On Getting "Fit"
I first stepped into a gym with my freshman year, college roommate. Up until that point, dance had been the backbone of my being; occasionally, I was part of school swimming and tennis teams. Needless to say, I had always maintained an active lifestyle (especially in comparison to today's youth). Never before had I run on a treadmill, lifted anything other than my own bodyweight (rackets don't count!), or thought about what a macro was and how it pertained to my physique. Naturally, the more I went to the gym with my roommate, the more I felt we bonded and the better I felt about myself! I made it out of college, one stint in physical therapy under my belt, and thankfully all of my limbs still attached.
When I moved to New York City in 2014, the gym took a backseat as I adjusted to the budgeting of a newly graduated dancer trying to "make it big" in the Big Apple. For a while I was doing well! Enjoying runs outdoors and fervently trying to beat my personal best for pushups and planks in my bedroom. Once the colder months hit, my restaurant job took over, and so did the weight gain. It was inevitable, and almost necessary as my once willowy frame really did need some extra insulation.
I landed my first contracted performing gig at a theme park; six shows a day, three to six days a week depending on the season. Being back in a higher level of activity meant my stamina built back up and I felt some energy returning to my body that NYC had seemingly depleted me of! The momentum of my theme park job pushed me onto cruise ships, where maintaining physical appearance as well as strength were equally paramount.
I encountered my first injury at 24; a sesamoid fracture in my right big toe. Who knew something so small could be so painful? I chose to do what I could to keep my strength up, so that the minute I was cleared to return to dance I would be strong enough for that moment. Four weeks later I was back, with some residual pain, but still able to hold my own and perform. Strength training would further come in handy when, on the following ship contract I was assigned, I was assigned to the "specialty dancer" category. Holding my own weight was one thing, but climbing silks and flying around holding onto a partner in the air proved another test of my own willpower and credibility. Another facet of the importance of being stronger than your show was right before my eyes, and in my hands, many many nights on stage!
Needless to say, there have been countless times in my performing career where I have thanked myself for knowing I need to pull my own weight and training as such. This inspired me to pursue my personal training certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) in 2018. Initially, I wanted to use my certification to create programming for other performers so that they could go into their next contract being stronger than they were expected to be. This quickly spread to sharing the knowledge of correct form and proper training techniques with the rest of the working world as well! Throughout all of my travels, on ships and in planes and throughout many countries and timezones, maintaining strength and stability has always been feasible. That is the current mission I share with my clients.
So, how did I come to link nutrition into this mix? Healing my gut after my first ship contract. A lot of trial and error over the years has enlightened me to the fact that you truly are what you eat; you can't outrun or out-train poor diet choices! Of course, I also don't believe that supplements are the cure all to a perfectly operating body either. You have to work, and eat, smart. For myself, I focus on a diet that is unprocessed, rich in vegetables and fruits, with a sprinkling of healthy fats and glasses of wine mixed in. This belief system doesn't break the budget, and it doesn't break your morale either. By April 2020, I attained my certificate in performance nutrition through Optimum Nutrition. All going well, I will be a certified Nutrition Coach through the Irish Institute of Nutrition and Health by May 2020.
The coordination of strength, stability, clean fuel, and mindful appreciation for what makes my body sing (or dance, for that matter!) is what led me to where I am today. I enjoy helping people understand that you truly don't need to view life's ins and outs as an excuse for sacrificing your health and well being. You need to be stronger than your show; you need to prioritize yourself so that you are ready for whatever life brings you on a daily basis.