by Christina Chitwood | Photos by Chea Hutton Chitwood and David Paterson
As part of a new, ongoing series, Christina Chitwood, a personal trainer and former ice dancer, will be sharing her thoughts on wellbeing, healthy eating, fitness and how it pertains to the sport of ice dancing and athletes in general. The articles also contain links to additional information Christina has written on healthy lifestyles.
Ice dance and dance in general often require the ideal “dancer’s body”. The measures that skaters and dancers take to get this “dancer’s body” can be extreme and dangerous at times. Since ice dancing is a sport, it’s more important than ever to protect your body to help ensure its longevity.
Ice dancing is becoming more technically difficult all the time. This really takes a toll on the body, increasing the risk for injuries. Therefore, fueling your body through healthy nutrition is one of the best things you can do to lengthen your career.
Here are my top 10 ways for you as a dancer to both fuel your body and maintain a “dancer’s body”:
1. Record what you eat. Keeping a food journal is a great way to track what you’re putting into your body as well as tracking your calories. Even if you’re sticking to a lower-calorie diet, if you’re not getting the nutrients your body needs, you will make less progress (and be at a greater risk for injury). It’s important to get nutrients from the healthy foods discussed in “Use Nutrition to Enhance Your Performance.”
2. View food as fuel. As an athlete, viewing food as fuel will help you perform better and to a higher intensity. Eating isn’t just about eating good-tasting food, although healthy food can taste great, too.
3. Give your muscles protein. Protein helps build muscle. Muscle is very important for athletes for strength and also for creating a toned, lean body. Whey protein is a wonderful, healthy protein to incorporate into your diet. Whey protein is one of the most easily assimilated proteins, so your body will absorb is quicker, allowing it to get to your muscles faster. Your body will also digest this protein easier.
4. Energize with complex carbohydrates. Healthy carbohydrates are extremely important for athletes to maintain and increase their energy. Some of the best complex carbohydrates are quinoa, brown rice, and oats. Vegetables and fruits are also considered carbohydrates, so incorporate plenty of those in your diet, too.
5. Slim down with healthy fats. You may be thinking, “I want to have less fat on my body, so why would I eat fat?” The right kind of fat, such as nuts, seeds, avocado, and olives/olive oil, is an important part of your diet. When combined with a well-balanced diet including protein, complex carbs, vegetables, and fruit, healthy fats actually help make you leaner.
6. Receive essential nutrients and vitality through vegetables and fruit. If you’ve heard of people appearing to be “glowing,” this is often through healthy nutrition, particularly eating plenty of vegetables and some fruit. Vegetables are an amazing food source … they are low in calories and full of nutrients. You almost can’t have too many vegetables. I love to have vegetable juice as one way to incorporate vegetables into my diet. Read my post here: “7 Ways to Add More Vegetables to Your Diet.”
Fruits are great for healthy snacks and are an important part of your diet, too. Just be aware that they do have natural sugars, so you don’t want too much fruit. Fruit is much better than desserts or refined sugar, though. If I were to choose having some more fruit or a dessert, I would choose fruit as the healthier choice.
7. Avoid refined sugar as much as possible. See how eating a sugar-free diet helped me: “My 6-Month Nutrition and Fitness Experiment.” Refined sugar can be harmful to your body. It causes a spike in your energy followed by an energy crash. Causing your body to go through this too often just isn’t healthy. Even if you don’t have to watch you weight, it’s better to have as little refined sugar as you can.
8. Eat what makes your body feel good. What truly makes your body feel good and healthy? Is it protein, vegetables, or another food source? Eat more of what makes you feel good (and is healthy, of course)!
9. Find what works for you. Each body responds differently from others. A gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, or sugar-free diet may work better for you. Maybe it’s a certain type of diet you’ve made for yourself including specific foods and avoiding others. The key when eating diets that limit certain foods is to ensure that you receive the nutrients you’re missing through another healthy food source.
10. Find a good sports nutritionist. You probably already have a support team of coaches such as ice-dance coaches, choreographer(s), dance teacher, personal trainer, and more. If you don’t already have a nutritionist, it would be very helpful to speak with coaches and other athletes and dancers to find a good one. Just as your body is unique, your nutrition should be unique to you. Some athletes need fewer calories than others to keep their ideal body and others need a higher calorie diet than normal to keep their ideal body weight. Having a nutritionist can help you discover exactly what you need to be putting in your body and how much of it to have the best body you’ve ever had.
Healthy nutrition is a lifestyle. If you make healthy nutrition a lifestyle, you will have better success than ever. If you’re just following a certain diet or trying to be a certain weight, there is less meaning behind your motivation. If you start fueling your body to live a healthy lifestyle, you will feel better, perform better, and look better, too!
When I was a competing internationally in ice dance, if my partner or coach wanted me to change something about the way I looked, it was much more difficult than it is now. Now that I’m no longer competing, how I look is about me and living a healthy lifestyle.
In turn, I feel healthier and my body responds to the healthy nutrition and exercise I give it. Also, being a fitness expert means that I have an even greater purpose in living a healthy lifestyle, as I can have an impact on my clients and followers around the world. If you want to both look and feel good, make healthy nutrition a lifestyle.
Christina Chitwood is a fitness expert and consultant, author, motivational speaker, and figure skating coach/choreographer in San Diego, California. Christina is a European and World Championships Competitor, 3-time international medalist in Senior Ice Dance, 2-time British National medalist in Senior Ice Dance, and a Quintuple Gold USFSA Test medalist. Christina has a website at ChristinaChitwood.com and blogs at FitBodyFullLife.com and ChristinaChitwoodPerformance.com. She is also a contributor at ChitwoodSkating.com.