Each week on That Girl we celebrate inspirational female athletes. This week, we are proud to feature Elizabeth Atwell, a dance instructor and choreographer whose life just keeps getting better and better because of ballet. What we love about Elizabeth is the fact that she says she’s in better shape now than she was in her 20s–attributable to dance, of course. She also says that “Our bodies are our constant home throughout our lives” and that movement gives us the opportunity to develop lifelong relationships with them. Something we couldn’t agree with more. Take a look at Elizabeth’s story and be inspired to dance a little today!
30 years old
Dance Instructor & Choreographer
Fitness/health accomplishment you are most proud of:
Overall, I am proud that, at 30, I’m stronger and more flexible than I was at 20. It is a combination of practice hours I’ve put in at the studio, learning my unique nutritional needs, and acting on my impulse to move. I grew up studying ballet professionally, and I’ve been using my late 20s to explore other movement sports that I didn’t have the opportunity to pursue when I was younger. I started whitewater rafting when I was 28. Last year, I spent three weeks rafting the Grand Canyon, and this year, I want to learn to ski!
What inspires you to get fit every day?
My occupation is a big motivator–being able to demonstrate movements with technical precision is an important part of my teaching style, as well as being able to physically develop new choreography. Equally important, however, is my mental health. When I don’t move on a daily basis, I immediately see changes in my mood, outlook and response to stress. I am a firm believer in the potential of focused movement to influence us for the better, both mentally and physically–this is one of the main reasons I teach.
What do you do when you don’t feel like working out?
I’ve learned that if I keep my activity varied and go outside as much as possible, I avoid burn out days. I change up the music when I practice ballet barre so I don’t have the opportunity to get bored. I pepper my schedule with activities like hiking, mountain biking, the occasional trail run, etc, which are thrilling and expose my skin to sunlight.
I’ve also learned to give myself a break. I’m naturally compelled to move, so if I’m seriously struggling just to do a few pliés or get on my yoga mat, it’s likely because I’m ill and need a break.
Favorite energizing meal:
I enjoy food immensely; choosing one meal is a almost impossible! I adore avocado, proteins and wild game, and typically stock up on whatever produce is seasonal at our local farmer’s market. The Athens Farmer’s Market is a rich resource, especially for such a small community. Also, my partner is an incredible cook–he makes delicious venison dishes, rabbit, and his lamb burgers (I like mine with avocado & sunflower sprouts)–amazing!
What’s your favorite way to chill post-workout?
Hot baths with epsom salts. One day, I hope to own a hot tub…
What is your top kick-ass workout?
Mountain biking or trail running–the endurance to complete a trail is incredible, but the variety of trails and challenges caused by weather conditions or seasons make each go unique and interesting.
Where is your favorite/most unique place you’ve ever exercised?
The Republic of Georgia. I studied dance on a Fulbright Fellowship there, and my daily yoga practice had a view of Narikala Fortress. I danced in ancient city locations and alpine mountains, and taught myself to tread water in the Black Sea.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through sports?
We are born movers. I think dance is common to all people, globally, even if one is not drawn to stylized/codified dance “steps” (such as ballet”) per say. And I think we’re better for it. Our bodies are our constant home throughout our lives. Students of movement have the opportunity to develop lifelong relationships with their bodies which allow them to stay rooted to self, no matter the outside situation. Ultimately, if I have been moving, I am the best version of myself. This self knowledge and comfort-in-ones-own-body is what I hope to pass on to my students.
Photo: courtesy of Elizabeth Atwell