Meet the Expert: Mary Helen Bowers, Founder of Ballet Beautiful
Have you ever wondered how the Victoria’s Secret Angels get so toned? Or how Natalie Portman reached tip-top dancing shape for her role in blockbuster film Black Swan? The secret to both is Mary Helen Bowers, former New York City Ballet dancer, Columbia University graduate, and founder of fitness sensation Ballet Beautiful.
Ballet Beautiful is a transformative system of exercises based on the athleticism and grace of classical ballet. This workout is not made up of traditional ballet sequences per se, but is a system of exercises that target these same “ballet” muscles to sculpt and lengthen the body. From Dallas, tap into the world of Ballet Beautiful through live class via online platform, customized workout subscriptions, and a whole range of streaming videos and DVDs.
Ballet Beautiful is the perfect workout for dancers and non-dancers alike. This workout is a great option for those who are overwhelmed by the gym, and dislike the group fitness environment. Read on to learn more about Ballet Beautiful, and get some inside tips from Mary Helen on wellness and beauty tips to practice in 2015.
Twyla Shelmire: For people who haven’t done Ballet Beautiful before, how should they get started? Is there a certain DVD you would suggest?
Mary Helen Bowers: We have an amazing subscription, called Custom Workout. You purchase the subscription and get instant access to everything. You go in, you plug in how much time you have, what your fitness goals are, and then you’re off to the races. The subscription gives you full access to our online library so you have access to over 50 videos. We built them into really customized workouts for people, so you can update and change as you go based on your needs and how much time you have and things like that. So that’s a great way to use the workouts. As for DVDs, the classic DVD bundle on our website, the 60-minute, and the Body Blast are great places to start if you’re a DVD user. We have a new one coming out this January, so that will be fun, too.
TS: If you have a certain DVD and love it, would you suggest mixing it up? How often should you be using Ballet Beautiful to see results?
MHB: I would say once a week is not enough, you really need to Ballet Beautiful workouts three hours a week to see a change. And when you do that, the workout is really targeted, and I created it to deliver results because that is what fitness is all about. It’s not just about feeling better and feeling stronger, but I really want people to see a change in their body and the way their muscles are shaped, and a change you can measure visually. We recommend a minimum of three hours of Ballet Beautiful a week – if you want to mix in other workouts you can, but it’s going to change you result. This workout is geared to your ballet muscles, it’s lengthening everything, it’s adding a lot of lean muscle tone. So if you go in and are spinning or doing a workout where you’re lifting heavy weights and doing lots of squats, exercises where you’re building lots of muscle, in the side for example and the arms, bulky muscles that make you look more dense and short, that’s going to make it harder to see what Ballet Beautiful can really do.
TS: What are some key words for how your body is going to change when you start targeting those ballet muscles?
MHB: For most people, everything is going to tighten, lift, and elongate as well. Generally it’s your best butt and legs ever. It improves posture for most people too.
TS: For people who have become lazy over the holidays, what tips do you have for easing back into a healthy routine – whether that’s fitness, eating, or just motivation?
MHB: For getting back in, I think it’s important not to get too obsessive over how far you have to go, just jump in and take it one workout at a time, one week at a time, and then it doesn’t feel as overwhelming. Focus more on each workout, having fun and feeling good, and not “Oh my gosh, I have so much to do.” I think it’s about getting to a place where you’re exercising regularly and it’s part of your life, you’re eating better and not on a rollercoaster that a lot of us are on or have been on at one point.
TS: I read on your website that during your time Columbia University you took a break from dancing for a while. Do you have any tips specifically for dancers about how to get back into fitness or working out even if it might not involve dancing?
MHB: I think when you have been dancing a lot, your body has just been so used to movement, and being active and keeping those muscles in use. It can be physically quite a shock when you stop moving, but for me it was really about finding a way to reconnect with my body and with those muscles that I knew and was so familiar with from dancing, and trying to find a way to do it on my own terms, on my own time and from the privacy of home. I think I’m stronger now than when I was dancing with New York City Ballet, I’m definitely leaner and I have a much more relaxed relationship and healthier one with my body too.
TS: Do you have any foods or snacks that you like to eat throughout the day or after a workout that are both healthy and keep you energized?
MHB: I think it’s important to eat foods that make you feel good. I just had a piece of cheap Christmas chocolate we have here in the studio and it made me feel really sick! Sometimes if you want something, just make sure it’s really high quality – dark chocolate for example. And with cheese, I try not to eat cheap, processed cheese, but save it up for a really lovely cheese from France or a sharp, sharp cheddar and things like that so you’re satisfying your craving in a way that helps you maximize.
TS: Your hair always looks so good in your videos – what are your favorite products, and do you have any tips for keeping your hair healthy?
MHB: With ballet, I feel like it’s really tough on the hair because you’re always pulling it back super tight, so I try not to use rubber bands, I only use them when I’m filming and I need my hair to be secure. So I try to baby my hair quite a bit, and limit the use of pulling it back super tight with rubber bands and things that pull on it and damage it. And in terms of care, I take my vitamins and try to use my shampoos and conditioners. I love the Seaberry line from Fresh, it’s a nice moisturizing, nourishing line. And I think what we eat has a big outward impact on us as well.
TS: Do you have any skincare products that you love and depend on?
MHB: I’m really obsessed with the facials at Ling lately, and they have a very nice skincare line, it’s not inexpensive, but I feel that it’s totally affordable, they have a very hydrating toner that I use after I wash my face, and a really nice face mask that I sleep in a lot. I also love the Honey Face Mask from Fresh, that’s a great one. I use that all the time, whenever I take a bath at night.
TS: What is your post-workout skincare routine?
MHB: I don’t touch my skin throughout the day – I try not to touch it, or put my hands on it. I try to leave it alone and let it be balanced, but I also don’t wear a lot of makeup because I want my skin to breathe during the day. I only wear concealer under my eyes and a little cream blush, and maybe a highlighter under my brows.
TS: Do you have any DIY beauty recipes you rely on?
MHB: Mostly facemasks, hair masks, especially when you have long hair just are so much more involved. I love hot baths with Epson salts as a soak, and then you can wear a facemask then – so that’s a really good way to multitask. I don’t do a lot of professional beauty treatments because I don’t have the time, so I’m a big fan of DIY to take care of your skin and stuff like that.
TS: Having been a professional ballerina, were there any makeup tricks that you learned backstage that you still use today for everyday wear?
MHB: I’m not wearing false lashes on a daily basis, or ever really, but you become very comfortable with wearing heavier makeup, with liquid liner and things like that. So those are skills you can always pull out when you need a more dramatic look.
TS: Congratulations on the launch of Ballet Baby! Are there any upcoming Ballet Beautiful developments we should keep our eyes peeled for?
MHB: We are releasing a new cardio DVD so that’s very exciting, and that’s coming out in late January!
Stay current with Ballet Beautiful via Instagram: @balletbeautiful