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The celebrated ballerina and role model, Misty Copeland, shares the secrets of how to reshape your body and achieve a lean, strong physique and glowing health. Misty Copeland believes “There has been a shift in recent years in which women no longer desire the bare bones of a runway model. Standards have changed: what women do want is a long, toned, powerful body with excellent posture.” In other words, the body of a ballerina. In her first health and fitness book, Misty will show women how to find the motivation to get healthier and stronger, and how to reshape their bodies to be lean and flexible, with step-by-step advice, meal plans, workout routines, and words of inspiration. Celebrating the importance of healthy fats and a fitness regimen based on ballet exercises, Misty shares her own time-tested exercises and an eating plan focusing on healthy fats, both of which keep her in top shape. Tips for motivation and words of encouragement as well as tips on how to keep going even when you may want to give up. An inspiring section on the importance of finding mentors, and eventually being one, plus excerpts from Misty’s personal journal, round out this important book on grace and strength.
MISTY COPELAND, Still in Motion, March 21, 2017: EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from Ballerina Body: Dancing and Eating Your Way to a Leaner, Stronger, and More Graceful You
I spend countless hours at airports, particularly in the winter and summer months when American Ballet Theatre is on the road. While I’m waiting for the moment when it’s finally time to board, I’ll often stroll over to a newsstand and finger through the entertainment and fashion magazines lining the racks and shelves.
Cosmopolitan. Essence. Self. Peel back the covers and you can immerse yourself in worlds of beauty, fitness, and luxury. There are how-tos and what-fors; tips, diets, and schedules; an array of glossy blueprints that guide women on a path to a feminine ideal they are supposed to be striving for.
Without fail, the models or actresses who are featured are gorgeous, with luminous skin and lean physiques. When I was a young, naïve dancer, new to ABT and seeking my way, I was influenced and affected by those images. In my mind, I felt that this was what beauty was and I had to meet that standard. I struggled to figure out how I could maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, not just on those days when I would be dining on room service, but also once I returned home to New York City.
I may have been an athlete, living in one of the world’s most glamorous cities, but I had no nutritionist on speed dial, no extra money to hire a chef to prepare healthy meals. And while I was being taught the art of ballet daily, I wasn’t getting the specific instruction I needed to keep every part of my body in peak shape.
I’d flip to the interviews in the magazine, searching for advice, eager to learn the featured celebrity’s secrets. When asked how she stayed so taut, so fit, her answers would often be a riff on the same refrain. “I drink a lot of water! I get a lot of sleep! This is just me!
”To the young, insecure woman I was then, that explanation seemed impossibly simple. As the woman I have become, I know such advice makes up pieces of the puzzle, but it’s hardly the whole solution. In recent years, I have had the honor of appearing in several magazines myself, and when reporters ask me what it’s like to dance with one of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world, or what I eat to power through my regimen, or to stay strong and svelte, you know what I tell them? The truth.
None of it was easy. Not my climb in the ballet world, not my arrival at a place of personal contentment and peace, not my journey to the body I stand in.
When I was a child, my family often had little money, and we had to eat whatever we could afford. I used to love corn chips doused with hot sauce and glow-in-the-dark cheese squeezed out of a bottle.
Even after I’d become a dancer with ABT, putting my body through the rigors of dancing eight hours a day, five days a week, my body still craved meals that were heavy on the carbs because that was all it knew. And when my body bloomed in my late teens and I no longer fit the old-fashioned, pixie-like ballet ideal, I’d try to escape my frustration by diving into a box of sweets. I would eat every bite—and hate myself in the morning. In short, I understand the temptations, pressures, and frustrations of the real world.
I was an ordinary young woman, trying to determine what was best for my body, my health, my spirit, mostly on my own. Slowly, by experimenting, by adding cross-training to my schedule and tweaking my diet, I began to figure it out. I found what worked for me by trial and error. I learned that I couldn’t do cardio that had weight training or too much resistance on the machines. I realized how to burn calories without adding bulk to my frame, and I discovered which cross-training helped me to strengthen my core and lengthen my muscles in a way that would not just benefit the structure of my body, but make me a stronger dancer as well. I discovered which foods gave me the fuel that my body needed after expending as much energy as I do every day.
I devised a plan for how to eat so that I could keep my body lean and powerful, and I realized that dietary discipline doesn’t have to mean deprivation. Now I want to share all that I’ve learned with you.
I’ve always been a dreamer, and I am thankful that a lot of my dreams have come true, from becoming a professional ballet dancer to becoming the first African American principal ballerina in the history of American Ballet Theatre. Now I dream of sharing what I’ve learned—of showing women everywhere how to reshape their bodies into what they see as their best selves—a ballerina body that is lean but sinewy, with muscles that are long, sculpted, and toned.
My regimen is grounded in the real world. Though my career involves constant exercise and dance, I know that not everyone has the time to make it to the gym each day. I’m a woman who as a child used a motel railing as a ballet barre, so I believe in the power of improvisation and being able to exercise right where you are. Your bedroom mattress can be your springboard; your natural body weight can be your ballast.
Change is not easy. It took years for me to find the balance of exercise and nutrition that worked best for my physique. But I also know from my personal experience that it’s never too late to make change happen. Each morning, as the sun filters through your bedroom window and you wipe the sleep from your eyes, you can make a fresh start, you can rededicate yourself to your ongoing journey to take control of your body, your health, and your mental well-being.
We will take it one movement at a time, with a step-by-step guide that includes meal plans, workout routines, and words of inspiration to keep you motivated. You will eventually be able to mix and match foods on your own, but until you’ve found your own rhythm, you can refer to the twenty-one-day menu that I’ve created with plenty of options to keep you energized and satisfied.
Did you know fat is good for you? It’s even better than that. It’s great. And through meal plans and recipes that celebrate healthy fats and lean proteins, kicking your metabolism into shape, and a do-it-anywhere exercise plan that blends techniques from the worlds of ballet and floor barre, I will show women of every size and shape how they can become stronger and more vibrant, how they can feel their best so they can perform at their peak.
Ballerina Body is for women across the spectrum, from the college student trying to eat healthy and stay fit in the midst of dormitory life and exams, to the Gen Xer balancing her career with motherhood, to the retiree who wishes to stay active and healthy throughout her golden years.
My advice is based on what for me has been tried and true. It’s modeled on how I have danced and lived, and it’s rooted in the wisdom I have gleaned through my own errors and experimentation. You will likely experience your own trial and error along the way, but I’m sure that ultimately, your personal will and commitment will propel you toward success.
I know what it’s like to deal with self-doubt, to feel it is an uphill battle to reach your goals. To many, I was too old and too brown to succeed in the rarefied and largely white world of ballet. But thanks to mentors who believed in me, hard work, and perseverance, I have been able to rise to the top tier of one of the world’s premier ballet companies and to achieve a life balance that makes me feel centered and whole.
Just as there is a growing recognition that a ballerina’s strength and grace can be embodied by a dancer of any hue, the idea of a ballerina’s body has also been reshaped. It’s no longer about looking childlike and brittle. We are real women and ballerinas, and we, as well as those who aspire to a similar physical ideal, want to be lean but also muscular, feminine but also strong, lithe but also curvaceous.
Ballerina Body provides a flexible and customizable road map that will help you maintain a healthy sense of your body as you attain optimal levels of strength, flexibility, and energy. While you may never perform grands jetés across the floorboards of a theater, my program will help guide you toward these goals:
• Strong, shapely legs and a toned derrière
• Youthful flexibility gained from the structure of a ballet class that combines strengthening and stretching exercises
• Crystal-cut curves all over your body
• A sexy fluidity and confidence wherever you go
• A new love for the body you have, and no more negative thoughts racing through your mind about what you look like
• A renewed physical and spiritual energy derived from careful, focused commitment to your best and strongest self
• A recognition of the importance of mentors in your life, to inspire, encourage, and motivate you for your journey, whether that’s a quest for a healthy body, a new career, or simply a sense of inner contentment
Achieving your ballerina body will take commitment, work, and, yes, sacrifice. And just as your spirit, your personality, your natural shape, are all singular to you, each of your experiences with my program will also be unique. But there is enough flexibility in my plan to allow you to discover the mix of food, movement, and motivational exercises that works best for you. And while each of our journeys may differ slightly, the destination will be the same—a more vibrant body and emotional energy that will leave you feeling empowered, healthy, and whole. So come on. We will get there. Together.
Excerpted from Ballerina Body by Misty Copeland published by Grand Central Publishing. Copyright © 2017 Misty Copeland. Available March 21, 2017: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks.