All Articles Tagged "fitness"

Natalie Nunn On Gaining 42 Pounds After Her Miscarriage And Losing It All With Her 90-Day Challenge

May 27th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
Share to Twitter Email This

Splash News/Instagram

Splash News/Instagram

“I’m always in the gym.”

That’s what TV personality Natalie Nunn said about her healthy obsession with toning up, building muscle and maintaining her weight loss of 42 pounds. But she also goes hard wherever she can. Whether she’s doing jump squats on stairs at the beach in Jamaica, teaming up with her husband, Jacob Payne, for a couple’s workout, or using her nephew as weight during sit-ups, as Nunn put it during our chat, “It’s all about the fit life right now.”

The 31-year-old, who was an athlete for years playing soccer at the University of Southern California, packed on the pounds after going through a major loss. In November 2014, she announced that she was expecting her first child, and by February of the next year, revealed that she had miscarried.

“When I had the miscarriage, I was at a place where I was very depressed,” Nunn said. “I was very sad. I didn’t really want to do anything, I just stayed in the house. I was just eating and staying home and I just kind of got depressed and lazy. Then I noticed I was about 42 pounds over my normal weight. I was like 187 pounds. I ended up going to Miami but paparazzi got pictures of me on the beach and it went everywhere. I was just really, really heavy. ”

Those pictures of Nunn on the beach, paparazzi zooming in on her backside, were a wake-up call for her. She decided to get back into the gym. But after feeling like she didn’t know how to spend her time wisely while in her facility, she enlisted her husband, a former football player, to put together a plan for her.

“I started going in the gym and found myself just fooling around in there, Nunn said. “I was all over the place and then not focusing on certain areas. So Jacob made this calendar for me. And for a whole year I was literally doing these workouts. But after the first 90 days, I lost 42 pounds. And people were seeing me do this transformation because I was on Snapchat and Instagram, and people were like, ‘What are you doing?’ and ‘What workouts are you doing?'”

After realizing that she didn’t have the time to respond to each and every inquiry, Nunn and Payne eventually came to the conclusion that they needed to make what initially started out as a simple fitness plan for her into “something big.” That’s where the No Payne No Gain 90-Day Challenge came from.

“We made it available for everybody this year,” Nunn said. “If you give yourself the three months and do the whole 90 days, you will drop the weight like I did. We made the manual, we made the training, went into detail on exactly what I ate. What calories I stayed within every day. Exactly which workouts I did. We made it for everyone and I kid you not, half of my day every day is this, getting everybody’s posters in the mail and out to them. We’ve probably had 5,000 people do this program with us.”

It’s a 12-week meal and workout strategy available for $19.99. And based on the images of participants before and after, it works pretty well. Many of the people can be seen on Nunn’s Instagram page, proud of the hard work they’ve done and the results they’re finally seeing, results they say are changing their life for the better. Nunn can absolutely relate to the positive changes that occur internally and externally from living a healthier lifestyle.

“I have so much more energy, which has resulted in getting more work done,” Nunn said. “I make more money. All because I’m up and at it every day with full energy, a glow, no negativity. It’s crazy. Fitness and health is no joke. It affects everything you’re trying to do.”

So what are some the moves and machines Nunn swears by to get in and stay in shape? Well, aside from tricking her body by switching her workout times from the mornings to the evenings and back (“I started feeling like it was a routine”), Nunn shared these tips:

Fall In Love With The Stairmaster

“I think the Stairmaster is key for everyone’s life,” Nunn said. “I will tell people to literally get on the Stairmaster for five minutes and then do that for a week. Week two, get on a Stairmaster for 10 minutes. Play with it. One day do five minutes. Take Tuesday off, Wednesday do 10 minutes. Take Thursday off and then on Friday do 15 minutes and be done with that for the week. The Stairmaster works your legs, your butt, your waistline, and through cardio, you’re losing weight all around.”

Don’t Get Too Attached To The Treadmill And The Treadmill Only

“I’m not a fan of the treadmill,” she said. “I will do the treadmill but I feel like it’s just to shred weight and you end up losing your butt. But if you get on the Stairmaster and you’re lifting your knees and lifting your legs, that’s lifting everything up. You’re toning that area and at the same time, your arms are getting a workout.”

Mix It Up

“Squats, and then duck walks,” Nunn recommends. They’re how she keeps her backside perky (aside from the Stairmaster), but they also work her core. She finds a way to get her lower body work in no matter where she is. “Sometimes when I’m in hotels I’ll do squat jumps and then leg lifts for abs.”

Know That You Don’t Have To Feel Obligated To Work Out In The Gym

“You don’t have to go to the gym to workout,” Nunn said. “You don’t have to have a gym membership. Some people don’t want to go to the gym. You can do workouts at home. There are a lot of moms who follow me. I do a lot of workouts with my nephew, and I’ll literally do sit-ups with him as my weight on my legs. I know people don’t have a schedule that’s not flexible and don’t want to spend two hours in the gym. I know there are people who don’t want to work on this or that. My 90-day challenge goes into detail about all of that stuff. You can do these workouts anywhere.”


This Is What Gabby Douglas Does For More Than 30 Hours A Week To Stay Fit And Hone Her Craft

May 24th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
Share to Twitter Email This

far from oppression, with nothing to fear

A photo posted by Gabby Douglas (@gabbycvdouglas) on

What does it take to be a high-flying, Olympic gold-medal winning, history-making gymnast? For 20-year-old Gabby Douglas, it takes more than 30 hours in the gym each week perfecting her craft. You read that right: more than 30.

In an interview with SELF, Douglas, and her trainer, Christian Gallardo, shared her intense regimen to prepare her for competitions, which includes strength training and conditioning work in the morning, and hours spent working on her floor routines, as well as practicing for the balance beam and uneven bars. She takes a break from her training briefly to meet up with friends for lunch, but then it’s back to work in the gym at 2 p.m. No sleep ’til gold. Or better yet, until she’s taken over gymnastics world for the second Olympics in a row. 

“Gabby gets it. She understands,” Gallardo told the publication. “She gets in there, busts her butt and works out hard. But instead of saying ‘Ugh, that was so exhausting,’ she’ll say, ‘I’m so much better because of it.'”

And as SELF pointed out, it’s the joy of learning and cultivating new moves and skills that keep Douglas pushing hard in the gym, on the mat, on the bars, and on the beam on a daily basis. “Learning new skills and tricks fuels my passion.”

On top of learning what she does to stay in shape and to ace those flawless routines, we also were given the opportunity to see Douglas at work, flipping and posing, kicking and landing. We learned that while attempting to stick her moves, which we the viewers at home think she executes so easily, Douglas is a perfectionist in her head the entire time. Whether performing during practice or doing her thing in front of thousands of people during competitions and at the Olympic games, she’s focused on only one person during her routines–herself.

“It’s kind of like I’m talking inside my head. I’m my biggest critic. Everything has to be perfect for me, and I’m just so precise–even to the last fingertip…What I’m looking for is to just reach the maximum and reach 100 percent of my talent. What that is is just doing better than I did before. It has to come from your heart. You really have to love gymnastics. Love the tough and the hard days. Because when the easy days come, it’s just so effortless. Nothing in life is ever handed to you. You have to go out there and you have to get it.”

Check out Douglas in action below, and when the Olympic games commence on August 5 on NBC.


Paula Patton Trained More Than 3 Hours A Day, 6 Days A Week For Role In Warcraft

May 23rd, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
Share to Twitter Email This



You may know Paula Patton for her turn in quite a few romantic comedies, but she’s no stranger to some serious action. That’s exactly why the actress jumped at the chance to play Garona Halforcen in the upcoming Warcraft movie, an adaptation of the popular online role-playing game. Her character is a green half-Orc, half-Draenei and a “spy-mistress” and “assassin.” Talk about a badass.

Anywho, to prepare to play such a fierce woman, and to properly execute a lot of her own stunts, Patton went through some hard training. In a new featurette to promote the film, we see part of Patton’s training process, which includes some intense sparring.

I think that it’s so important to feel physically that you can do what your character is able to do,” Patton said. “Garona has lived in a world where she has had to be tough to survive. She’s a fierce, strong, warrior-like person. So the physical preparation was very daunting.”

Patton went through two and a half hours of physical training six days a week, and eventually added two hours of step training to learn swordplay, how to handle the knives and sticks her character uses, and more.

And though she did indeed say it was “daunting,” Patton loved the process. “It’s like any kid’s dream right? To be able to do things like this.”

She’s definitely a beast in the movie–figuratively and literally.

Check out the clip for yourself below, and be sure to check out Warcraft when it hits theaters June 10.


7 Tricks For Sticking With Your Fitness Plans

May 20th, 2016 - By Kweli Wright
Share to Twitter Email This


Are you looking for some new fitness motivation?

Try exercising your brain first — and think of ways you might trick yourself into being more active. It’s a fun way to bring new energy to your workouts and routine.*

Tricky business
Ready to move more — and enjoy it more too? These simple schemes may help:

1. Commit to 10 minutes. Do you have trouble getting started exercising? For some people that can be the biggest hurdle to staying active. If that’s true for you, tell yourself you’ll give each workout 10 minutes. Then don’t be surprised if once you’re on the move you decide to stick with it longer.

2. Be a slave to your schedule. Add specific workouts to your appointment calendar — and consider them unbreakable dates. If you tend to be indecisive about exercise, this trick can do wonders.

3. Rely on the buddy system. Find a workout pal who’s a good match for you. Someone counting on you may be all the motivation you need.

Prefer exercising alone? Enlist a partner in accountability. Agree to text or email each other when you complete a workout.

4. Create your own incentive plan. Assign points for certain workouts. For example, you might give yourself one point for each 30 minutes of walking or cycling — and award another point for each 15 minutes of strength-training. Some fitness apps and wearable devices will do this type of tracking for you.

Set a weekly target — then reward yourself with something good and healthy for hitting your goal. A favorite magazine, a movie night, an hour of quiet me-time — whatever works for you.

Up the appeal of your plan by having long-term goals too. For instance, once you hit 100 points, you might get a massage or take a day trip somewhere fun.

5. Go for the win. If you get fired up by a little healthy competition:

  • Join a sports team or league — or compete with your workout pals.
  • Sign up for a charity 5K. You might call it a win if you beat a certain time or simply finish.
  • Challenge yourself to beat your personal best — maybe that’s the number of steps you logged yesterday.
  • Imagine an opponent: Outrun a tiger or zombies in the park. Or win a cycling road race — on your stationary bike.

6. Be your biggest fan. Positive self-talk can be powerful. So retrain your brain to switch from lack of confidence — “I am a slacker” or “I am never going to be good at this” to “I’ve got this!”

7. Picture yourself getting it done. Visualize yourself doing each part of your workout. Seeing is believing — and it may actually create pathways in your brain that help you perform better.

While you’re at it, imagine how great it will feel to reach your fitness goals. Now that’s one nice trick!

LightbulbWhat to do next
Squeeze in more exercise. Here’s one idea: Try the Busy Mom’s Workout — even if you don’t have kids!

*Talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level. Most healthy adults should aim for at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week. Add muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days a week.

Courtesy of United Healthcare.

Ways To Be More Physically Active When You Think Your Schedule Won’t Allow It

May 20th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
Share to Twitter Email This



Earlier this week, we told you that researchers found a lack of physical activity could increase a woman’s risk of having to battle cervical cancer. And according to the CDC, 80 percent of adults don’t get the recommended minimum of 2.5 hours of “moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, or a combination of both.” So while an interest in being more physically fit seems to be growing, many of us still aren’t getting up and getting moving in the ways that could greatly improve our health. And I’m sure most of us use the excuse that we just don’t have the time to do so. But Danielle Johnson, M.P.T., Wellness Physical Therapist at the Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Living Program and a mother of two says we need to make time. In fact, she said it’s easier than we think to do so.

Get moving! It’s National Physical Fitness month, so there is no time like the present. Check out six of her tips for committing to a physical activity plan even when you feel crunched for time.

Make An Appointment With Yourself

Johnson says if we start treating physical activity like any of the other activities we deem important in our calendar and in our lives, we will actually go forth with committing to making time for it. I can say from experience that that’s true. You’ll actually even start feeling bad when you have to miss your date with the gym:

“Use a calendar or daily planner to select the days that work for you to be physically active. Write it down. Put your plan in your phone, or whatever you use to track your life so that you see it each day. You can schedule week by week or an entire month at a time. Set your exercise time up just like any other important appointment. Do not schedule anything over that time. Don’t break your appointment with yourself. Remember, you are important and so is your health.”

Be Realistic

Now, if you know your days are bogged down with appointments and other important plans, Johnson says that fitting physical activity in where you can still goes a long way. Take brief breaks in between work to get moving. Eat at your desk and then use your lunch break to go for a nice walk. Every step makes a difference:

“Know how much time you really can and are willing to devote to a program. Research shows that doing as little as 15 minutes of purposeful exercise per day can improve your health. Taking 15 minutes to fit in a brisk walk, or complete a body weight circuit of squats, lunges, and push-ups can make a big difference in your health and wellness. Every little bit counts. You can incorporate smaller bursts of exercise into your work day. Get up every 30-45 minutes and take a 5-minute walk or do a few squats or lunges while you talk on the phone or read an email. Go on a walking meeting to talk to a co-worker instead of sending an email. No activity is ever wasted.”

Start Incorporating Activity Into “Girls’ Night Out”

Have you ever noticed that when you kick it with friends, they always want to go out to eat? I get it. Who doesn’t love food? But Johnson says that being active together can keep you both accountable for working to reach your health and fitness goals. Plus, you can save some money and some calories:

“Take a walk with a friend instead of heading to dinner or drinks. Meet up for an exercise class instead of happy hour. Not only will you get some great time with friends, but at the same time, you will knock out an activity session and feel awesome about staying on track with your goals! Bringing your friends into your activity world can be beneficial in many ways. Talking about your goals and activity plans with friends can be helpful to keep you accountable and on track. Research shows that having a workout partner promotes compliance to a physical activity program.”

Incorporate Your Children

Have kids and limited time? Johnson says that playing with your children consistently will not only help you gain more quality time with them but help you to be more physically active:

“Play a game like hide-and-seek or tag with your children. Ask them to do your exercise program with you, take a family walk or run. You will feel good about being active and you will get the extra benefit of spending quality time with your kids.”

Use Household Chores As Exercise

A day spent cleaning up your home is exhausting, right? Well, it’s also a chance for you to get moving. Johnson says you can make this time not only about tidying up, but also about toning up your body, moving your feet, and stretching your muscles:

“Cooking, laundry, or vacuuming can all be wonderful tasks where you can infuse exercise. Do squats, lunges, and toe raises while you cook or do dishes at the sink. Do a side lunge while you throw your laundry from the washer to the dryer. Lunge forward while you push your vacuum. Take an extra trip up and down your stairs a few times a day. Remember it all adds up and it all counts.”

Be Held Accountable By A Tracker

As someone who owns a fitness tracker, I can attest to the fact that they definitely encourage you to get moving. Like, all of the time. Johnson says that if you need that extra motivation, you can get it from your handy gadget:

“Using an activity tracker can be very motivating. You will quickly see that infusing exercise into your life really does make a difference!”

The Snacking Struggle: Are You Addicted To Having Something In Your Mouth?

May 19th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
Share to Twitter Email This



After I lost a considerable amount of weight last year, one of my colleagues whom I sing in the choir with asked for my advice on what she could and should do to drop a few pounds. After going for a checkup, she was told that she was prediabetic, meaning that her blood sugar was deemed quite high, but not high enough to necessarily make her a diabetic. Being prediabetic doesn’t mean that you will automatically find yourself with the condition sooner or later. With the right changes in your level of activity, some medication, and, of course, a major change in diet, you can avoid a diabetic diagnosis and improve your health altogether.

So, as she asked for tips on how to change up her diet, she told me that a certain addiction was causing her to feel like she needed to keep eating, all the time, which was holding her back.

“I’m like addicted to having something in my mouth all of the time,” she said. “Whether it’s gum or actual food, when there’s nothing in my mouth I always find myself preoccupied with filling it.”

When she told me that, at the time, I thought it just meant she was greedy. But after having to force myself not to reach for a snack just because the other day, I realized that this so-called addiction is more common than I thought.

I was literally sitting at my desk, typing away, when I felt an urge to snack on something. I knew that I was going to grab lunch within an hour or so, and had gone pretty HAM on a combination of peanuts and raisins just about 30 minutes before, so I was full. Stuffed actually. Still, I just needed to have something. Thankfully, one of my co-workers had some gum. But it was the kind that is more for teeth whitening than actual breath freshening or taste. So after about 15 minutes, nibbling on the gum was basically like chewing on silly putty. Minutes after spitting it out, that feeling arose within me again, and I was preparing to reach for some popcorn. It took everything in me to sit down somewhere. I literally let out a long grunt because I was so frustrated with my cravings.

My goodness, I thought. I am not hungry. Why can’t I stop snacking?!

“I’ve realized that two parts of the brain are largely to blame,” said Alex Korb, Ph.D., in a piece for Psychology Today, “the insula and the basal ganglia.”

Korb would go on to say that the insula is responsible for the process interoception, which makes you aware of your internal state, including what your stomach feels like.

“The problem is that it’s usually not a very specific signal, but more of a vague notion (e.g. ‘something seems to be a little off in my stomach area’). When we get a vague sensation about the stomach we often jump to the conclusion ‘Oh, I must be hungry’. But that’s not necessarily the case.”

As for the basal ganglia, it’s a combination of neurons in the brain that handle your habits.

“Snacking habits are ingrained in the basal ganglia through years of careful practice (those Pringles don’t eat themselves)” Korb said. “But your basal ganglia needs a trigger before it starts enacting a particular habit. In the case of snacking that trigger comes from the insula.”

We are out here convincing our own bodies that we’re hungry, even when that’s not the case. So that’s where that need to fill our mouths with something comes from. And while the idea of throwing a few things in your mouth here and there to appease your insula and basal ganglia seems harmless, those calories can add up pretty quickly.

What I’ve realized and what Korb pointed out in his piece is that you need to find a way to distract yourself from picking at and reaching for food for the sake of having something to chew on. Push yourself to eat for nourishment, not simply for enjoyment. Great alternatives to consistent snacking on the wrong things could include opting instead for water (infused water, with lemon or lime, is a must for me). If you feel that you really need to munch on something, sugarfree gum is low in calories and can satisfy a sugary craving. You might feel even more hungry after chewing, but if you can stall as you chew, when you finally spit your gum out, hopefully it will be time for lunch or dinner. And most importantly, when those cravings to snack are quite strong, avoid the foods that really get you in trouble. Once you see them, you’re likely to reach for them and feel disappointed later. The potato chips, the bowls of candy at the front desk, the entire cookie aisle, and the cupcakes you know they’re going to provide for your co-worker’s birthday should be avoided at all costs.

Incessant snacking definitely is somewhat of an addiction. At the base level, it’s a less than positive habit you’ve formed that makes you feel like you always need to eat, and can, in turn, contribute to weight loss struggles, an increase in your blood sugar and other health complications. But it’s also a mental thing, and if you force yourself to look into and integrate healthy habits like the alternatives mentioned above into your diet, you may finally be able to kick the unhealthy ones.

Which Type Of Gym Rat Are You?

May 19th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
Share to Twitter Email This



The gym is filled with so many colorful characters. About 75 percent of the gym struggle is just trying to motivate yourself to get through the full 30 minutes to an hour that you swore you were going to stay. The other 25 percent is just trying to motivate yourself to deal with all the people sure to tap dance on your last nerves. From the pushy trainer looking to make you their newest pet project, to the women in your dance class who act like they can’t make space for you even though you were just five minutes late, it’s a jungle in there.

But we all have our moments when we hit up fitness facilities and know we could be nicer, get off of machines sooner, or know we’ve done the absolute most in the attempt to get a good workout. Still, if you had to classify yourself and your regular gym behavior, where would you fall? Check out nine different types of gym rats, and if you don’t see yourself on this list, (politely) tell us what mold you fit in the comment section.

These Are The 10 Fittest Cities In The United States

May 18th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
Share to Twitter Email This



If you’re someone who values good health and goes out of your way to find healthy eating options, shop at organic groceries and farmers’ markets, exercise often, and have access to all kinds of parks and more, you probably want to live somewhere that enables you to do and enjoy all of these things. Well, in case you’re feeling stifled by the lack of resources in the place you currently reside in, you’ll be happy to know that the American College of Sports Medicine has compiled 10 of the fittest, healthiest cities in the country for you to live.

In their American Fitness Index, which the ACSM has been publishing for nine years, they ranked major cities based on a few different factors. That included personal health indicators (the percentage of people’s physical activity and the percentage of people with chronic health problems) and community and environmental indicators (a built environment, the percentage of recreational activities available, the policies for school P.E., and park-related expenditures).

So which cities made the list?

At No. 1 is Washington D.C. for the third year in a row. Why? Because the city keeps improving in terms of health and fitness. When comparing what they have and what’s changed in 2016 compared to where they were in previous indexes/years, a lot of development and transformation has taken place. That includes a lower percentage of people smoking, lower death rates for cardiovascular disease, lower death rates for diabetes, a higher percent of the city’s land being used for parks, more farmers’ markets, more people taking public transportation or either bicycling or walking to work and so much more.

I was just in D.C. last month for a weekend trip with a friend, and I know that we did more walking than driving. Not to mention that there was a whole host of yoga studios, fitness facilities, and smoothie places in walking distance from our AirBNB in Trinidad (that’s gentrification for you). With that being said, I can see why they would rank as No. 1.

But as for the rest of the top 10, Minneapolis, Minnesota was No. 2, Denver, Colorado was No. 3, Portland, Oregon was No. 4, Seattle, Washington came in at No. 5, San Francisco at No. 6, Boston, Massachusetts at No. 7, Salt Lake City, Utah at No. 8, Hartford, Connecticut at No. 9, and rounding out the top 10 is San Diego, California.

And while you might wonder why these type of ranking matter, for those of you looking to live and eat better, where cities rank and what recommendations are made by the ACSM for improvement can create a lot of change in cities–for the better. More options for healthy eating, with the right voices encouraging change, can slowly but surely appear as can more fitness facilities. As the ACSM has pointed out, through the rankings, you can see what opportunities are provided in your community to stay fit–and possibly put your residence on blast if they’re setting you up for failure in terms of your health.

To see the full list of rankings, you can check out the Fitness Index for yourself here.

Study: Lack Of Physical Activity Connected With Increased Cervical Cancer Risk

May 18th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
Share to Twitter Email This



According to a new study published recently in the Journal of Lower Genital Tract Disease, physical inactivity could be increasing the risk women face for cervical cancer.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York, examined 128 patients with cervical cancer. Those individuals were matched with 512 “controls,” or women of the same age and race who, according to the Huffington Post, “were suspected of having a new, abnormal growth but were ultimately not diagnosed with cervical cancer.”

All the women were asked to fill out a questionnaire based on the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which detailed their levels of physical activity. In the survey, you are deemed “inactive” if you are physically active less than once a week. What researchers ended up finding was that women who had cervical cancer had significantly increased odds of classifying themselves as “inactive” on the questionnaire compared to the ladies who didn’t have cervical cancer. So, those studied with cervical cancer were more likely to report that they often refrained from physical activity.

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 13,000 women will be diagnosed with invasive forms of cervical cancer, and more than 4,000 will die from it. Of course, increased use of Pap smear tests, which can uncover changes in the cervix before cancer forms and also catch it in early stages is definitely one way to help combat this. And as women younger than 50 are often the ones facing such a diagnosis (though it doesn’t often develop in women younger than 20), we need to be sure that we’re getting tested consistently.

Though the study’s results point out that “Further investigation is needed using a larger sample and prospectively collected data” to figure out how much physical activity is needed to decrease the risk for cervical cancer and to create a window of susceptibility, the study clearly points out yet another benefit to being active on a regular basis. And while many of us work jobs that require us to be sedentary for hours on end, before and after work hours? Time needs to be carved out to get up and get moving. Clearly, our health and well-being truly do depend on it.

From Afro Flow Yoga To Voguing: Classes At Ailey Extension Help You Get Fit And Have Fun

May 13th, 2016 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
Share to Twitter Email This

Samba Class at the Ailey Extension. Photo by Kyle Froman

Samba Class at the Ailey Extension. Photo by Kyle Froman

True story: When I was young, one of the first of five different careers I saw for myself was as a ballerina. At the time, my mother used to call me a giraffe because I was tall for my age and very lanky. I liked dancing in general and just assumed it would be easy to balance on my tiptoes and all that jazz. Obviously, I played myself.

Years later, as in, this past week, I was able to actually relive my ballerina dreams while checking out some classes at the Ailey Extension. It’s a program of sorts that offers dance classes to people of all (or no backgrounds) through the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. This was the perfect time for me to dance to my heart’s content, as it is National Physical Fitness Month, and trust me, I did just that. I checked out four types of offerings via the Ailey Extension. I took Ailey Barre, taught by former Alvin Ailey dancer Sarita Allen. And in that class is where I was able to be the Black Swan I never had the chance to. I learned the positions for standing, did some tense pliés and strengthened my muscles by pushing them to limits you just can’t get from your ordinary weight training session or yoga class. And although I started off rocky, Allen came around and helped me improve my posture and form, even telling me at times, “beautiful!” when I did a move right (or on point–get it?!).

I also had the chance to do some samba/Afro-Brazilian taught by Quenia Ribeiro, a Rio De Janeiro native who has danced and taught Brazilian folkloric dance for over 25 years. We shook a tailfeather to the sounds of live drums and by the end of it, were covered in sweat, and yet, full of energy after learning the moves.

There was also West African Dance with Vado Diomande. And while the steps looked pretty easy, when we were told to get in a line and put the moves (specifically from the Ivory Coast) we learned to the test, many of us could barely keep up with him and his drummer. Still, it was quite the exhilarating experience.

And we finished up the day doing the Kukuwa African Dance workout with Cassandra Nuamah. It was actually my second time taking the class, and every opportunity is a ball. In the class, which was created by her Ghanaian mother, Kukuwa Nuamah, Cassandra shows you a variety of dance moves from all around the continent. You basically explore Africa in ways you never imagined while working up a sweat and toning your muscles. Did I mention that all of these options will leave you burning a wealth of calories?

The classes at the Ailey Extension are absolutely amazing, and not to mention, affordable. A 10-class pack goes for $165, and currently, they are offering new students two classes for the price of one, going at 2 for $32. With most fitness and boutique fitness facilities trying to charge you an arm and a leg for classes, that’s a steal.

And if you’re a fan of the actual Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performances, in conjunction with Ailey’s Lincon Center season from June 8-19, the Ailey Extension will allow audience members to try their first class for free–as long as you bring your ticket stub. (Returning students can receive a free class with the purchase of the 10-class pack).

I would thoroughly encourage you to get active through classes at the Ailey Extension. What better way to stay in shape than to have fun dancing? And the unique classes offered run the gamut, with everything from Afro Flow Yoga, to belly dancing, capoeira, voguing and more.  And also, by checking out their classes, you’ll be supporting a great company–and get a sick view of the city in their studios. Hop — or two-step — to it!