To go behind the scenes of Tiler Peck’s grueling schedule leading up to BalletNOW, check out the documentary Ballet Now, available on hulu.com. Actress and trained dancer Elisabeth Moss is an executive producer—she wanted “to show everyone the grit and athleticism that goes along with our beautiful art form,” says Peck. Blessed be the bodysuit!
When you hear “professional ballerina,” what comes to mind? Likely a highly dedicated, long and lean force of energy and creativity. One who was born to eat, train and sleep movement and dance, making the rest of us feel, well, not even close to their kind of discipline and pedigree!
True and not-so-true. According to professional ballerina Tiler Peck, dance is certainly a demanding career choice. She’s been devoted to her craft since the age of two. And Peck does seem born for ballet—she’s been dubbed “the most musical dancer of our time” by Vanity Fair. The New York City Ballet principal dancer has starred in many of the best-known productions, including George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Romeo + Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.
She has also bounded across Broadway stages and dipped her toe into Hollywood: She starred in Enemy Within and was a ballet consultant for Black Swan. She’s even danced in front of President and First Lady Obama—twice!
Her proudest accomplishment? Taking the lead on the BalletNOW program last summer at The Music Center in Los Angeles. She was the first woman to direct and curate the three evenings of dance, which featured ballet, hip-hop, tap—even clowns. Peck oversaw the hiring and pairing of more than 20 dancers from various international companies and also danced in seven of the 15 pieces. The feat was captured in a documentary that was released last summer.
“BalletNOW helped me realize my full potential and not be afraid to take a leadership position as a female,” says Peck—and she wants to help other women recognize their ability to lead. “I just hope that I can inspire women to not sell themselves short.”
So yes, Peck is in the rarefied ranks of the super athletes and the super boss ladies. But she is also just like us: striving to maintain a healthy work-life balance while reaching her goals. It’s not luck of the gene pool, nor is it an all-or-nothing approach. It’s a matter of trying your best daily, listening to your body and, when in doubt, packing your running shoes! (More on this to come.)
For those of us contemplating resolutions and/or looking for the motivation to achieve them, here are some Peck-endorsed and practiced tips to help you dance your way to a healthier, happier you.
Make even small food choices count
Peck doesn’t follow any particular diet, preferring to “eat everything I want in moderation.” (She has a special fondness for pasta!) She always has a snack bar handy, plus a banana for in between rehearsals. “Lately, I have been obsessed with lemon water—just adding a little lemon to my water has made me want to drink so much more water!” she says.
Your take-home: There are plenty of healthy on-the-go food items available at your natural health retailer. Take time to read labels. Aim for low-sugar, higher-protein and whole natural foods, and your new year is off to a good start.
Know it’s never just physical. Ever!
While physical maintenance is key for performance and recovery, Peck says we need to address mental fitness too.
“I think mental health is just as or even more important for recovery. My physical therapist can massage a muscle for days trying to get it to let go, but it might never fully release if I have something worrying me in the back of my mind. It is crucial to find where the stress is coming from, whether it be something physical or more mental.”
The first thing Peck does before class in the morning at New York City Ballet is lie on her back and take deep breaths so she slips into a state of calm and relaxation. This, plus sleep, is critical for sufficient recovery time for your mind and body, she says.
Your take-home: Something as easy as lying down and practicing deep breathing can go a long way toward reducing any anxiety or stress you may be feeling. Take just a few minutes to try it out before phoning into an important meeting or facing morning traffic.
Treat yo’self. Every. Damn. Day.
In Peck’s experience, there’s nothing like checking out to recharge your happiness battery.
“I think the best medicine for stress and anxiety is to get out of the city on a day off. Sometimes it feels good to get away from the hustle and bustle and go somewhere with a little slower of a pace. If I don’t have time to go far, anything with my doggie Cali will do the trick. Best stress reliever ever!”
And it doesn’t end there …
“Each day, I have to allow time for physical therapy, massage, elevating my feet and decompressing my back. And almost every evening ends with an Epsom salt bath. Let’s just say Uber and my Adidas sneaks are a must-have to save my legs and feet for my daily rehearsals and performances!”
Your take-home: Only you are responsible for your state of wellness, and this includes decompressing every so often. A day off from work, a walk in the park, a relaxing massage: these are genuine acts of self-care you deserve!
Remember: Getting fit shouldn’t feel like Groundhog Day
Doing the same workouts over and over can eventually lead to boredom, overuse, injury and/or plateaus instead of your expected results. For this reason, Peck says it’s “crucial to cross-train.” Because ballet requires dancers to keep long and lean muscles, she compliments her training with Pilates to keep her body in alignment, focusing on stretching and elongation.
Your take-home: Apply Peck’s careful logic to your cross-training. If you’re training for a marathon, for example, rather than run every day, try incorporating yoga or swimming into your routine.
Supplement like an international dance sensation
Tiler Peck takes a daily women’s multivitamin, plus additional calcium and magnesium for bone support—something she says is especially important as ballerinas’ bones are put under an unusual amount of stress. For anti-inflammatory benefits, she relies on a 10-herb combination that includes turmeric, rosemary, ginger and green tea, which she takes before bedtime. She also drinks an all-in-one shake that’s low in sugar and high in fiber and protein 30 minutes after exercise.
Your take-home: Whether it’s a daily multivitamin or a green food powder added to your smoothies, follow Peck’s lead by knowing what your body needs and supplementing accordingly.