Around this time of year, I receive emails and messages looking for tips and advice on trying out for a NBA or NFL Dance or Cheerleading team.
(By the way, I love hearing from you guys. Keep those emails coming!)
I respond with the same types of tips each time, so I thought it would be a good idea to finally share them on the blog. There seems to be a lot of you out there, some even with plans to audition for my teams. (Woot!)
As I started writing this post, I realized it got wordy quickly. To spare you from scrolling too much, I’m going to break the subject of getting ready for a professional sports dancer audition down into a series, starting with how to physically prepare for the big day!
We’ll get into what you should know and wear later on. Today, let’s focus on food and fitness!
Going into auditions, you want to look and feel your best, but you also want to show up with a weight and look you can easily maintain on and off the court all season long.
Consistency was huge with my coaches. They didn’t like when girls would starve themselves and work out twice a day for auditions, then go back to their normal, more relaxed schedule of working out and eating directly after.
Strive to look your best, just don’t go overboard!
Get tone, but remember to keep a realistic workout schedule you can actually stick to throughout the entire year. Don’t cut anything crazy out of your diet (you need those healthy carbs and proteins to fuel your workouts!), and find an overall healthy balance to your nutrition and exercise habits.
Recommended Meals & Snacks
Staying on track with healthy eating as part of your job (literally) can be tricky.
I have to admit that I eat a bit differently now than I did when I was a dancer who needed to have abs in a two piece at all times. That said, I still never used to cut out anything from my diet entirely. I still enjoyed my desserts, pizzas, and baked goods, but definitely in moderation. That’s the key!
I never worried about my numbers on the scale or with BMI testing, and instead focused on what I looked like and how I felt in costume. If I felt on top of my game, the numbers usually reflected. If I wasn’t in the best shape I knew I could get to, I would make an extra trip to the gym that week, go for a long run on the weekend, and maybe watch the excess carbs.
I think it’s important to note, however, that I never cut out certain foods completely!
Below are a handful of tips great for anyone wanting to maintain a bikini-ready body, too.
• Stop dieting and learn to love a balance in healthy eating.
My years as a dancer is when I found a love for consistently eating healthy, and I started experimenting with how to make my meals and recipes healthier. I was lucky to find my sweet spot between it all early on, and hope you find inspiration to eat more of the rainbow, too!
So, we’re clear that balance is the overall goal here.
Throughout the NBA season, I followed a healthy eating lifestyle, but it was definitely stricter and more focused during the week or so before auditions. Check out my Healthy Eating & Prep Mode post for all of my tips and meal ideas!
In a nutshell, here are my “Audition Prep Mode” (1-2 weeks out) rules:
• Every meal must focus on protein and fruit and/or vegetables.
• All snacks must be low-fat/low-carb/low-sugar.
• Must complete at least 30 minutes of cardio a day, as well as at least one weight training/toning workout every other day.
• All complex carbohydrates (breads, pastas, wraps) must be whole wheat, and consumed no later than lunch.
• Attend any dance class or audition-prep clinic offered.
• Drink plain water as much as possible.
Basically, this is everything I do on a normal day-to-day basis anyways… just with a few more workouts and without the allotted “cheat days” and indulgences every now and then.
My most noticeable changes include: cutting out dessert, cutting out complex carbs (those found in fruits and protein bars are just fine!), and keeping my only beverage intake to coffee, water, protein shakes, and drink mixes to mix into water.
The most important thing to take away from this portion and “Prep Mode” rules is that they are temporary! Please do not feel like you need to eat and train like this 100% of the time. That would be exhausting!
*Do you have specific questions? Feel free to ask anything below in the comments section!
• Eat breakfast.
The most important thing to remember when eating healthy and having enough energy to get through your day and work outs is to start it off eating breakfast. If you skip breakfast, your body will seem hungry the entire day, and you’ll most likely end up consuming more calories. Also, eating after you wake up jump starts your metabolic burn for the day.
I love starting my day with egg whites, or egg beaters. No fat, no carbs, all protein! They come in little upright cartons and you can find them in the dairy section of the grocery store.
You can add more protein and veggies by scrambling almost anything you want to into them: turkey, chicken, broccoli, green/red peppers, olives, tomatoes, spinach, etc. The more you cook with them, the more creative you will get.
If it is an extremely active day, I need more than that in the morning to fill me up. Healthy sides include tomato slices, fruit, turkey bacon, turkey sausage, chicken sausage, turkey patties, etc. I am a fruit junkie, and I buy any fruit that is on sale. When it starts to go bad, I put it in the freezer and save it for fruit smoothies.
• Make your own smoothies.
Smoothies can be good for you if you keep an eye out on sugar intake. Smoothies using fruit, organic pressed juice, and ice only are the best for you, and you want to try to keep away from smoothies with yogurt or ice cream in them.
Greek yogurt is the exception here. I often use that and/or a scoop of protein powder to add protein and substance to it.
Also, don’t be afraid of adding greens like spinach, kale, and avocado in to make green smoothies.
That may look scary, but I promise it’s delicious!
• Revv up your metabolism by eating 5-6 smaller meals a day.
Say goodbye to 2-a day food comas and eat smaller portions, more often throughout your day.
Snacking (on the right foods) is great for you! Pick nutrient-rich foods, and make sure to include protein and healthy carbs into your meals and snacks.
Need some snack-spiration?
Check out these 15 Healthy On-The-Go Snack Ideas!
More Quick & Healthy Snack Ideas
• Apples Dipped in Peanut Butter
• Baby Food (seriously, the fruity flavors are like fancy applesauce!)
• Clementines (I always have a bowl of them on my kitchen counter)
• Cottage Cheese, Pickles & Fruit
• Gluten-Free Soft & Chewy Granola
• Greek Yogurt with Granola or Hemp Seeds
• Pretzel Crips or Crackers & Hummus
And more on the Snacks page!
• Make sure you stay hydrated.
Are you drinking enough water and drinks specifically formulated to hydrate you?
Before you go diving into all the snacks to curb your hunger, check to see if it’s really food your body is craving! After grabbing a couple of big swigs of water, then reach for the snacks if you’re still hungry.
If you’re not sure how much water you should be drinking, take a look at my tips on staying hydrated!
Everyone and every body is different, but when I was heart-set on having a lean, tone dancer’s body, I turned to strength and lengthening workouts that often included a rotation of yoga, Pilates, barre, and running.
I took my first class back in October of 2011, and became hooked that very day. It wasn’t long before I found myself at the studio several times a week, and eventually approached them about teaching. I was (and still am) obsessed!
Be prepared for an hour or less workout that hits every muscle group in your body using fundamentals of ballet, yoga, & Pilates. Barre strengthens, tones, lifts your muscles, and leaves you feeling like you just spent hours at the gym. Seriously.
It’s a fun, high-energy workout and produces quick results to those who frequent classes regularly!
A ballet inspired workout similar to barre, but involves more flowy, bigger movements in the center and on the floor without the use of a ballet barre.
I was first introduced to Ballet Beautiful at the Reebok Skyscape Launch Party a little over a year ago. Alongside a few blogging buddies, I took a condensed version of one of her classes and the ballerina in me fell for the style of workout right away. I left the event wanting to try the full classes and found out you can stream the Ballet Beautiful DVDs online, totally free for Amazon Prime members!
I usually put on the Total Body Workout that goes through set of exercises that targets the glutes, abs, inner and outer thighs, and arms. The best way I can describe it is a fun and graceful full-body workout meant to focus on, tighten and tone an area at a time, without the use of weights.
There isn’t music outside of piano on the videos, so after a couple times through (hearing her tips on form and cues), I now enjoy my own tunes while completing the workouts.
An hour long fast paced workout that focuses on toning your entire body (with a special emphasis on core), one muscle group at a time using the fundamentals of Pilates, all to upbeat music.
The results and exercises are very similar to barre workouts, just without using the ballet barre. Instead, the majority of the class is spent on a yoga mat and each one incorporates different exercises with an occasional use of the medicine ball, resistance band, body bar, and/or set of dumbbell weights.
I swear, I could eat a few slices of pizza the night before, take Fitness Pilates class the next day, run a few miles on the treadmill, and feel completely back to “normal” when I left. It’s that amazing.
Check out your local gym to see if there is any similar classes offered near you. If not, here are two Fitness Pilates inspired workouts for you to try:
» 100 At-Home Cardio Pilates Workout
» Fitness Pilates Circuit Burner Workout
• Cardio, cardio, cardio
If you have access to a treadmill, elliptical, StairMaster, or stationary bike, get on it!
Love to lace up and go for a run outside? Awesome. Do it.
Dance routines (especially during the audition process) can take a high level of cardio endurance to get through. While learning them, you’ll want to perform them as full out as you can over and over, which takes a toll on your energy level. Train to be able to perform your best by getting in plenty of cardiovascular training before hand!
As a personal trainer, I generally recommend 30 mins. of cardio 3-5 times a week. As someone offering advice to get ready for a pro sports team audition, I would say bump it up to at least 5 days a week. During the final weeks leading up to auditions, I always went for a solid 5-6 days a week and threw in some HIIT training, too.
Here are some of my favorite go-to cardio workouts:
» Minute on, Minute Off Intervals
» 30 Min. Gluteal Elliptical Workout
» 30 Min. Interval Elliptical Workout
» Booty Blaster Cardio Workout (5o mins total: elliptical, StairMaster & lunges!)
Check out my Cardio Workouts page for more!
Of course regular strength training goes in there too, but since we are talking about getting ready for dancer auditions, I stuck to what you see above the most!
Getting into the groove of eating clean and fueling my body for workouts peaked the interest and love for working in the fitness industry I have today.
I hope these tips help those looking to prepare for a dance audition, or even those wanting to slim down for a major event!
Stay tuned for the next part of this series that goes through six years of audition, boot camp, and finals outfit advice… coming soon!
*Disclaimer: While I am a certified personal trainer, I am not a registered dietician or nutritionist. I consider myself a health enthusiast, but do not post everything I eat. All content that I post on this blog stems from my personal experience and knowledge. Before making any changes to your diet or fitness routine, I always recommend consulting a doctor or health professional first.
Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment
I love your advice about learning to enjoy healthy eating and finding a lifestyle you can maintain! I have never had an audition like this, but I am sure the pressure is enormous and you might feel very tempted to eat less and workout more. But it has to be something you can do once you are on the team too!
Exactly! It’s important to find that balance right off the bat! Otherwise, you’ll spend the entire year trying to hit unrealistic goals. Thanks for reading!
Quick question that I noted. I saw that you mentioned cutting out complex carbs. Is that correct, or did you mean that cut out simple carbs, like table sugars and quick-digesting carbs that would spike your blood sugar. I’m pretty sure I get what you meant, but wanted to be sure.
Hi Cheri! I meant cutting out complex carbs, but ONLY for the week-of (aka “Prep Mode”)! In general, complex carbs are a great source of energy for your workouts, so I wouldn’t recommend doing this past your goal of the audition or an event. This is mainly to help bloating, but may not be fit for everyone. I hope this helps!
Ahhh got it. Ok, thanks for clearing that up, I was a little confused!
Neat! I just sent this article to my sister, who has been in the process of attending clinics for the Honeybees and the Top Cats. She is certainly talented, but worried about being bigger than the other girls.
Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing this, and best of luck to your sister!
Linda @ The Fitty
Oh my GOSH do you ever look gorgeous. Now, and THEN!
Oh if I were a lesbian… 😉
Not an appropriate comment, hon.
Hannah @ Sprints & Scones
These are great tips! I really can’t imagine the pressure of being a professional dancer!
I’d love to see a post on how you found your balance after working as a professional dancer for so long. I think leaving that lifestyle and moving to something for sustainable must be a real challenge – both physically and mentally!
Great suggestion, maybe I’ll end the series with that. Thanks!
I second this! I am an NFL cheerleader right now and am certain I will balloon up once I retire… but I want to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle forever! 🙂
Kelly Runs for Food
This post makes me miss my dancing days! I’m hoping to start taking barre classes more regularly to get my fix. I have Amazon Prime so I’ll have to check out those ballet beautiful videos more too.
Great tips and you look awesome!
You would love Ballet Beautiful! She channels your inner ballerina and pulls out words I haven’t heard in years! Barre usually helps my “ballet barre” fix, too. 😉
Wow, you were REALLY in the fitness groove! It’s funny, I did ballet seriously growing up but never any other kind of dance, and in fact my ballet teachers often looked down on ‘popular’ dance forms – but the athleticism required just means a different kind of artistry is necessary and I have SO MUCH respect for any woman who is able to be out there in a sports arena and show what she can do!
I think all forms of channel different skills, but they all require athleticism! Gosh, I miss ballet. I performed in a ballet company all throughout high school!
Great tips! Happy to see you advocating a healthy lifestyle rather than quick fixes!
That’s the only way to feel your best (without the highs and lows) and see permanent change!
Pretty Little Grub
Great advice. Not something I’m going for but I’m so happy you stressed balance and not dieting!
By no means am I ever going to audition for a professional dance group, but I really appreciate some of the tips you gave here. I think they apply well to weight loss and being fit in general. No carbs after lunch is a rule I am definitely going to try to incorporate! Not eating meat, I struggle to get enough protein as it is and I end up wanting to eat. all. the. carbs. by 4pm most days!
That’s one rule I stuck to for a while. Eventually I caved, but while I was in “the mode” I always ate my bigger meals at lunch and smaller meals at dinner. It’s a great way to be able to enjoy your carbs without feeling too bad about indulging all the time 😉
I love this post! I’m definitely saving some of these tips and tricks 🙂
I really appreciate the tips about maintaining a balance instead of doing “dieting”. I feel like having that overall health, like you talked about, really is what’s most important when it comes to being fit for dancing, as well as for anything. I think my hardest thing is my sweet tooth because I love sweet foods so much!
You got it! That’s the only thing that will really work in the long run. It’s okay to give into your sweet tooth every once in a while… just so I don’t go diving into ice cream and cheesecake every night, I like to keep dark chocolate chips in my pantry and dark chocolate almond milk in the fridge. I have a little of both every night and it’s perfect!
I’ve never tried dark chocolate almond milk before! I’ll have to get some of that ASAP!
Excellent post! I didn’t know pro fitness was so difficult to maintain.. Thanks for writing!
Love it! You wrote about what to do in the 1-2 weeks before the audition, what would you recommend for the 3-4 months out?