Something I’ve learned in the last year is that we all have a different relationship with our bodies, food and working out.
For me, dance was always my primary way of moving my body. I’ve never been a runner, and have never been super motivated by any workout program. But I started to notice that I was getting injured a lot, and I couldn’t figure out why. I soon learned that I didn’t have the strength to match my flexibility and knew I had to do something about it.
It was only when it was recommended to me to start taking some Pilates classes that I really learned the different ways that I can take care of my body.
I had always thought that being healthy meant being really strict about what I was eating and always working out, and that “cheat days” were when I could eat pizza, ice cream and whatever the heck I wanted. There was never an in between for me, and I was often on a cycle of extremes, either eating the healthiest foods, or eating whatever cravings I had that day.
At the very beginning of the pandemic I met the most fantastic Pilates teacher named Margot McKinnon (owner of Body Harmonics, a renowned Pilates studio here in Toronto). The more I learned and became aware of how my body was feeling and what it was doing, the more I got interested in balancing my body, between strength and flexibility. It was Pilates that made me slow down and start to really focus on how my body was feeling, rather than how I looked.
I began doing workout classes with Lindsey Harrod thanks to my cousin Adina’s recommendation. Lindsey is based out of California. To be honest with you, I had never lifted a weight in my life. At first, I was actually quite overwhelmed watching Lindsey and the rest of the Zoom group lift anywhere from 20 to 30 pounds, while I was lifting only 3 or 4 pounds.
After four months of doing this program, I am now lifting 15 to 20 pound weights. And that is just a number, but I feel stronger than I have ever felt before. It is no longer, “today I’m going to eat well or today I’m going to restrict myself”, it’s about doing what’s good for my body, and making my body feel good. At the end of the day, you only have one body and so you need to nourish it and respect it in order for it to do what you want it to do. And as someone who performs for a living (singing, acting and dancing), I ask a lot from my body, so the least I can do is take care of it.
One thing you must know is that I have never been a workout person. Ever. Even now, I always have to push myself to do it. There are some days when it’s easier than others to get myself to do a workout, but it’s those days when you don’t feel like it, and you’d rather watch a Netflix show and stay in your PJ’s all day, that a special moment happens. There’s always a moment in my workout where I actually smile. I know it sounds kind of funny, but I get to a moment during each workout where I’m actually so proud of myself that I’m pushing myself and working so hard, that I actually smile because I feel so happy. And it’s all worth it, because I feel good, and in turn I look good. I’ve got a good sweat going, a good smile and I’m ready to take on the day ahead.
And this is a feeling you can have too, if you follow these key tips that I’ve learned along the way:
Don’t do it all at once. I think something that we all struggle with, myself included, is trying to run to the finish line. Start with getting yourself involved in any exercise or activity that suits you. Even if you don’t like it, whether it’s a workout program, a new walking route, or a new instructor, at least you are trying something new!
Try Pilates, yoga and/or meditation, because if you can start being in tune with your body and really paying attention to how your body feels, it’s going to change the game for you. Also, these workouts tend to be slower, and mean that you can’t just rush through the movements. That’s when the learning and growing really happens!
Walk every day. Walking is so important. My mom and I start every single day off with a walk, and that is a great way for me to get myself moving, spend time with my mom, and have a good coffee too! And who doesn’t like a good coffee?
Get a watch that counts your steps. A Fitbit, Apple watch, Google watch - whatever works for you! It is a great motivator, and allows you to feel accomplished after a good walk or workout!
I’m also going to recommend walking with a goal or destination in mind. When my mom and I first started walking together, we would just walk aimlessly around the block, and it was very hard to stay motivated. We would go for maybe 15/20 minutes and it didn’t feel as fulfilling. But when we started walking to destinations like a coffee shop, or to a friend’s house, or to get some lunch together, we started to really enjoy the walk because we had some direction.
In whatever workout program you choose, be a part of a community that is also doing the same thing as you, and can relate to you. That way, you are motivated, inspired and feel connected to the people around you. Look for programs where you can be part of a Zoom group, or get a gym membership, or find an in-person class where you can feel like you’re not the only person doing what you’re doing. And that goes for everything that you do— whenever you’re part of a community and engaging with people that have something in common with you, it gets you more motivated to do the work and do it well.
Remember to always be in tune with your body because you are the only person who knows what your body needs to feel good. I transfer this approach into everything I do, from my career, to teaching students, to the way I go about my daily life, because while you do need people that build you up and guide you along your journey, the only person that ultimately can motivate you, is you! The person who can get you on the track that you want to be on, where you’re going to feel at your best, is yourself!
So give yourself a big hug, and remember to take care of your body, and give it what it needs to feel good, so you can accomplish everything you’d like to do today and everyday!