Guest Column: Variety, challenge and fun! Summer fitness tips from Cirque du Soleil

The Spanish webs act in Cirque du Soleil’s “Quidam.” (Photo by Matt Beard, with costumes by Dominique Lemieux ©2011 Cirque du Soleil)

Editor’s note: JP Viens will appear in the Spanish webs act when Quidam comes to Rockford’s BMO Harris Bank Center June 13-17. For tickets, visit or call (815) 968-5222.

By JP Viens

As a performer in Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam, staying in shape is not a luxury but a necessity. It doesn’t mean that it’s easier for me than anyone else — I just learn to find ways to make it fun!

People think the mandatory technical trainings and rehearsals added to performances each day are enough to keep me in shape. But, to bring a high-level performance eight times per week, I need to do more! This is where cardio training and conditioning comes in. Also, let’s face it: everyone likes to look good on days off at the beach or pool.

Personally, my secret lies in three keywords: variety, challenge and fun!

My cardio training varies day to day. Here’s an easy example of what I like to do:

5 minutes stationary bike;

2 minutes skipping rope (change the patterns: two feet, one foot at a time, French can-can style, double turns, etc.);

5 minutes running up and down stairs (which are easy to find when you perform in arenas like Quidam does!);

3 minutes obstacle course (I just drop different things around on the floor and find my way around, over or under them as fast as I can!);

2 minutes shadow boxing;

5 minutes sprinting a short distance and jogging your way back; and

5 minutes cool down (light jogging, fast walking, easy rope skipping, etc.)

And, before you know it, you’ve already covered a 30-minute workout! Don’t know where to start to develop your own plan? Here are the main guidelines:

The basics of a cardio workout

The minimum amount that should be done to improve your cardio is 15 consecutive minutes, three times per week. On top of that, a 5-minute warm-up should be done before starting. And that is a MINIMUM. (Sorry, cardio doesn’t come in bottles yet.)

When I say cardio, I mean ANYTHING that will get your heart pumping fast. If you find it boring, do it with a group of people! Ask around! You’ll be surprised to see how many people already work out and are more than happy to welcome others. Can’t find anyone? Start your own group. Finally, PROGRESSION! Start three times per week and slowly make your way up. Maintain it for a few weeks, and then go up to four times, then five, etc. Don’t want to do it more often? That’s fine. Do it longer!

Depending on your body type and personal experience, some activities would be better for you than others and would lower your risk for injuries; consult with your physician to make sure your choices are appropriate for your situation.

After exercise comes the nutrition factor. Before getting carried away with complicated and sometimes heartbreaking diets, here are a few tips that can help you cut down calories without painful sacrifices:

Cut down on juices and sodas Soft drinks and fruit juices — even the natural, fresh homemade fruit juices and smoothies — contain a lot of sugar. I’m not saying don’t drink them at all! Just keep this in mind: how many oranges does it take to fill a glass of fresh-pressed orange juice? Just because it doesn’t feel as heavy on the stomach as eating them doesn’t mean there are fewer calories!

Drink a lot of water — Drinking enough water (or tea or any fluid without calories for the water-haters) will not only help you suppress feelings of hunger, but will also prevent the loss of performance that comes with dehydration. By the way, if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated!

Eat less, more often and slowly — Smaller meals eaten more often will prevent hunger from appearing in the middle of the day. And did you know it takes about 20 minutes for the signal to go from your stomach to the brain to stop the feeling of hunger? Take your time while eating, and you might realize you’re not as hungry as you thought!

Careful with the alcohol! — Alcohol itself is high in calories. More than sugar for the same amount: 7 cal/g for alcohol versus 4 cal/g for sugar. Also, we have a nasty habit of mixing alcohol with sweet things, which is not going to help! A New Year’s Eve celebration can quickly go up to the equivalent of two meals in calories if you’re not careful.

Eat a lot of fiber — Not only will fiber help you lower your cholesterol, it’s also great to make you feel full and cut down on feelings of hunger. Fiber can be found in most cereals such as oatmeal, raisin bran and many others. It can also be found in most green vegetables and many other food sources if you’re willing to search a bit.

Well, there are all of my secrets to stay fit. Eat well, sleep well and be well. Go out and play! And enjoy the show!

From the June 6-12, 2012, issue

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