Dancer, choreographer, and YouTuber Dana Alexa has honed her show-must-go-on chops performing with artists like Tyga and Wiz Khalifa. But nothing taught her about perseverance—and keeping her cool—quite like her stint on the current season of The Amazing Race. Submerging herself in volcanic mud? Check. Traversing a mountain ridge in the French Alps? She did it. Running, running, and more running? Yes, yes, and yes.
“It’s a lot harder than it looks on TV. You don’t see how far people are really running and traveling to get from place to place,” says Alexa, who gained a following for herself (we’re talking in the tens of thousands) through her sweat-inducing, attitude-overflowing choreographed dance videos she posts online. “Once a leg starts, you’re on your own. No food breaks. No water breaks. You’re seeing two to three days’ worth of activity in one episode.”
And what did she learn from her immersive, made-for-TV super-challenges? You can prepare all you want—and she did train ahead of time with her partner on the show (and in life), fellow dancer/choreographer Matt Steffanina—but there are times that you’re going to have to dig deeper than you ever thought you could.
“We thought we were prepared, and the first day we ran nine miles. We thought we should have done more [training]!” says Alexa, whose pre-show regimen included running, rowing, climbing, hiking, yoga, and lots of functional training. “Their goal [on The Amazing Race] is to trick you. You can practice 10 things and they’ll throw in the 11th thing that you didn’t think of.”
Under pressure? We tapped the Amazing Racer for her best tips to prepare for 3 OMG-I-can’t-do-this situations.
1. When one look at your schedule and to-do list has your heart palpitating
While you may not be racing across the globe doing daring tricks, your jam-packed schedule and never-ending to-do list can send your body and mind into overdrive. Alexa’s advice for handling these situations? Find ways to be calm during the chaos. “I take deep breaths and meditate,” says Alexa. “[During The Amazing Race,] you’re mentally turned on for an entire leg, which can be one to two days at a time. I tried to create the opposite feeling of what was happening in my body when you get caught up in competition.”
2. When you need to be uber-prepared
A big presentation, or even packing for an upcoming trip, can quickly turn your stomach into a bowl full of knots. To make sure she’s prepared (and doesn’t forget a thing), Alexa has a simple trick: visualization. “The night before, I walk through my day from beginning to end, visualizing the following day,” she says. That includes everything from parking and transportation to nailing her performance.
In fact, visualization is what Alexa says landed her and Steffanina on The Amazing Race. “We had a vision board with pictures of running the race and winning the race and our audition number. We constantly saw pictures of the race until we got the call,” says Alexa.
3. When jet lag has you dreaming of a caffeine IV
For the globe-trotting dancer and choreographer, the trick to avoiding jet lag is preparing before she steps on the plane. “I’ll adjust my sleeping habits the day before, either staying up a little later or going to bed a little earlier to try to get closer to the time zone I’m traveling to,” says Alexa. She also recommends paying attention to your flight times. “If my flight lands early in the day, it’s okay to sleep during the flight. If my flight lands at night, as hard as it is, I don’t sleep so I can get to bed that night.”