curiosity and gives you something to think about in terms of your exercise routine. As dancers, we're constantly pressuring ourselves to do more. But you have to ask yourself if that "more" is really helping you improve...or just appeasing the demons in your head. If you want help with your personal situation and how to feel primed for peak performance, contact me. Until then, keep managing those demons and don’t let them run your exercise routine. Go hard when it actually counts…and then let yourself play the rest of the time.
Photo credit: Estilo Antunes