Working Out With Maria Chapman

May 31, 2014

This Pacific Northwest Ballet principal goes for a run almost every day.


Above: In Kiyon Gaines’
Sum Stravinsky. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.



As a kid, Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Maria Chapman loved sprinting, but she gave it up for ballet at age 13. She started running again only after joining PNB in 1995, when she began including running drills in her cross-training routine with former Olympian Peter Shmock.


Today, she can’t imagine not running regularly. “I try to run every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes if my schedule is tight,” Chapman says. She typically goes for a run of up to 45 minutes before morning class, taking her dog to a grassy lakefront trail. She mixes up her program to include intervals some days, faster, shorter runs on other days and occasionally slower, longer jogs. “They each offer their own benefits, and I don’t want my body getting used to one thing.” Sometimes she’ll run later, to warm up before evening rehearsals or performances.


Does she worry about repetitive-stress injuries? “I don’t really run enough to cause stress. And stretching my calves, quads, hamstrings and outside leg muscles following each run helps me avoid injury,” says Chapman. “If I were to ever feel that running was too much on my body, I would ramp down. My ballet performances are my ultimate goal, and any cross-training I do has to support that goal.”


“Running wakes me up when I’m tired and picks me up when I’m down.”—Maria Chapman


Even after surgery for a metatarsal dislocation in her mid-foot in 2009, Chapman (with her doctor’s approval) was running within two months—long before returning to ballet class. In fact, she feels that running helped her rehabilitation process. “The single-plane movement made it a good choice, easier to manage compared to ballet with its constant changes of direction,” says Chapman.


Today, running helps Chapman’s endurance. “I definitely increase my miles when I am preparing for a demanding role like Myrtha that requires a lot of stamina,” says Chapman. “I generally need at least six weeks of the increased intensity.”


But the benefits go beyond the physical perks. “Running gives me the alertness, mental ability and focus I need for dancing. It wakes me up when I’m tired and picks me up when I’m a little down. I can’t imagine not running—it makes me feel so strong.”




Her Shoes: Brooks PureFlow 3

Chapman finds they help support her high arches and 5′ 6″ frame. “I like minimal padding so my heel is on the same level as the ball of my foot,”

she says. “It encourages the forward-leaning type of running that I do.” It also helps to keep her from landing too hard on her heels.





Maria’s favorite conditioning exercises for running

• For lower body: Tie a Thera-Band around your calves or ankles and practice squat reps, then squat and walk side to side, paying attention to proper alignment.

• For core and inner thigh: Practice sit-ups, bridges and side planks with a ball, pillow or medium-tension resistance ring between the legs.

• For calves: Relevé on pointe 10 times turned out and 10 times in parallel, then élevé 10 times turned out and 10 times in parallel. Repeat or increase reps as needed.


Above photo: Courtesy Brooks