Working Out With Arolyn Williams

January 30, 2016

After spending so much of her day in the studio, Ballet West principal Arolyn Williams prefers to head outside once it’s time to cross-train: “There’s just something about having the wind in your face, watching the light change—it fills you up in a way that a gym just can’t.”

Two or three times a week, she runs up to five miles in a nearby park. “I hated running in high school,” she admits. But, inspired by her marathon-runner mom, she took it up a few years ago to work more cardio into her routine. “As I got better, I started to feel like it wasn’t work, it was fun,” she says. “When it’s good, you feel like you’re just floating.” She came to enjoy it more than the elliptical or bike, where she sometimes had to set the resistance so high to get her heart rate up that she’d just tire out her legs. Today, she feels the push-off action of the feet in running has helped her improve the speed of her petit allégro. And—in combination with her twice-weekly Pilates and Gyrotonic sessions—the parallel motion has helped her avoid overuse injuries. “It’s a good counterpoint to all the turning out we do,” she says.

What she loves doing most, though, is hiking, a passion she’s had since growing up in Western Massachusetts. “I feel so lucky I ended up at Ballet West because, not only is it a great company, but we are so close to these amazing mountains. And mountains are definitely my happy place.”

She’s careful to wear strong boots and to bring hiking poles to keep weight off her joints if she’s going for a long hike or will be navigating steep terrain. Although hiking at altitude provides a healthy challenge for her endurance, she mostly does it for the “magical moments,” like when a herd of mountain goats crosses her path. One day, she hopes to hike the length of the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail (both are over 2,000 miles). “After I’m done dancing, obviously!”