How I Stay In Shape These Days

Image shot by Tim Sevard in October of this year.

Since many people have been asking me about how I have been keeping in shape these days, I decided to devote a blog post to the subject. Though I am retired from competing, and am no longer bodybuilding stage-ready, I model frequently, and I also hold myself to very high standards when it comes to body conditioning. The most important factor in staying lean year round is FOOD, so I make sure to eat clean about 95% of the time. I consume about 100 to 120 grams of protein daily, all from whole foods rather than protein powders, and I drink plenty of water throughout the day. I limit my consumption of sugar and avoid processed foods.

Supplements are also an important part of my daily life. Most of the supplements I take have been in my daily regimen for many years, and I rarely miss a day’s dose. They are what I rely on to keep my body healthy at the cellular level. My goal is to maintain my health without ingesting prescription medications. In fact, the only prescription substance in my regimen is bioidentical progesterone cream.

I continue to challenge my body with frequent exercise, and still rely mostly on weight training for the bulk of my exercise. However, I incorporated aerial classes into my regular routine a couple of years ago for an extra challenge. At one point, I had been taking aerial classes 3 to 4 days per week, but my body was screaming out in agony. After a visit with my orthopedist, we discovered that I had arthritis in both elbows and my neck, and numerous issues in my shoulders, so I decided to back off from the intense aerial schedule I was following. These days, I only take a lyra class once every couple of weeks.

I have also been attending kundalini yoga classes on average of one day per week, and I love the unique physical, mental, and spiritual challenges which they present. Though kundalini yoga is a highly meditative form of yoga, the movements (called kriyas) are INTENSE, and I must often take breaks during these movements. I highly recommend this form of yoga for anyone who wants an intensely spiritual experience.

As for weight training, I train an average of six days per week when I am in town. I have adjusted my weight training to support aerial arts movements like straddle mounts, single knee hangs, pullovers and splits, and work my posterior chain (back, glutes, hams) more vigorously than my anterior chain. I usually follow a split consisting of three leg days and three upper body days which are further split (eg, back/arms, delts, chest/abs). I have also been changing the exercises, rep ranges, and lifting styles on a weekly basis to keep myself challenged. It’s definitely worked, because I am getting delayed onset muscle soreness from almost every workout.

Weightlifting And Aerial Arts: A Winning Combo

I am approaching the two year mark for my foray into aerial arts, and not only have I stuck with it, I have stepped up my game by taking classes several times weekly. After taking classes at a local aerial studio ( two to three days per week, I recently increased my frequency to four to five days weekly by adding other studios into the mix. Thanks to Classpass, I now have the opportunity to visit facilities all over the Los Angeles area and take classes with other instructors.

I have learned that my body prefers the rigidity of hardware, like lyra and aerial cube, over software like silks and hammocks, so I now confine my aerial activities to lyra, pole flight (a combination of silks and pole), and aerial cube. I am by no means an expert in any of my aerial activities, and I wish I had the incredible flexibility which I see in other aerialists. Yet I think I do decently well, and my upper body strength serves me well whenever I am up in the air.

I honestly think it’s a good idea to experience other studios and other instructors as a means to infuse variety into the regimen. Though I at times think I must be nuts to inflict such challenges on my poor joints and tendons, the overall physical and mental benefits of aerial movements make it all worthwhile. The conditioning aspects of aerial arts have enhanced the v-taper in my back, and have developed my delts nicely. My abdominal muscles are far stronger than they were before I began taking aerial classes, and I am also enjoying enhanced flexibility, balance and coordination from my airborne pursuits.

Weight training is still, and always will be, a staple for me. I faithfully hit the weights five to six days per week, and cannot imagine ever wavering from that schedule. At this point, I truly feel that weightlifting and aerial pursuits complement each other. Bodybuilding imparts strength, aids in preservation of muscle mass, guards against bone loss, and allows me to go into beast mode, while aerial arts provide an outlet for creative expression, challenge my body to become more elongated and flexible, and increase core strength.

If you are in a rut with weight training, why not consider adding aerial arts to your regimen? They are challenging, inspiring, and fun!

Why I Love Lyra (Aerial Hoop)

Crucifix on the of my favorite moves

Crucifix on the lyra…one of my favorite moves

I fell in love with the lyra, also known as the aerial hoop, from the moment I first mounted one. I remember not being quite sure if I would enjoy lyra, since I had spent several months experimenting with different aerial disciplines, and was still finding my way among them. Here is a summary of the different aerial arts which I had tried, and my impressions of each one.

Pole – I took two pole classes several years ago, and though I was sore in places I didn’t think I would ever be sore in (mostly groin and lower back), I really didn’t enjoy the movements. In addition, the connotation of pole dancing is indelible in my brain, and I just couldn’t get past the feeling that I was a dirty girl for even taking a couple of classes. Both instructors I got were incredibly self-absorbed, and I found them irritating to no end. I also found it humorous that the students were encouraged to explore their sexual energy in the class, because at no point did I feel sexy. If anything, I felt completely foolish and awkward, and basically counted the minutes until class would be over. Yes, it was that bad for me.

Flying Trapeze – Last summer I signed up for a Groupon deal for a flying trapeze class at TSNY-LA on the Santa Monica Boardwalk, and moments after I did so, I had a split second of panic. I remember thinking, oh crap, what have I gotten myself into? Then I took that class in August 2015, and found the experience exhilarating. Once I was on the trapeze, I truly enjoyed swinging and challenging my body to move in new ways. It was the compromise I was looking for, since I had been unable to find adult gymnastics classes to accommodate my desire to return to the gymnastics moves I had learned as a child. I signed up for two more classes at Richie Gaona’s school because I wanted to gain more experience on the trapeze. Unfortunately, my nerves always got rattled whenever I was up on the board, on deck to fly, because that board was so narrow and so high off the ground. I just couldn’t get over being 20 feet up on the air, leaning far forward into the trapeze, while trusting someone to hold me and keep me from slipping off the board. It began to overshadow the joy of flying, so I gave it up.

Silks – I took one class at Aerial Physique, a nice facility in Brentwood which focuses on silks for its aerial offerings. The instructor was a sweetheart, and the class was fun, but my poor ankles did not enjoy the sensation of being wrapped in fabric as my body weight sank upon them for the foot locks I performed. My elbows and hands screamed in agony over the torsion which occurred when I set up for a trick which required me to grip the massive swaths of fabric. Though I enjoyed the beauty of the apparatus, I didn’t like what the fabric was doing to my poor joints, and I also couldn’t remember the complicated trick sequence the instructor wanted the other student and me to learn. This was the first experience I had with instructors who just assumed that you would pick up all the specific vocabulary for all the tricks you were learning, and it irked me. Why on earth would I know these terms if it was my first time taking silks? Grrrrr.

Static Trapeze – I took a class in static trapeze after falling in love with the lyra, so I expected that I would enjoy the experience. What I discovered was that for as much as I loved being on the lyra, I absolutely hated the static trapeze. The ropes were extremely rough and painful to negotiate during some of the tricks we learned, yet they were flexible enough to make me feel quite unstable while up in the apparatus. I did not enjoy the experience of twisting the rope around my thighs and risking significant rope burn and bruising, and my grip strength was definitely challenged by the gauge of the ropes. I didn’t click with the instructor at all either, so I scratched this apparatus off my list very quickly.

Aerial Cube – Now THIS is a fun apparatus, and I definitely intend to take more classes using this. Imagine an open cube, consisting of bars around which you can wrap your body and hang from. It was like being on the monkey bars at the park, and incredibly fun. The only caveat is that since there is a lot of metal, you are basically in a suspended cage, and if you don’t time certain moves properly, body parts like shins can collide with those bars and leave nasty reminders of your time on the cube.

Aerial Cube:

Lyra – Love at first knee hang. Truly. There is something about the simplicity and symbolism of the perfect circle which has a strong appeal for me. The lyra also seems to be incredibly accommodating to many different body types and sizes, because I have seen people of all shapes and heights manage to wrap their bodies around this sturdy apparatus with more ease than some of the other aerial equipment. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that performing on a lyra is easy! In order to properly mount a lyra (or any other aerial apparatus, for that matter), you must have strong abdominal muscles and decent upper body strength. It took me three classes before I was able to properly do a straddle mount without cheating!

straddle mount

I took my first lyra class at the beginning of May at Aeriform Arts in Hollywood, and am still taking classes, though I have switched for the time being to a facility near my home. I have in fact lost count of how many classes I have taken so far, but it’s been more than a dozen now. Once or twice a week, you will find me swinging from a suspended hoop, enjoying the challenge and not minding the calluses which have taken up permanent residence on the palms of my hands. My back is wider and has more detail as a result of lyra, and my shoulders are also more developed. I don’t mind the fact that my elbows scream from the tendinitis which flares up more often now, nor do I mind the deep ache from my lats which asserts itself if I resume lyra practice full force after a few days of rest. It’s also incredibly empowering to find a new form of creative expression at the half century mark of my life, one which most people my age would be terrified of. I have learned many new tricks, including the Russian splits and Yoga Cat pictured below (no, that isn’t me, but I have performed these moves successfully a number of times).

Russian Splits:

russian splits on lyra

Yoga Cat On Top Strop:

Yoga cat top strop

There is a good reason why the time spent on aerial equipment is referred to as flying, because I really do feel like I am flying when I am in class, free as a bird. I intend to continue this love affair for quite a while!

Keeping Pace With A Crazy Schedule

George Kontaxis shoot

The last few weeks have been NUTS. I am talking about day after day of so many shifts in my schedule and demands on my time, that I am torn in many different directions, and cannot focus on a darned thing. When this kind of chaos ensues, I begin to lose items, certain basic vocabulary terms escape me, and I feel like I am rushing by everything and everyone, like a bullet train zooming through a bustling cityscape.

For the life of me, I can’t find a gray tank top which I had recently purchased and put…somewhere. I honestly can’t remember where. This isn’t like me, because I am VERY organized, to the point of having all of my clothing organized by color, sleeve length, etc. So why can’t I find that gray top?

I literally run around in my bedroom, grabbing for clothes, rushing, trying to keep up with the stressful demands of being in so many places all the time. It’s starting to get old. Forget about having time to read a book, or watch a TV show, because by the time the dust settles from the crazy days I have been flying through, the notion of blissful sleep is so seductive that I don’t want to do anything else.

What keeps me from unraveling is the consistency I demand with my eating habits and my workouts. I am not joking about this. Despite the insane schedule I have been juggling lately, I still weight train six mornings each week. I attend lyra class one to two evenings during the week. My meals consist of clean foods like chicken breast, salmon, tilapia, green beans, asparagus, brown rice, quinoa, avocado, almonds, oats, and Greek yogurt. I have been drinking plenty of alkaline water. I have also been consistent about consuming MitoXcell every morning (I LOVE this supplement and intend to post more about it when I get a chance to breathe!), and I also take my regular supplements (like turmeric, CoQ10, folic acid, etc.) daily. My energy levels have been decent, and my mood has been generally great, with only a couple of stark exceptions.

There are two days next week which I have designated as clean up and organization days, and I desperately need them. During those days, I will perform the deep cleaning throughout most of the house which the housekeeper always neglects, I will reorganize cabinets and drawers, clean up the garage and patio, and find that gray top!