The Busy Lives of Ballerinas: 3 Pros Share Their Daily Eating and Exercise Routines by Katy Lindenmuth
Curious how ballerinas maintain their famously svelte figures? We asked three to share their grueling daily dance routines, as well as what they eat to keep their energy up (without bulking up) throughout each long day. These athletes work hard and eat super healthy (no surprise there). See what a day in the life of a pro ballerina is like...
Keenan McLaren 28,
company dancer with Nashville Ballet
I always start the day with a large glass of water and my vitamins (including fish oil, turmeric, and vitamin D). Breakfast is a bowl of Greek yogurt sweetened with honey and topped with organic berries and homemade granola. I also love starting the day with a warm beverage—usually an almond milk matcha tea latte or a cappuccino.
I arrive at the studio about an hour before company class begins to roll out my back and legs, stretch, do some light Pilates, and Theraband my feet. Just spending some quiet time in the morning helps prepare me optimally for a good day of rehearsal.
9:15 to 10:45 A.M.
Our hour-and-a-half company class warms our bodies up for the day, but it also gives me a chance to technically keep improving outside of choreography.
After class, I always eat a kiwi (for potassium and vitamin C), and if I have a long morning ahead of me, I'll also nosh on some trail mix or a Kind bar. Company class is followed by three hours of rehearsal to prepare for the upcoming show.
Lunch! Typically, it's a prepared-ahead quinoa, veggie, and tofu stir-fry or a mozzarella and tomato salad dressed with this killer Super Greens and pistachio pesto recipe. I've been a vegetarian for about five years and eat super clean—no processed sugars or flours.
Three more hours of rehearsal—this is why I keep lunch so light.
My dancing day is done, and I am always in need of a snack. During the week, I am often either teaching yoga or going to school at night, so I'll pack raw nuts to munch on or—if I'm organized enough—a delicious raw vegan power snack of some sort. On a night that I am free, I love to swim laps and hit the steam room afterward. Swimming is a great cardiovascular exercise that is easy on the joints and very meditative for me.
Dinner during the week is usually simple: a salad loaded with veggies and two fried eggs over easy, accompanied by either hearty whole-grain bread and cheese or Nut Thins and hummus. Then I'll unwind by watching TV, rolling out on my foam roller, and stretching so I don't tighten up while I sleep.
I know people always tell you not to eat late, but if I don't eat before bed I will wake up at 2 A.M. hungry! It's all about making the right choice. So every night before I go to bed I mix up kefir (which is like liquid yogurt and really good for your belly) with cinnamon and stevia. It's delicious and helps me fall right to sleep. !
Lauren Fadeley 29,
principal dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet
I wake up and have water and coffee, but I actually don't eat breakfast! Because I'm being active so early, I can't have anything in my stomach. (On performance days, I will have some nuts or a Larabar.)
I'll head in and do a slow warm-up before class. I always do sit-ups and pushups, plus stretches to warm up my hips and my calves.
9:30 to 11 A.M.
Class! We don't get our schedule until two days beforehand and it changes daily, so it's hard to have a regimented routine. It's exciting in a way because your day is never the same!
I usually have a bag full of veggies—carrots and peppers and cucumbers—on hand to snack on before the next block of class or rehearsal, which lasts a few hours.
Lunchtime! I follow a modified paleo diet—when we're in season, I find it's the best thing for my body, strength, and stamina. The gluten- and dairy-free aspects are the most beneficial for me, although I do have cheese on occasion.
3 to 6 P.M.
More rehearsals. During the week, I usually don't get in as much crosstraining as I'd like. My favorite Vinyasa yoga class is in the middle of the day; if my schedule permits, I try to go. And on weekends, I'll play catch-up with FlyWheel classes for cardio and a special strength-training program called MaxOut.
Once I'm home, it's time for dinner. My husband is a cook (and fellow dancer at the company), so he usually does his thing during the week. We always have some kind of protein and a vegetable—last night, we had a big salad with salmon on it and plantain chips. I love doing modified versions of non-paleo foods, like spaghetti squash. I've even made paleo calzones!
I ice my ankles every night, no matter what, and sometimes I'll walk around in YogaToes. I also just try to relax.
Lesley Rausch 32,
principal dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet
In the morning, I'll have a glass of water with the juice of half a lemon to take with supplements, plus a cup of green tea. (Sometimes I'll have an almondmilk latte in my new espresso machine.) And I make a smoothie with greens, strawberries, blueberries, a half banana, a scoop of protein powder, 1 teaspoon of macha powder, 1 cup of almond milk, 1 teaspoon of chia seeds, and 2 tablespoons of hemp hearts. I drink half in morning and half after class.
I'll do an hour of PT exercises to warm up for class—mostly with a strengthtraining, alignment, and biomechanics focus.
10:15 a.m. to 11:45 A.M.
Company class…and I get to finish my smoothie!
Noon to 3 P.M.
Rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal. And usually a snack—parts of a Kind bar (like the dark-chocolate cinnamon pecan) or trail mix. I always carry food with me.
Lunch is almost always a lean protein, like tuna or chicken, string cheese, and something like vegetables left over from dinner. We have to keep it light because we usually go right back to rehearsal.
4 to 7 P.M.
If we're not rehearsing, I'll do Pilates at PNBConditioning or take a yoga class at Haute Yoga Queen Anne.
Dinner is a sizable serving of fish, chicken, beef, or pork plus a similar-size serving of a green vegetable and a sweet potato or quinoa. Or I'll have a big salad with some sort of protein on it.
For a sweet treat before bed, I'll whip up a smoothie in my NutriBullet: a frozen banana, cacao, peanut butter, almond milk, cinnamon and a half scoop of protein powder.