When Thomas Forster isn't in the gym doing his own workout, he's often coaching his colleagues.
Two years ago, the American Ballet Theatre soloist got a personal training certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Now he trains fellow ABT members and teaches the ABT Studio Company a strength and conditioning class alongside fellow ABT soloist Roman Zhurbin.
He shared five of his top tips for getting into top shape.
Marty Sohl, courtesy ABT
Most Dancers Need Extra Cardio to Get Through Choreography
"Ballet class doesn't give you great stamina," he says, "so you need to do something else to really build that so when you have to do a variation that's 15 minutes long and you're absolutely exhausted, your body can handle it."
Exercises Don't Need to Be Complicated to Get Results
For workouts, Forster typically combines body-weight and cardio exercises that target multiple muscle groups. He believes that even simple exercises like mountain climbers can be effective as part of a high-intensity interval session. For an extra challenge, he'll add a resistance band to movements like squats or lateral walks.
Study Anatomy To Gain a Deeper Understand of How You Move
Since becoming a trainer, Forster has not only been rewarded with improved strength and endurance in his dancing, but also a deeper understanding of his body. "I gained a greater knowledge of the muscles and how they interconnect," he says, mentioning that he's now more aware of his alignment, which helps him avoid injury. "The human body is absolutely amazing."
Recovery Is Just As Important As Working Out
"A really cold shower or cold plunges seem to really help my body fight inflammation," he says.
Do This Every Day:
Forster says dancers should perform this stretch every day—it targets all the major muscle groups and improves mobility in your hips, shoulders and thoracic spine.
Step your right foot forward into a lunge, with the knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Your left leg should be straight behind you.
Place your left hand next to the inside of your right foot.
Twist your upper body toward your knee and reach your right arm up toward the sky.
The cast of Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise in rehearsal. Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy The Shed
Akram Khan loves to dive into genres he is unfamiliar with. While his own movement vocabulary is a hybrid of kathak and contemporary dance, he has choreographed a new Giselle for English National Ballet, collaborated with flamenco artist Israel Galván and made a dance theater duet with film star Juliette Binoche. Now, in between touring Xenos, his final full-length solo, and several other projects, he's found time to tackle kung fu. Khan is part of the collaborative team behind Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, a blockbuster musical based on themes of migration and the fight for survival, running June 22–July 27. Directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and featuring a score that remixes songs by Sia, it's part of the inaugural season of The Shed, a new venue in New York City.