WatchFit’s Guy Holland caught up with Strictly Come Dancing star Natalie Lowe and delved into the hard work behind the glitz and glamour.
Strictly Come Dancing is an enormous TV event. It constantly has the beating of X-Factor in the ratings war and continues to delight season after season. It looks like great fun and all very glamorous, but how much hard work is it?
You’d be staggered! The viewing public only really see the glamorous and fun stuff which is pretty much the cherry on the cake element. There is another 95% that goes unseen and is far less glam! The relentless hard graft, breakthroughs, frustrations, aches and pains behind the scenes. On a Saturday night people see us perform a 90 second routine on a and there is a little bit of a behind the scenes VT to set it up. But that barely scratches the surface!RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
I remember going into the Wembley Show edition of Strictly with Michael Vaughan which was the half-way mark of the series. And by that stage we had clocked 300 hours of training time! But is it worth it and do we love it? Of course!
Apart from anything else that is a huge physical effort, you must have to be in top physical shape.
That is certainly very important. I’m a typical Aussie outdoors girl – never happier than when swimming, surfing, hiking or fishing and have always enjoyed my sports. To be the best dancer I can be I have to be in the best shape I can be at any given time. This is also vital for me too be the best partner possible for my celebrity and the best performer for this massive TV show that has such a vast fan base and is such a privilege to be involved with.
Would you give us an idea of your fitness and training programme?
Once Strictly gets underway it is potentially five months of solid dancing commitment, which in itself is the most fantastic way to be fit. Of course any of us might be out of the show in the early stages, but we have to train like we know we are going to go all the way. So this means the prospect of training at least five long days a week, competing on the sixth and maybe, just maybe, grabbing one day off. But I assure you, even the ‘day off’ is entirely consumed by thoughts of routines and training. And that could be the way of it month after month. Once the Strictly Come Dancing train is rolling you really don’t get off!
So the actual specific conditioning needs to happen in the months building up to the show and that allows me to hit the ground running. So of course I train for endurance – otherwise eight hours in a rehearsal studio five days a week will find you out very quickly! Also I have to be strong so my frame looks great whether I’m doing an elegant ballroom dance or something more fast and frantic like the Charleston. And although we might not do the lifting we have to be able to hold out bodies perfectly throughout lifts and that takes a decent degree of strength – so it’s not just the blokes doing the hard work!
As dancers we must have high levels of stamina, power, mobility, flexibility, speed, poise and precision. If that is not immediately obvious to people it means we are doing our job properly by making it look graceful, controlled, elegant, fun and everything all the various dance styles require. But under all that we have to have trained like elite athletes.
Any tips you can share?
I do lots of of instability work which is perfect for conditioning my whole body to explode through all planes of movement with the power, precision and control that I have mentioned. So I use dumbbells and barbells whilst standing on a bosu ball, I do lots of suspension training – total body suspension. This means I have to work with my entire bodyweight body keeping every action and motion under complete control at all times.
A strong core is imperative to what we do and these sorts of exercises develop great strength in the core stabilisers and from that we can really build our physical performance.
I also box, use monkey bars in a weighted vest and hang upside down from gymnastic ring and , donning a weighted vest, perform crunches and kind of upside down squats, where I’m hanging with my feet attached to the rings, weight jacket on and then I have pull my body upwards by just bending at the knees and driving up through the thighs. Fairly agonising but it hits the spot!
I’ve worked with great trainers like Ricardo Macedo and James Duigan and they’ve been invaluable in getting me into optimum shape.
Yoga is also a very important element of my preparation and is great for body and mind. The physical aspects of professional dancing and the intensive requirements of Strictly are significant, but it also involves mental strength and clarity too.
And any dietary considerations?
Lots of seeds, nuts, olive oil, avocados, spices, lentils, veggies and keeping clear of processed foods. Mostly it comes down to just being sensible. We generally know what is good, healthy and energising and what is bad and depleting.
I’m hooked on quinoa or buckwheat, hemp, pumpkin and sesame seeds, kale, raw spinach, peppers. Chicken, fish, fruit, poached eggs all make up regular meal components. I snack on seeds, nuts, carrots, broccoli, hummus, berries, pomegranate, Greek yoghurt, chickpeas. Time is a rare commodity, particularly during the Strictly season so all my meals take no more than 5 to 10 minutes to cook. Unless I’m sorting out a dinner party and then I’m happy to spend all day in my kitchen! Some of my favourite dishes are seafood, Mexican, roasts and Indian. But I eat everything in it rawest form where possible.
I avoid sugars, drink a litre of veggie juice a day (anything green with carrot and ginger) and 1.5 litres of water. I eat fish, meats 3-4 times a week, cook with coconut oil and drink loads of coconut water. There is a great book called The Clean & Lean Cookbook and I swear by it!
I love good quality home cooked food ….and it is just as well I am so active by nature and by my job otherwise I’d be the size of a house!
You mentioned your Strictly Come Dancing 2012 partner – former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan. He famously masterminded one of the greatest ever Ashes victories over your Aussie boys. No hard feelings then?
Ha, ha, no none at all! There was certainly some Aussie / Pommie banter but we have became the best of mates and I think that was quite evident to the TV audience too. We had the most fantastic time. At the beginning he was a total novice and non dancer, and somebody who really really struggled to find even a little dance talent locked away deep inside! He struggling in the early shows and got pretty rough treatment from the judges. But his work ethic was immense – he had a typical sportsman’s approach of total graft and commitment. Even in those difficult early weeks when he wasn’t impressing the judges at all, he was still giving his heart and soul and was not put off. And I think the audience recognised that. So to go from that kind of inauspicious start to dazzling the Wembley Arena crowd, scoring 9’s and getting a standing ovation from 10,000 people was just magical! We can all learn plenty from that level of application and effort. We teach, guide and motivate our celebrity partners, but in turn I promise you they inspire and uplift us too!
Natalie is available for personal appearances, seminars, performances and lessons
Read more from Expert Guy Holland.