Onstage, Miami City Ballet principal Patricia Delgado is known for her artistic range. Outside of the theater, though, she’s a bona fide cross-training queen. From hand weights to swimming to Gyrotonic, she’s tried it all, and has found the perfect mix to maintain her petite but muscular 5' 4 1/2" frame. Strange as it may sound, Delgado owes her current strength to her past missteps. “I would say that any of my cross-training was triggered by injury,” she says.
Sculpting secret: How does Delgado get those super-toned arms? With daily reps of bicep curls, overhead presses and tricep push-backs with 5-pound hand weights. “Ballet dancers are expected to look a certain way, but for me it doesn’t come naturally.” Her weight work initially began as a way to get her heart rate up when recovering from surgery on her left ankle in 2009. Now, she’s just hooked.
Triple the training benefits: She maximizes the challenge of her arm work by doing it while standing on one straight leg, standing on one leg in plié or on a Bosu ball or balance board. It strengthens her balance, quadriceps and arms. Added bonus: “?It’?s almost like a cardiovascular activity, even though you’re not running or swimming or jumping. It gets me sweating.?”
Favorite cross-training method: Delgado devotes a solid hour and a half at least three times a week to her Gyrotonic practice, and her reasons for loving it are seemingly endless: “It’s the one thing that involves fine-tuning and healing, and at the same time, alignment, strengthening and efficiency. It’s fun for me—I don’t feel like I’m taking my medicine.”
More than just a workout: Delgado describes her Gyrotonic practice as meditative and empowering. “You create your own intentions for the workout,” she says, whereas in the studio, “so much of what we do is set by someone rehearsing us.”
Water ballet: For cardio, Delgado hits an outdoor public pool near her Miami apartment. During 20 minutes of nonstop laps, she cycles through speed intervals that mimic the pacing of a pas de deux: five minutes of gliding, two minutes sprinting, a minute of slow recovery and two more minutes at full speed. “Someone once told me to pretend that you’re going through a ballet,” she says, so to combat boredom, she imagines that she’s Juliet or dancing a dramatic piece like Agon. And it works. She says that, as dancers, “we’re artists. We don’t necessarily like working out, so we have to find the artistic side of it.”
Protein-packed days: Delgado bookends her days with a balanced breakfast and dinner, but she’s always snacking throughout her dance day. “I jam-pack my breakfast with goodness,” she says, mixing almond milk, bananas, flaxseeds, chia seeds, blueberries and walnuts into her oatmeal. Her favorite snacks include Clif Builder’s protein bars in cookies and cream flavor, as well as carrots, hummus, yogurt, nuts and raisins.
Mid-season meal: During busy performance weeks, her go-to dinner is usually salmon, greens and a grain. But these menu items are less than plain with faves like kale sautéed in sesame oil and quinoa with nuts and dried fruit.
National Ballet of Canada corps member Emma Hawes isn’t afraid to admit her weaknesses, like loose shoulder joints—because she knows just how to overcome them. After successfully recovering from a fractured metatarsal last year, her current cross-training regimen—swimming, Pilates and biking outdoors—is all about building strength to prevent future injuries and keep her body in peak performance shape.
Just keep swimming: During her childhood, Hawes swam competitively. Now she goes once or twice weekly. Her favorite stroke? Freestyle, which strengthens her loose shoulder joints and equally works her left and right sides, helping to correct muscular imbalances from dance. Then she treads water, running in place for 60-second muscle-burning bursts, resting for 20 seconds and repeating it all three to four more times.
In the deep end: Hawes caps off each swim with “typical barre stretches” in the water. “If I want a tougher stretch, I go deeper in the pool.” Facing the pool’s wall, she places one leg en devant, with her heel on the ledge, and bends her chest toward it. “It’s really great for the glutes, where I get a lot of tightness.”
Can’t miss cardio: For Hawes, daily aerobic exercise is nonnegotiable. She favors 30 minutes of intervals on the elliptical, alternating one minute of going all out with two minutes of medium intensity.
Rise and shine: National Ballet of Canada offers its dancers morning Pilates mat classes twice a week. Hawes says it’s a great way to get on her leg before class, but if it’s a busy week, playing Pilates hooky can do her body more good. “It’s early in the morning, so sometimes sleep can be more valuable.”
Planking 2.0: For Hawes, planking is much more than an abdominal exercise. With her elbows and forearms on the ground, she goes through several variations of the classic plank for two to two and a half minutes, like lifting the opposite leg and arm and circling them simultaneously. (“It’s really tough,” she says. “I fall over a lot.”) Then with both arms on the ground, she’ll lift one leg to tendu back, carry it to the side and then back again to “trigger the turnout.”
The great outdoors: During summer layoffs, she visits her family in Ohio, taking advantage of the hilly terrain for long bike rides. “I don’t usually do too much ballet-focused work in my off time, but I keep my overall fitness and cardio levels up.”