Fitness and nutrition advice from professional acrobat Sam Alvarez
Jaw dropping strength, balance, and mental fortitude are on display when Sam Alvarez and his fellow performers step on stage in their production called Odysseo, now performing in Sandy. While their abilities seem other-wordly, Sam reveals some simple ways that he and those he works with gain and retain fantastic physical ability.
For Sam and his fellow performers, just a few pounds can make an enormous difference.
“Think about someone who can bench press 200 pounds,” he says. “Add 5 pounds, and they might not be able to do it.”
Since the show depends on the acrobats doing their incredible feats, Sam says dietary and fitness discipline is vital, but rules he follows for himself aren’t crazy.
“It’s no magic,” he says.
Here are some guidelines from Sam:
Eat the good stuff first.
If you eat the healthy food first, the unhealthy food is less of a temptation, and less of a factor for fueling your body. Sam calls this “paying the bills” (sound finances and healthy dieting are often based in the same principles, he says). In connection with this, Sam says, make sure good food is easily accessible. Convenience is key.
2. Identify your motivation, and be specific.
“You want to be doing it saying ‘I do it because I know it’s good for me,’ but that doesn’t last for long,” he says. “Have real reasons for doing what you’re doing.”
3. It must become a habit.
“I think for anybody, they need to find the balance for themselves that doesn’t feel like it’s a major chore,” Sam says. “It can’t be any different than you wake up in the morning and brush your teeth.”
Granted, even brushing teeth was hard for us when we were younger, Sam says. But now it’s just what we do, and nutrition needs to be the same way. Sometimes we pick nutrition rules for ourselves that are simply too difficult to maintain, and they won’t ever become habits.
4. Satisfy cravings the right way.
“I think you have to satisfy cravings,” Sam says. “Just make it small, and as cheap as possible, meaning fewer calories and avoiding processed choices.”
In other words, you don’t have to eat a half gallon of ice cream to calm a sweet tooth. Find something sweet with real fruit in it instead. Also, Sam says, fats are key to satisfying cravings, so rely on healthy fats when a craving comes. Avocados and nuts are a good choice.
How to Snack
Sam says he always has a snack bag with him that he packs at the start of the day.
“Snacks are as important to me as my meals,” he says.
Here are some items commonly in his snack bag:
- Fruit (apples, pears, mangos): Great for people who like sugar stuff
- Baby carrots: Refreshing, crunchy, sweet
- Fiber One: Only 90 calories, and though it’s processed, you aren’t eating 450 calories in a couple of bites
- Protein bars: Sam likes Quest Bars.
- Protein shakes: Tastes good, gives needed protein to build/repair muscles, and it’s filling. Nuts
- 1 cup of gluten free cereal in a bag: Just to munch on dry
- Rice cakes: Sam often eats these with banana and a little peanut/almond butter.
- Slices of turkey sandwich meat
There are moments in the Odysseo show that totally destroy our concept of what the human body is capable. At one part in particular, acrobats are on a spinning carousel, and are pulling themselves up vertical poles with just their arms, often with one arm at a time.
Sam says many mistakenly equate acrobatic ability with the strength of a body builder. It’s not about “bro science,” he says, or lifting heavy to get big muscles.
“A lot of we have to do is more about the structure of the body,” he says. “It’s more about how you’re supporting your body.”
In fact, he says, one primary area of focus for all the acrobats is the rotator cuff, which supports the shoulder inside the socket. Since there is a lot of hanging and upper body strength required in the Odysseo show, shoulder injuries are the most common injury. Maintenance is essential.
The Odysseo acrobats use a variety if exercises to build, maintain and warm-up the rotator cuff, so it can safely provide the support they need. Many of their exercises are done with an exercise band that stretches.
Rotator Cuff Exercise:
Anchor the resistance band at elbow level, and hold the end of the band across the abdomen with the hand farthest from the anchor. Keep your upper arm and elbow close to your body, with the forearm and upper arm at a 90-degree angle. Move your hand in a swinging motion across the abdomen for one repetition. Make sure there is tension in the whole movement, and make sure your forearm remains perpendicular to the body.
Some other strength and exercise tips from Sam:
Know the price for the body you want to have.
Many people don’t set a “budget” for the physical condition they want to attain one day, Sam says. They don’t take the time to track their current status, and figure out the details of what will be required to get to the weight or fitness level they want. This leads to disappointment.
2. Get plenty of sleep.
Sleep is a vital time for the body to repair itself.
3. Have a back-up plan.
Whether you’re not in the mood, your body is hurt or you’re just too tired, everyone has a moment when they feel like they can’t take time for exercise. Have a plan for when these feelings arrive.
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