7 Wellness Lessons I Learned From a Professional Ballerina

Tiler Peck shares her workout essentials, skincare favorites, and more.

Tiler Peck

@tilerpeck/Unsplash

Ballet seems to be the ultimate distillation of art and discipline, so it makes sense that Tiler Peck would find her calling in it. Even in the half-hour that her warm, lilting voice crackles over the phone while she travels to the airport (she's off to New York to prepare for Lincoln Center's storied holiday dance season), principal dancer Peck rattles off bits about intense rehearsals and training with the casualness of the elite professional athlete she is. But Peck can also vacillate right back to artist mode (which she so clearly also is), dreamily describing how she feels when she's dancing on stage, expressing herself through movement. She also, as you might have expected, has the sort of beauty favorites that make you want to rifle through her makeup bag backstage as she's doing fouettes for an adoring crowd of thousands.

As is so often the case with world-class athletes and performers, Peck's aptitude for movement was apparent from an early age. Starting her career at two years old from the comfort of her mother's dance studio, Peck began seriously studying under some of the industry's most prominent members at age seven and became a New York City Ballet apprentice just a handful of years later. Since then, Peck's become a boldface name in the ballet world and well beyond, appearing in movies, on Broadway, in upscale fashion collaborations, and national performance broadcasts.

If anyone knows the value of a solid wellness routine, it's Peck—relying on your body's perfectly calibrated skills has a way of driving that home. To get a better sense of what exactly goes into training for the stage (and how to apply those principles more broadly), Byrdie caught up with Peck for a crash course. Here are seven wellness tips we learned from the prima ballerina herself.

Cardio Isn't Always The Answer

"It was a little harder getting back after the pandemic for jumps in particular in ballet. What I did a lot was—and mostly what I do—is Pilates workouts. I don't really do any exercises like running on the treadmill or the elliptical. I need to always be lengthening and stretching for my body type.

"The exercises that typically work for me are things like the Reformer to make sure my feet are ready for the impact of jumping. I travel with an exercise ball everywhere I go, and that’s what I do most of my workouts on. [In ballet], they call it ‘prancing’ in the feet, but it really gets my feet ready to fire—the muscles ignite fast. I use it for my back, my neck, and extension, so I roll on it. There's really nothing that targets those muscles quite like just doing [ballet] class or rehearsing. But our physical therapists, who I work with daily, have developed exercises for me that can target those muscles by using an exercise ball or a Thera band or a belt when I'm laying on my back to stretch hamstrings. Those are the things that really help me get ready.”

Tiler Peck in dance studio

@tilerpeck

Traditional Ballet Is Very Different Than Barre

"I did [visit a civilian barre class once]! My best friend was in the New York City Ballet with me and she now runs Chaise Fitness in New York with her mom. She made this fitness class that she based off ballet—it's called Ballet Bungee. And it was so hard! She was so hard on me! I would stop because I'd be like, 'Oh my God, not gonna be able to use my thighs tomorrow in rehearsal!'

"It's funny because I'm always ready to do what I need to do during the day, but if I were to take a workout class, I could do it all but I'd be sore in different places. In ballet, I'm not really using my thighs, but we use our calves much more because we're going from flat to pointe and stuff like that. So whenever I do something that's more fitness-y that I'm not used to, it's always my thighs."

Chocolate Milk Is The Ultimate Post-Sweat Refuel

"For skincare, I love this place in New York called Youth Corridor that the ballet set us up with. They have the most amazing products. I just use normal Cetaphil Face Wash ($11) and then I use Youth Corridor's lotion—it's called the Daily Hydration Crème ($185). And that's typically what I do after rehearsal.

"For my post-workout routine, our physical therapist tells me to drink chocolate milk 30 minutes after exercising. When I'm in-season, it's really hard sometimes to get food during the day when you're rehearsing. So she also suggested the Reset360 All-In-One Meal Replacement ($60) protein chocolate shake, and it's amazing."

A Warm Shower Can Do More Than Just Cleanse

"I really like a routine, so I get ready for the show in the same way every time. In the dressing room, I always put music on—and I always do it in the same order. I put my makeup on, I do my hair, I bang my pointe shoes to makes sure that they're quiet and ready for the show, and then I do my barre to warm up. Then I get into costume, put my pointe shoes on my feet, and then I'm on stage.

"Before I do all that, I always take a warm shower because I feel like it helps warm my body up. Especially since I just came back from a neck injury, having the warm water on my neck really helps me. So every time before I go to class or show, I always take a shower before exercise. Oh, and Epsom salt baths almost every night, like I cannot live without it. No matter where I go."

Rest Days Are Absolutely Critical

"On my days off, I always say no to physical activity because I like to save my legs. So normally, a day off would just be going to get a nice lunch or something that I can't do when we're rehearsing at the theater from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. So for me, it's just hanging out with my pup and relaxing, maybe watching a movie, and just getting a nice meal.

"I like to spend my Mondays, which are my days off, doing things like working on my leotard line, which I can't normally do within the week. But when it comes to just resting, I definitely am not like, 'Oh, I want to go on a hike!' Not my thing!"

dog sitting on couch next to woman's legs

@tilerpeck

Sometimes the Bare Minimum Is More Than Enough

"Before a show, I always lay down, elevate my legs, and take a nap—even if it's just like 30 minutes. I feel like I kind of restart the day because it seems so long when our show is at like 8 p.m. I'm definitely not walking in the city on the day, though. It's literally bare minimum."

A Good Primer Can Save Your Skin

"I cannot do my stage makeup without the Laura Mercier Primer ($39). That's my favorite product to use before shows because we're putting so much hairspray and makeup on our face daily, and it really saves my skin. And then afterward, I always use Neutrogena wipes ($5) to get it off before I go home.

"My post-show routine is literally going home and eating, because I don't like to eat a big meal right before a show. I have lunch at like 3 p.m., and then if I'm hungry, I'll have a chocolate chip Clif Bar, which are my favorites. But I always save dinner for after, and it's always a big meal. Then an Epsom salt bath and maybe I'll ice my feet. I like to ice my feet while I'm in the bath, and then stick them in warm water—I think it's a nice little contrast."

Practice, Practice, Practice—And Then Let Go

"One of my coaches, Heather Watts, told me that—she sells a lot of us this—there are so many ways to get to heaven. Meaning you kind of learn the rules and the technique of dance, but then once you're on stage, you just kind of let it go and just dance. I love that image so much.

"My favorite part of the job is just getting to express myself through movement and getting to share that with whoever is on stage with me. I love dancing with colleagues or with a dance partner and feeling like you can transport somebody in the audience for a brief moment in time—hopefully letting them escape for a second and enjoy something, a beautiful art moment. I think that's pretty extraordinary."

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