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FITNESS Intern

We Tried It: What It Takes to Be A U.S. Open Ball Person

Written on August 25, 2014 at 1:32 pm , by

Written by Anna Hecht, editorial intern

Tennis is an incredible sport, and the athletes are OMG-powerful, but there are some people involved in tournaments—specifically the U.S. Open—who don’t get a big spotlight on their athleticism. But man, they should. I had no idea what I was agreeing to when I accepted an invitation to participate in the U.S. Open ball boy—er, ball girl—tryouts, but I figured I could hack it. Spoiler alert: I can’t.

“How difficult can it be to run over and pick up a tennis ball?” I wondered. Too bad I didn’t think about the fact that a ball person is expected to do his or her job perfectly, while going unnoticed, during intense televised matches that are played by the best players in the world. Oh, right.

My first task during tryouts:  throw the ball across the court to a receiving ball person, without it landing inside the playing court boundaries. Just to clarify, it’s pretty freakin’ far. Like, 128-feet long. While I have decently accurate aim, my upper-body strength just wasn’t cutting it (and I have been working on my push-ups ever since). If by some freak accident I would have been chosen, my ball would have ended up hitting Serena Williams. As a former FITNESS cover girl, I’ve seen how tough she is. So obviously that would not be okay.

Next challenge: testing agility and speed, and doing it without causing a distraction.

At this, I was pretty good. But, knowing that there were about 400 ball-person hopefuls auditioning for just four coveted spots, I was pretty certain that at least half of them would be better at running cross-court to retrieve the balls “with two hands,” following an ended play or missed serve. Either way, the directions for getting the job done were simple: Stand with your hands behind your back, and when the ball hits the net, run, retrieve the ball and sprint to the sidelines. On it.

The tryouts lasted about 15 minutes, and I definitely had a ball (sorry, couldn’t help it). Down to the last second, I had a smile on my face as I worked up a sweat, and enjoyed an experience that I had never before considered. Granted, I didn’t get a callback for round two of tryouts, but as I watch the 2014 U.S. Open from home, which takes place through September 8th, there’s no doubt that I’ll be giving those ball boys and girls a second look to see who’s got the athleticism I’m after.

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Meet the (Very Few) Ladies of the Harlem Globetrotters

Written on August 13, 2014 at 10:24 am , by

Written by Mary Kate Schulte, editorial intern

We can’t help but swoon over any female athlete who fearlessly plays tough with the guys—and actually keeps up with them. So when we heard that three women—Joyce “Sweet J” Ekworomadu, Tammy “T-Time” Brawner and Fatima “TNT” Maddox—dribble, drive and shoot with an otherwise all-male basketball team, we couldn’t wait to get their stay-fit tips.

Members of the Harlem Globetrotters, a basketball team that travels across the globe mixing the game with a little comedy (audience chats, jokes, crazy moves, etc.), these ladies are three of just 12 women to EVER play on the team, and it’s been around since 1927. While we’re more than ready to see that number grow, we gotta admit: what they’re doing is pretty baller.

What are some of your favorite workouts? 

Joyce: When I played for the Nigerian national team, we practiced in a really hot gym—it was like playing in a sauna. It was awful while I was doing it, but I was in the best shape of my life. Now I’ll try to go to a hot room to do an ab workout, or I’ll do cardio outside, because it’s a more challenging atmosphere. That way, playing on the air-conditioned court isn’t as rigorous as the way I trained.  I always tell people to train harder than what your actual game-day situation would be.

Tammy: I like to stay away from weight machines. I really like natural exercises using your body weight or free weights. Every year I switch up my workout method. Last year I tried CrossFit, and it was one of the most insane workouts ever! Technically you’re not supposed to stop between each exercise and I was like, “Where’s my break?” No breaks!  But I saw results almost immediately. This year, I’m boxing to work on my reaction time. I love it. It’s a full-body workout.

Fatima: I’ve always been big on core strength, but being on the road so much is hard. I’ve begun doing exercises I can do in a hotel room.  I really like planks and side planks. I find them effective and easy to do while on the road.

What kind of diet do you follow to keep up with the cals you’re burning?

Joyce: In college, we worked out so much that I didn’t need to watch what I ate. But I noticed my body was not as lean as I wanted it to be—I was gaining bad weight. When I turned to professional basketball, I definitely started watching my diet. Now I’ll start breakfast with oatmeal and wheat toast, lunch is usually a salad or a tuna sandwich, and for dinner I have fish. I really like tilapia and salmon. I also started eating smaller portions, and because I eat every few hours, my metabolism sped up. I try to make good choices.

Tammy: I try my hardest to follow a healthy diet, but I’m also a junk-food junkie! We often get out of games late at night and our food options are limited. If we have to go to a burger place, I’ll get a turkey burger instead of red meat. I also eat a lot of seafood, and I love pasta for some energy when I’m working out twice a day.

Fatima: I try and eat as many fruits as I can. It gives me natural energy. It’s tough to have a daily regimen because we move to a different city every day. Often we get out of games late and you have to work with what’s available.

What keeps you motivated?

Joyce: Being passionate about what I do. Sometimes you don’t feel well or you’re having a bad day, but when you walk out on the court and see the kids start smiling and cheering, you get this energy out of nowhere. We get to have fun out there and crack jokes while playing basketball.  Those are two of my biggest traits: basketball and fun. It’s me.

Tammy: For me, basketball has always been an outlet and an escape. It’s peace of mind. I grew up around a lot of negativity, but when I played basketball it was like I was in a different world. Nothing and no one else mattered except for the basketball and the defender in front of me.

Fatima: I’ve been in sports for so long it’s become a lifestyle for me. I don’t have to drag myself to workouts because it’s embedded in me. I have a certain standard of how I want to feel on the court. I don’t want to feel overly sore or like I’m dragging. So I try to keep at it.

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How Access Hollywood Correspondent Liz Hernandez Stays Fit Off Set

Written on August 6, 2014 at 6:15 pm , by

Written by Anna Hecht, editorial intern

Fit and fabulous? Check. TV personality Liz Hernandez embodies both of these qualities, and her rockin’ bod and flair for fashion are just two of the reasons we love tuning into Access Hollywood. Besides becoming one of the first Latina correspondent on NBC’s entertainment news program in 2014, this California native also sets a great example as a strong woman who knows what she wants and fights for it. After sitting down for a one-on-one chat with Hernandez, we should also probably mention that she’s totally down-to-earth, witty and bubbly. Yes, we know; swoon.

Being on TV and always in the spotlight, how does it affect your mindset about working out and staying fit?

I have never let myself fall into the trap of like, “Oh, I’ve got to look this certain way.” I’ve always been pretty healthy and kept myself in good condition. But, there’s never a worse feeling than when you’ve gone out the night before, you didn’t eat right and you get to set and they have  this little skirt for you. You are like “Oh, God! I don’t want to go out there!” So, I have noticed that on the mornings when I wake up, workout and get to set, it’s like, I have energy, my body feels strong and I am projecting that. It’s just a positive reinforcement.

Are there any exercise routines you’re totally obsessed with?

I try to go to the gym no less than 4 days a week. I used to be like, “Cardio! Cardio! Cardio!” But then I was retrained to just get my heart rate up for 10 minutes on the treadmill. Then I do weight training, where I go grab free weights and I do jumping jacks with the weights, squats, lunges, abs…just so my full body is getting a workout. I try to do as much as I can with free weights because essentially you are burning calories while building your muscles.

What’s your diet like these days?

I am really strict during the week. I am very big on getting 30 grams of protein in the morning just to fill me up. That’s what really works for me and it usually holds me over for 2-3 hours before I have something like a bran muffin with fruit. I’ve also strayed away from all dairy products and red meat.

Any go-to snacks?

I am going to be totally embarrassing, but I have the same breakfast every day. I am a huge fan of thinkThin bars. They have 20 grams of protein in them! I have a white chocolate thinkThin bar every single morning without fail. They are low sugar and high in protein. I also keep my house stocked with fruit. Cantaloupe is my favorite.

Guilty-Pleasure foods?

I loved—loved, as in past tense—ice cream. Now that I’ve given up dairy, I use these little ice cube trays and pour juice into them. I pour white grape juice and add in real fruit. So when I have an after-dinner craving, I’ll have one of those and it cuts the sugar craving.

With your extremely busy schedule, how do you manage to do it all?

You know, it’s all balance. One of the things I really practice is thinking about my mind, body and spirit. It’s totally my mantra. In the mornings, before I even go to the gym or do anything, I have a gratitude journal and I write five things that I am grateful for. It’s a reminder for when my day goes haywire that it could always be worse.

Photo by Emilio Sanchez

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Fashionably Fit: Celebrate the Running Skirt’s 10-Year Anniversary

Written on August 6, 2014 at 5:45 pm , by

Written by Anna Hecht, editorial intern

What’s more fun than looking super cute while training like a beast? Answer: nothing. Which is why we totally love a good running skirt. This fall, the brand behind the original, Skirt Sports, celebrates its 10-year anniversary with a “Virtual 10 on 10 Run” on September 13th. As you probably guessed, we’re joining the fun and are pretty pumped to sport this season’s trendiest styles.

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of what exactly a “Virtual 10 on 10 Run” entails, we must talk about just how crazy it is that the running skirt has officially been around for an entire decade. News like this can make a girl feel pretty old. I mean, we’re talking 2004 here, back when Usher’s “Burn” was the top pop single and movies like Mean Girls and The Notebook were rockin’ the big screen (We still love you, RyGos and Rachel).

It was also the year that professional triathlete Nicole DeBoom debuted the running skirt—while winning Ironman Wisconsin, no less—and used her prize money to start Skirt Sports, a brand that’s dedicated the last decade to making women look and feel great while running. Talk about major girl power.

So, what exactly is this virtual run, and how can you participate? From September 13-15, Skirt Sports invites women from around the world to run either a 10K or 10 miles (if you happen to live in Boulder, CO you can run with the Skirt Sports team!). Sign up here, and share your training and race-day adventures on social media—just remember to tag @SkirtSports. Every participant that registers will receive a gift certificate to Skirt Sports, a Lucky #10 race bib and a finisher’s gift post-race.

Still new to the world of running skirts? Check out some of our fave picks below. From the most fashionable styles to the best options for optimal performance, you’ll love the freedom that comes with wearing skirts while running your fastest. What are you waiting for? Time to suit up, sign up and pound some pavement. Happy training!

From Left to Right:

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5 Greens You Can Eat to Your Heart’s Content (Kale Not Included)

Written on August 1, 2014 at 10:27 am , by

Written by Macklin Stern, editorial intern

Brace yourselves, FITNESS readers: A global kale shortage may be coming.

Are you still breathing?

Apparently kale is a lot more popular now than it was in 2012 (310 percent more popular, according to recent research from GrubHub), meaning our favorite leafy green may not be as readily available in the near future.

But don’t worry. We’re taking the necessary precautions to help our fellow green freaks cope. We’ve even placed “Kale missing; Reward: happiness and health” signs all over Manhattan (just kidding—though we would if it would help).

We also turned to nutrition expert Leslie Bonci, M.P.H., R.D., FITNESS advisory board member, to give us the scoop on some alternative green superfoods that provide similar benefits to kale. All are packed with Vitamin K, which promotes bone health; zeaxanthin and lutein, which are vital for eye health; and iron, which helps carry oxygen throughout the body. And because they’re so good for you (and so low-cal), Bonci suggests eating a cup of these raw veggies each day (or 1/3 cup cooked). Get ready to fill that crisper!

Collard greens: Sauté some onions, toss in a little curry, add a few golden raisins, and you’ve got your next mouth-watering way to gnaw on these babies. “It provides a sweetness that counteracts the natural bitterness of this green,” explains Bonci.

Mustard greens: Into eggs? Try some mustard green frittatas. “I usually take a bunch of different vegetables and egg to hold it together, and then spread about 1/3-cup of  store-bought bruschetta sauce over the top,” she says.

Turnip greens: ”You can take on a Middle Eastern dish, like Sleek (a dish typically full of kale, bulgar wheat and black-eyed peas), but instead of making it with kale, add turnip greens,” she says. “You can sauté it in olive oil, then add in the traditional ingredients. It’s wonderful.”

Spinach: Sprinkle on some lemon olive oil or orange olive oil to bring out the flavor, recommends Bonci. “Doing this won’t bring back those images that people have of slimy spinach in the cafeteria, which is why most people don’t eat it,” she says. Yep, we remember.

Swiss chard: Throw some in a skillet and add a little lemon zest to amp up the “yum” factor, explains Bonci. Then you can use it to build your favorite lunch salad. Easy peasy.

If you do manage to get your hands on some kale and need an extra crunch, learn how to make some scrumptious kale chips. No need for greasy potato chips here.

Photo by Lisa Shin

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How to Dress Like a CrossFit Pro

Written on July 25, 2014 at 4:09 pm , by

Written by Macklin Stern, editorial intern

With so many athletes gearing up for the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games this weekend, we’re already feeling super motivated to run to our nearest box (code for gym, for all you newbies) and sign up for a few classes. Better yet, we’ll just hop on the MindBody Connect app and register there. But signing up and actually working out is only half the battle. You have to look the part, too. And not to fit in – so that you can continue to burpee and box jump like it’s no one’s business.

Samantha Briggs, a CrossFit athlete who just so happens to be the fittest woman on earth, gave us some sweet tips on what to wear—and what not to wear—when you’re on your way to deadlift, snatch, and clean and jerk. And considering she trains seven days a week—four of those are two-a-days—we think she might know her way around the rings.

Compression gear is a must. “Loose-fitting clothes may get trapped in the bars,” Briggs warns. Makes sense – no one wants an unexpected wardrobe malfunction because there shirt got in the way of the equipment.

Just say no to pockets. “If you do muscle-ups, you don’t want pockets because your thumb can get trapped in them.” Even doing exercises on the rings can become a risk. “I’ve tried to do them with big pockets on my shorts and nearly got my thumb cut off,” she says. Noted.

Tall socks are in style. You see all the diehards wearing them, and they do it for a reason. The extra padding protects your shins from the bar when lots of lifting is involved, and a pair of gloves or gymnastic grips will protect your hands (strict gymnastics is one of the hottest trends in the CrossFit world right now, so expect to learn some bendy moves if you haven’t yet). “If you choose to spend a lot of time on the bar, you can get ripped hands,” notes Briggs.  ”You don’t want to rip your hands because you won’t be able to train after,” she says. And nobody wants that.

Get the right shoes. Running sneakers don’t belong here. Briggs suggests the Reebok Nano 4.0 or Inov-8s, which are built for the pounding and sharp movements you do in each WOD (workout of the day).

Be sure to tune in to ESPN tonight and ESPN2 on Saturday and Sunday to watch the CrossFit pros burn and firm (more info on times and streaming here). Then hit up a box near you to try the trend. Just be prepared to sweat. A lot.

Photo courtesy of CrossFit Games

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Hello, Mr. Vice President: Meb Keflezighi is Ready for More Running—With You!

Written on July 23, 2014 at 5:03 pm , by

Written by Macklin Stern, editorial intern

When you’re an athlete, there’s nothing more golden than getting tips directly from the pros before the big day. As an aspiring runner, I’ve always admired Meb Keflezighi, not just for his incredible win at the 2014 Boston Marathon a few months ago (he was the first American to win it since 1983), but for the power, drive and passion he brings with him to every competition. And as a silver medalist of the 2004 Olympic Games (and countless other marathon wins), we’ve got the feeling he probably has some valuable training advice.

So we were pretty stoked when Competitor Group Inc.—a company that sponsors some really awesome sporting events like Run Rock ‘N’ Roll—announced Meb as the new vice president of running (side note: Can I have that title? It’s gotta be an awesome resume booster). Meb will use his passion and advice to help us mere mortal runners by developing training plans for us to follow to a T, popping up on social media with extra tips, and, of course, participating in a bunch of events—he’s already rocked (and rolled) at RNR San Diego, and you’ll find him lacing up for the Strip at Night, too. Basically, you can train like Meb and run with him, too. Umm, amazing!

So whether you’re nervous about competing in your first-ever marathon (like assistant web editor Samantha) or just eager to go out there and eat up the miles, Keflezighi has your back. Stay tuned for details on which races he’ll be at, and don’t forget to check out CGI’s website for updates.

Image courtesy of Competitor Group Inc.

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Cyclists, Rejoice! A Low-Cost Bike for A High-Quality Ride

Written on July 23, 2014 at 9:50 am , by

Written by Anna Hecht, editorial intern

Too many times I’ve been in a rush to get to work with cyclists zooming by as I power walk at a fraction of the pace. Other times you’ll catch me jogging alongside cyclists in Prospect Park, wishing I, too, could ride around the entire city in just a matter of hours.

But I’ve always held off on buying a bike for one major reason: They’re either affordable and don’t last, or extremely pricey and for more serious riders. There’s no middle ground for a casual rider like myself. So when I heard about a new company, Priority Bicycles, and the fact that they’ve created a lightweight, low-cost, “maintenance-free” bike, I practically jumped in the saddle right then and there.

Now, if you’re anything like me, the first thought that popped in your head was, “Can there really be a maintenance-free bike?” After all, most any bike is bound to show some wear and tear eventually. But after talking with David Weiner, the founder of Priority Bicycles, I’m convinced this ride is as good as it sounds.

“Our most exclusive feature is our belt drive,” explains Weiner. “Most bikes have chains that rust, require lubrication and are susceptible to weather. Belt drives are more durable. We also use the rear hub to contain the gears and brakes, which isolates features that traditionally require maintenance on other bikes.”

On top of all that, the bike has puncture-resistant tires and the seat is held together with bolts, not quick release levers, in order to deter theft. And when purchasing the bike, Priority Bicycles sends a tire pump, assembly tools and a water bottle cage right along with it (usually those all come at an extra cost). Oh, and the bike looks good, giving you three different color options and a sleek, classic design.

When it comes to the low price—ahem, $399—Weiner explains that most everyone in the bicycle industry has “two markups,” meaning the bike company buys it from a factory, then bumps up the price to sell it to the retailer. That retailer turns around and does the same thing, marking it up a second time to the price you see in stores.

Thankfully, Priority Bicycles skips all that. “Our model is to sell consumer-direct only. We buy from the factory using our unique design and send it directly to the consumer. That effectively means you’re getting an $800 bike for $400,” says Weiner. Cha-ching!

Weiner came up with the idea a few years ago, after constantly doling out advice to friends about what bike to buy for their experience level. When he couldn’t find a company that offered high-quality equipment at an affordable price, he hopped onto Kickstarter and created a campaign.  Weiner had a modest goal of raising $30k, but clearly everyone wants a bike like this—the company is over $250k, and there are still 27 days left.  Once the campaign closes on August 14, the bikes will be sold directly from Priority’s website for the standard $399. But if you jump on to Kickstarter, you’ll score a special price of $374 and free shipping.

So hop to it because if you order now, the bike will be made and delivered before the holidays. Christmas gift, anyone?

Photo courtesy of Priority Bicycles

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American Ninja Warrior Contestant Kacy Catanzaro Has Guts—And Is Going for Glory

Written on July 21, 2014 at 3:19 pm , by

Written by Anna Hecht, editorial intern

By now, it’s likely you’ve caught wind of 24-year-old Kacy Catanzaro, the first-ever female to qualify for the finals of NBC and Esquire Network’s sports competition show, American Ninja Warrior. After completing a nine-part obstacle course during the Dallas qualifying round (and making it look like a walk in the park), the former gymnast proves she packs a real punch as an athlete and competitor. And after speaking with her, we’re convinced that this girl really is a ninja—all 5 feet and 100 pounds of her.

Congrats on your awesome run for “ANW!” How did it feel?

It is definitely a lot of pressure stepping out there. There are a lot of lights, cameras, and you know the whole world is going to see it on TV eventually. Before I run, you can see that I’m kind of bouncing around and a little bit anxious. It’s funny: Once they count down and they say, “3,2,1, go,” it’s like a wave of relief washes over me. Then I just kind of take it one thing at a time. After I finish one obstacle, I just calmly take a few deep breaths and get ready to attack the next one.

How has your gymnastics career prepared you for ANW?

I started gymnastics when I was 5 years old and then I got a scholarship to a Division I school—Townsen University in Maryland—and I competed all four years there. So from the time I was 5 until the time I was 22, it was my whole life. Gymnastics really mentally prepared me for the course: being able to take that kind of pressure and not let it affect me in a bad way, but actually use it as fire to get excited and to get out there. And if things don’t go my way, it doesn’t mean it’s over. I just have to overcome them by making adjustments in order to make it happen.

How do you stay in such amazing shape?

I try and strength-train anywhere from four to six times a week, based on where life is taking me or what is coming up. Brent Steffensen—my boyfriend, coach and an ANW veteran—and I train together and do strength-training and bodyweight-circuit training on a regular basis. We do lots of bodyweight exercises in a row—pushups, pull-ups, lunges, squats, lots of abs—to really build strength and endurance. For the obstacle courses, we want to be as light and lean as possible, and doing exercises with your bodyweight is the most efficient way to get there.

What’s your diet like?

I just try to eat as clean as possible—greens, veggies, fruits, nuts and things like that. For my protein, I like fish a lot because it is lighter and cleaner. Definitely stay away from anything that is processed and avoid eating too much sugar. So if I can’t read an ingredient listed in an ingredient label, I try to stay away from it. It’s so important to be aware of what you are putting into your body and what good or harm it will do.

What motivates you to stay fit?

I’ve always had a competitive nature—I love getting out there and competing—but one thing people don’t realize about fitness is that people don’t just work out out to look good. Obviously it’s very nice to look good and to have that body you dream of, but the most important thing about fitness and living healthy is being able to get the maximum out of your life. If you are as fit as you can be, you can do more and you aren’t held back by your weight. I think that staying fit, not being held back and being able to go out and try to accomplish whatever it is that I want is the best part of it.

In case you missed it, check out Kacy’s crazy performance below, and be sure to watch the St. Louis finals tonight at 9 on NBC.

 

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How Dancing With The Stars’ Peta Murgatroyd’s Stays Fit Outside of the Ballroom

Written on July 1, 2014 at 10:54 am , by

Written by Anna Hecht, editorial intern

Imagine having 23 years of dancing under your belt, Broadway acting experience, a fitness wardrobe to die for, and a killer bod. That’s why we’re completely obsessing over Peta Murgatroyd, the 27-year-old Dancing with the Stars veteran competitor.

“I truly believe that dancing is the best form of fitness and exercise,” Murgatroyd recently told us during a visit to the FITNESS offices. “Dancing makes you feel good. It makes you feel happy, especially if you can do it with a loved one.”

That being said, it’s no surprise that she highly recommends fitness dance classes—for both men and women—as a fun way to stay in shape.

“Even for a guy to be able to lead a girl and to be able to go out and feel comfortable, like in a club situation, and not be dorky—I think that’s really hot and sexy if he can do that. If I ever have a son, I’m going to be putting him into dance.”

Although Murgatroyd credits her toned physique to long hours of dancing, another season of DWTS has come and gone (um, who else thinks this was the best season yet?) and she admits she can easily pack on an extra five pounds during her time away from the show. To keep weight gain at bay, she hits the gym six days a week, cycles, hikes, and does hot yoga to elongate her muscles. “My body needs cardio,” she says. “Treadmill, stepper, running outside—I love running for my body. I love running super fast because I feel better about myself. Rather than jogging, I like full-on sprinting.”

And when she’s ready to crank up the toning, you’ll find a TheraBand in heavy rotation.“I take them everywhere with me,” she says. “You can tie them anywhere, do all of your reps, and there is no weight.”

Always active, Murgatroyd loves fusing fitness with fashion. Her favorite sporty ensembles are usually from Nike, Lululemon, Reebok and FunKey’s pants. She says she would love to start her own fitness apparel line, but don’t worry, friends. Her mesmerizing dance performances won’t be coming to a halt anytime soon.

“People want something that’s going to look good as well, like a cute open back or cute sleeves. Something like that is what I’d want to develop,” she says. “I definitely want to stay in dancing because I love it, but I want to go back to Broadway. I would love to be in a different type of musical, maybe Chicago or something heavily dance-based.”

We’re so excited to see what Murgatroyd will end up doing next, but for now, we’ll continue drooling over her amazing dancing skills on DWTS.

Photo courtesy of Glenn Nutley

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