After getting so much positive response from my #BQfitTips that I post Monday-Friday mornings on my Twitter (@SydniDeveraux) and Facebook, I’ve been asked to do a more comprehensive bit on what I’ve been up to for the last year to get into the shape I have.
I think it’s important to mention that I’ve been on a journey to really get my body to work for me for the last couple of years. I have to tell you, I feel better than I ever have, I’ve lost some weight (that was one part of my goal), and I’ve got stronger – way stronger than I ever imagined that I could. Much has been done to get to this point, but I’m here to discuss half of what has worked for me. It’s the same thing that has been scaring the shit out of some women for years, and that is WEIGHT LIFTING.
Before some of you go and say that you don’t want to get big and bulky like a man, I encourage you to do some research to learn that women and men develop muscles differently, and unless you’re doing some crazy hormone therapy, taking steroids and the like, you are really only going to TONE UP. Not bulk up. Also, did you know that your body stays in an elevated calorie-burning mode for LONGER when you weight lift? Your muscles being strong also help you stand up straight and support you when you do those high kicks or floor work, so let’s WERK it!
“Before some of you go and say that you don’t want to get big and bulky like a man … unless you’re doing some crazy hormone therapy, taking steroids and the like, you are really only going to TONE UP. Not bulk up.”
So let’s say I’ve convinced you (in this very short period of time, I know) to start pumping iron. I’d say, wonderful! I wish you all of the benefits that I’ve had from getting into the gym that have spilled over into my burlesque career:
1. More confidence (because I feel strong and I am strong.)
2. Better balance (My heels have never been so high!)
3. I articulate movements better.
4. I feel more graceful.
5. I challenge myself more to learn and perfect skills.
6. I am more aware of my body and what it needs now more than ever.
7. My booty has improved. I’m really into this particular development!
There are tons of programs out there that you can buy, and I did my research and bought one online that I felt would be challenging to me. If you’re interested in knowing what I got, send me a message and I can discuss it with you. It’s not for the faint of heart and doesn’t give you results unless you’re consistent (as it is with any program, food wise or working out). Otherwise, go to the gym and hire a trainer, or start reading fitness magazines and tear out their workout cards/exercise charts. There’s a ton of free resources online, so do your research! Be a scientist with your body! It works if you work it!
The most important thing that you can do is get moving! This isn’t about weight loss (though it certainly can be, if you’d like it to be) but it is about using your body, and making it strong for more use. After all, as dancers and entertainers, our bodies are our instruments that we are communicating with. People are looking at us constantly, and I’m here to tell you that you have a lot of control of what they see. I know that I can tell when a performer (regardless of size) works with their body outside of their rare rehearsals, and I appreciate them for it. I choose to lift and get healthier so that my instrument is more fun to play with.
Both of my parents were exercise instructors and natural body builders in the eighties. I think from watching them teach classes and people through my young years, and being in gyms since I was born (seriously – my mom taught pregnant and then I went to their classes in a stroller; I can sleep through a bombing now), I’ve learned a few things that I would love to share with you about the gym and weight lifting:
1. Weight lifting. Let’s say, for example, a dumb-bell curl is a series of movements (just like a dance step). Focus on each particular part of the movement and then try to smooth it out into one continuous movement (i.e. face the mirror, set your feet, weights at sides, get a good grip, and steadily curl up, curl down in the same amount of time it took to curl up. Repeat.)
2. Not enough people look at form in the mirror, so if you think that by watching those dudes lift you’ll get an idea of what’s up, in most cases you will be wrong. In my opinion, you should be constantly looking at your form in the mirror, and for balance exercises, picking a spot on yourself to focus on will help you. Also, as I learned from a very wise mentor, you need to be looking at yourself, otherwise, how do you know what you’re doing?
3. Not all trainers are created equal. If you do get one so that you can learn proper form, look at their body, and REALLY look at it. How’s their posture? How is the balance of their muscular development? Do they look confident (not cocky)? When they’re with other clients, how hands-on are they? Are they quick to correct bad form?
4. Videos online that talk through a particular exercise while someone is doing it are ideal. Watch them at home and mimic until you don’t feel clumsy. Note certain exercises that might be challenging to hips, backs and knees. You might have to avoid certain exercises which is alright; there’s almost always an alternative.
5. Know what good posture is and know how to support with your core. Learn how to BREATHE, how to support without over extending, and learn how to TAKE YOUR TIME. I feel that people get self-conscious in the gym and rush through exercises, which in turn depletes the value of the exercise and sets them up for injury.
“…as dancers and entertainers, our bodies are our instruments that we are communicating with. People are looking at us constantly, and I’m here to tell you that you have a lot of control of what they see.”
6. Be present and watch how other people use the machines. Read the cards that are posted on them and learn the muscles worked, and read how the machine is supposed to be used. Start light – you can always add more weight. When watching others, you’ll note that over time you’ll be able to spot when someone isn’t being efficient in their movement or has bad form, but most importantly, you’ll see many people on one machine using it in more or less the same way. (Another note here: free weights to me are WAY more awesome.)
7. If you see someone with perfect form doing an exercise that you want to learn, ask them. Of course, wait until they’re done with their set first.
8. BE CONSISTENT. It’s general consensus that training three times a week will get you results. I have to say that it takes weeks for a noticeable physical change to take effect. Don’t whine – picture your success and work for it. Set a schedule, work out with a friend if need be. It’s easier than you think if you change the way you think about it.
9. LIFT HEAVY. Don’t be afraid to challenge your muscles! Never lift in pain, but if it feels easy, you’re not getting the full benefit. I promise you, they won’t Hulk out on you.
10. You should be sweating. If you’re not, you’re likely not challenging yourself. Remember to stay hydrated!
11. If you’re not the type that has ever seen the inside of a gym, or played organised sports or taken a class, don’t be scared to start now. I would be remiss to miss out on consulting with a doctor if your health hasn’t been up to par, so do it! Take care of yourselves!
12. Give your body time to rest. After each workout, I stretch a bit and then lay down to meditate for twenty to thirty minutes. I clear my mind, focus on my breathing and let my body integrate what I’ve just done. It’s a great time to relax, and if you workout in the morning like I do, it gives me the chance to reboot before I get on with the rest of my day.
13. Get enough sleep! If I haven’t slept well, or if I’ve slept less than five of my normal seven to eight hours, I don’t go to the gym unless I don’t feel the effects of being deprived. If my body is exhausted (regardless of hours of sleep), I let it rest. At the beginning of my training, I rested a lot more than I do now.
14. Stay Positive. If you stay negative, you are setting yourself up to fail. Feel good about your goals and know that you deserve to succeed in your endeavours. If you find yourself being critical of others no matter their path or physicality, you’ll find that it’s hard for you to find success in yours. I’ve absolutely learned this. Working out and thinking positive can absolutely change your life and how you relate to the world.
15. FITNESS IS A WAY OF LIFE: My biggest lesson to you would be to know this. You can work hard and play hard, but if you kind of work out only a couple days a week, eat crap and experience a lot of hangovers during your week/weekend, something about this equation will have to change in order for you to make any noticeable changes in how you feel, how strong you are or how you look.
So what do you want me to write about next in BQ Fit Tips? Send me an email at GlitterWonderland (at) gmail (dot) com, and see your question answered right here.