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Experts / September 2020
Kristen Geil, Reebok Contributor

A Professional Dancer’s Secrets to Staying Fit

Get ready to feel exhausted just reading about Tash Crudup’s daily exercise routine.

Powering through eight-hour dance rehearsals, teaching spin class, finishing the day with a run—if you’re a normal human being, just contemplating that routine probably leaves you in desperate need of a nap. But for professional dancer Tash Crudup, it’s just another day in the life. 
After graduating high school, Crudup moved to California to start her career, finding work as a backup dancer for major names in pop music and as a contestant on a nationally televised dance competition show. She quickly realized that to stay at the top of her game, she needed to develop her fitness beyond the workouts she got from intense dance rehearsals. So she began to do more cross-training, which led to teaching spin classes and getting her yoga instructor certification. As her overall conditioning grew, so did Crudup’s interest in veganism—encouraged by the way the plant-based diet helped her perform and recover quickly. This year, she launched her vegan-focused website and community, Lil Vegan Shawty
Along the way, Crudup has learned plenty about how to keep her body in top shape. Here’s how the professional dancer stays fit.

Start the Day Slow

Crudup begins nearly every day with some sort of stretching or yoga class. “That time is for me to connect to my body,” she says. The benefits go beyond the physical. “Yoga is the one movement-based thing I do that allows me to be very present,” Crudup explains. “For dance, I’m focused on giving the choreographer what he needs or making the musical artist look good. But yoga lets me be in the present moment and connect to my body creatively. It feels meditative for sure.”

Mix It Up

Because eight hours of dance rehearsal a day are clearly not enough, after Crudup leaves the studio around 5 p.m., she heads over to a nearby space to teach evening spin class. Once that’s done, she ends her day with a rotating list of conditioning options, including Pilates. “Pilates has been so huge for my stability,” she says. “It targets specific muscle groups and trains that muscle to hold you up, which is really important during fast movements in dance numbers,” and especially key for avoiding injury. 
That’s not all, though. Crudup weight trains three to four times a week to build strength. “Most times I do full body, but if I’m training for a big job coming up where I know I‘ll be in a dozen different numbers, I’ll break it down into different muscle groups, so I can target them and recover without taking days off,” she says.
Running is another option she likes to throw into the mix, hitting the pavement several days a week. “I run a lot,” she says. “It’s a brain thing—running gives me time to fill my mind up.”

Fuel Smart

Crudup was a vegetarian in high school, but when she came to L.A., she noticed there were a lot of options for vegans. She began experimenting with different vegan recipes and found that she loved the way she felt when eating totally plant-based.
“Before, even as a vegetarian, I’d feel the weight of the physical work I was doing and the impact—it felt like I was doing eight workouts a day,” she says. “Now, I’m able to do more without feeling so weighted down by my schedule.”
Because her back-to-back rehearsals and performances don’t allow for much recovery time, eating strategically plays an important part in helping Crudup dance at a high level. “I don’t think I’d be able to keep my schedule if I wasn’t vegan, to be honest,” she says. “I recover faster between workouts. Plus, I notice if I’m not fueled right—I’ll be agitated or I won’t pick up the choreography as quickly.”
Because she’s always on the go, Crudup makes sure she leaves home with plenty of fuel for the day. The key, she says, is vegan protein, which provides long-term energy and helps her muscles recover. “I always have something with me,” she says. “I pack a big bowl of quinoa or hearty brown rice that will sustain me, especially since I’m usually eating quickly.” She makes sure to fill her bag with a few snacks, too. “Even just a packet of sunflower butter works,” she adds.

Embrace Calm

Crudup is open about her struggles with anxiety, something she’s learned to cope with through nutrition and exercise. “A lot of my food and fitness choices have to do with sustaining a really calm, positive mind so I can keep physically going,” she says. “That’s where the veganism came from and my deeper look into wellness. I have to be honest with how my body is talking to me.”
As part of her Lil Vegan Shawty platform, Crudup shares vegan food recipes, workout programs, fitness coaching tips, volunteer opportunities and more with her members. And even if she’s not exercising for work, Crudup always makes time to move for fun—and that includes roping her friends into impromptu dance sessions over Zoom. “With dancing, you can connect to your body in a way that allows you to be free,” she says. “I’ll text my friends and say, “Get up! Just dance! We’re dancing in the moment right now.” It’s a way to let go of all the extra stuff. I definitely recommend it.”

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Experts / September 2020
Kristen Geil, Reebok Contributor