October 19th, 2012

For my first piece for The Conversation, I wanted to share with you the story of someone that has made a big impact on me regarding my health and fitness: Mary Helen Bowers. Mary Helen is the founder of Ballet Beautiful. I had a tough injury last year that really threw my body completely out of whack. I was unable to to go running and do the intense workouts I was used to. Coupled with my rigorous filming schedule, I became disheartened because I didn’t have the strength and stamina that is so important for me to feel balanced both emotionally and physically. That is when I decided to do some research. I desperately needed to find a holistic exercise program that would be nurturing and challenging for me at the same time. A trainer whose approach was based in knowledge and well rounded-ness rather then your typical “workout until you want to die and starve yourself at the same time!”

After coming across many fantastic articles and press on the Mary Helen, (she trained Natalie Portman for Black Swan) I delved deeper into her background to see what all the praise was about. She herself had suffered an injury that made her choose to end her professional ballet career as an esteemed dancer for the New York City Ballet. She knew what it was like to live in a world filled with the obscene pressure to look perfect and push yourself endlessly. I knew that she would understand what I was going through and most importantly, educate me on how to lovingly and gracefully create and maintain the beauty and strength that I wanted. Mary Helen’s new book, “Ballet Beautiful” is now out and after reading it I loved her even more! I own every DVD, every video and all of her materials. If I only have 15 minutes a day, it’s fine because with her Ballet Beautiful Blasts, I can fit one in on my lunch break or before bed.

I am so thrilled to share the interview below and she has kindly sent a 30% off coupon code (just enter BBCONVO at checkout) for anything in her Ballet Beautiful store so you can try it for yourself! After all, who doesn’t want to look and feel like a ballerina?

With all of the health and fitness books and videos out there on the market, what inspired you to create your own program and write Ballet Beautiful?

Ballet Beautiful is inspired by my experience dancing 10 years with the New York City Ballet, what I learned about injuries, injury prevention and life beyond the world of professional ballet. It’s a blend of artistry, athleticism, and grace. I find that a lot of fitness comes from an aggressive masculine energy and approach to building muscle, and that approach is not for me. I wanted to create a program with a distinctly feminine approach to working out that creates a body shape that is elegant and strong. I love finding ways to mix my classical dance training with health and fitness and share that with other women all over the world.

When I first began working out at a gym I found that I was constantly modifying exercises to make sure I wasn’t over building my thighs or bulking in any way. With Ballet Beautiful, we target the muscles that dancers use in their every day training through simple exercises that anyone can do at home. It’s incredible to see how the body responds and transforms when you are treating it well!

What are 5 things a woman can do to incorporate your philosophy and tools in order to become more Ballet Beautiful?

1. Exercise becomes a lot more fun when you start thinking of working out as a reward, not a punishment! Think of your workout as a time to focus on yourself, get stronger and work towards simple fitness goals like getting through more ab or bridge exercises. Target just 3 hours a week. Everything else is a bonus.

2. The same thing goes for your diet! When you start paying attention to how healthy foods make you feel, they suddenly taste better.

3. This is obvious, but make sure to eat breakfast everyday and don’t skip meals! When you are eating well and drinking plenty of water there is no need to cleanse, juice, or go to extremes. It’s all about balance!

4. Life is short — surround yourself with positive people that support your goals and dreams! If your friends don’t support you and aren’t cheering for your success in life they probably aren’t your friends.

5. Keep your creative juices flowing with books, art, and travel! Nurturing your soul is just as important as taking care of the body. If you can’t swing an exotic vacation, make a lunch date with a friend at a museum. Inspiration comes in many forms!

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