The women and men who devote their lives to ballet must adopt a grab bag of go-to tricks and tips for maintaining optimal health—their careers depend upon it. So when an American Ballet Theatre star shares some in-the-know wellness tips, you know it’s going to be good.
Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer with ABT since 2005, says she works with a trainer, and when she has time off she indulges her wanderlust. “I love going places where I can find hiking, which is really fun and relaxing for me,” she says at the launch event for Naturalizer‘s 90th Anniversary Collection.
Experiencing tranquility where she can is especially important for Boylston because she’s found that her pre-show anxiety hasn’t entirely waned with experience. “I’ve been a professional ballerina for over 10 years but I still get really, really nervous before shows,” she admits. “When I was younger it was out of control! I would get nervous just about how nervous I would get.”
Below, the ballerina shares her hacks for maintaining both a healthy body and mind in demanding circumstances, tips that can most certainly be applied to all who feel the stress of everyday life—whether you’re center stage or not.
Keep reading for the type of bath you didn’t know you should be taking, how a pro ballerina selects her stilettos, and more.
Diversify your workouts
My trainer is actually a soloist in ABT as well! He really understands a dancer’s needs, but he has his training license. I feel like ballet is all about turn-out [when you rotate your legs from your hips] and working with him is all about turn-in. So you target a completely different muscle group.
Put it on ice
I’ve sprained my ankle so many times, so a lot of nights I’ll just end my day with an ice bath. I’ll dump my foot in an ice bucket to numb me and get the swelling down. It really helps a lot.
Get specific about your shoes
When I first moved to New York and joined ABT when I was 18, I would just trot around in any stiletto; it didn’t even have to fit me. But now that I’ve been a professional dancer for 10 years and dealt with a lot of injuries, comfort is very important. I definitely have to be able to walk and dance in the heels.
I try to get massages at least once a week, like a deep-tissue massage.
Keep your beauty essentials handy
I keep dry shampoo in my bag, and definitely a comb. Usually at the end of a rehearsal day you’ve sweated a lot, so I’ll usually just slick my hair up into a high ponytail or a braid because it just makes you look instantly pulled together.
Find joy in unexpected places
I find that caffeine makes me feel a little more optimistic.
Lose yourself in the music
I still get nervous [before going on stage], so I do breathing exercises like taking deep breaths. And then I always listen to music before the show. I put my headphones on and just blast it.
Want more wellness advice from the pros? Find out why Venus Williams swears by dandelion cleanses, and how ABT principle Misty Copeland deals with emotionally draining criticism.