Whether you cheered as she claimed bronze in snowboarding at the 2014 Paralympic Games, tuned in weekly to see her sweep across the dance floor—and claim second place—in last season’s Dancing with the Stars, or flipped through ESPN’s The Body issue to see her fierce figure, it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re a fan of Amy Purdy. You can’t watch the woman and not feel inspired by her determination, grit and positive outlook on life, especially when she’s faced her fair share of struggles (if you aren’t aware, Purdy contracted a near fatal case of bacterial meningitis, resulting in the amputation of both legs and removal of her kidneys and spleen). And now that she’s touring the country with Oprah—yes, Oprah—for The Life You Want Weekend Tour, I had to find out: what are her secrets to success? Turns out, it’s mostly in your head. Steal her tricks below and get ready for all your dreams to come true.
Cut yourself some slack. Athletes are notorious for being incredibly hard on themselves when mistakes are made, which was a double-edged sword for Purdy at the beginning of Dancing with the Stars. “It’s really easy to beat yourself up,” says Purdy. “There were a lot of times that I missed a move or didn’t do something quite right and, at one point, I put pressure on myself and said, ‘This week I’m not making any mistakes.’
To change her mentality, Purdy listened to partner Derek Hough. “Derek would say it doesn’t matter and I need to absorb everything and be more proud of myself for what I did…So instead I asked myself, ‘If I mess up, how am I going to react?’ And toward the end of our season, when we did our jazz dance, I ended up—for the first time—messing up our footwork. I knew I was not doing the right thing but I absolutely committed to what I was doing and kept a smile on my face and enjoyed what I was doing. When I go back and watch the video I’m proud of myself because you can’t beat yourself up because of your failures or your mistakes. It’s truly about how you react and how you deal with them.”
Shift your perspective. If there’s one thing that would scare the snot out of me, it’d be posing in the nude. After all, “you have camera crews and photographers and you are very aware that you are naked, all eyes are on you and you can’t hide anything,” explains Purdy. But rather than focusing on imperfections, she embraced the meaning behind them when being photographed for ESPN’s The Body issue. “I have a lot of scars; I obviously lost my legs. It’d be so easy to focus on the things that I lost but I really try to focus on the things that I’ve gained and I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for losing my legs,” she says. “There’s something really empowering about going, ‘This is me. This is my scar, my stretch marks, and this is the body that’s gotten me this far.”
Sweat for fun, not work. As a professional athlete, this one may be trickier for Purdy than most. But doing a workout you’re excited about, rather than one you feel forced to finish, is critical to staying on top of your game, says Purdy. “Working out for me…[is] more to take care of myself and get those endorphins going versus it being a job like it was a few years ago,” she explains. “So I try to keep the same schedule and get in those daily workouts no matter where I am. Usually if I can do that then I feel like I’ve given back to myself and then I have the energy to give to others.” What do those workouts consist of? With a hectic travel schedule, Purdy relies on a lot of bodyweight exercises, like planks, squats and lunges, and plyometric moves like the ones found in this workout. “It’s amazing what just jumping can do for your quads and legs, “ she says.
Be positive…and let everyone in on it. “Before we would go out and dance, [Derek and I would] always have these positive affirmations,” explains Purdy. “If we were doing an upbeat dance and needed to get pumped up, we’d go up and down the halls and yell, ‘yes, yes, yes’ at the top of our lungs—I’m surprised the audience didn’t hear us! It’s amazing how much it would fill me with this positive power that I was really excited to go out and share with people.” So whether it’s quietly chanting a mantra or singing your favorite song at the top of your lungs (Purdy’s a fan of “Your Love” by The Outfield), don’t be afraid to express positivity that could lead to a perfect performance.
Surround yourself with inspiration. Whether it’s Derek Hough, Oprah, or one of the many female athletes that will participate in the ESPN Women’s Summit October 8-10th, Purdy always surrounds herself with other driven people. “I feel like inspiration is contagious,” she explains. “People are going there [to the Life You Want tour and Women’s Summit] to get inspired but I’m kind of there to do that as well. I’m inspired to by what everyone else is doing and I can’t wait to…continue to do stuff that inspires me and share that with the world.” And for those of you wondering what that might be (um, me), keep an eye out for Purdy’s new clothing line with Element—expected to debut in Spring 2015—and book, on shelves this December.
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