Welcome to another Guest Edit, this time with the wonderfully vibrant and inspiring Saskia Gregson-Williams (aka Naturally Sassy!) This week, she’g going to be taking over our Magazine and filling it with delicious recipes (stay tuned!), tips on confidence and all about her new workout, Ballet Blast!
Kicking things off today, is a little Q&A!
Can you tell us a little bit on how Naturally Sassy began?
I launched Naturally Sassy in April 2014 after years believing that “healthy eating” was living off a diet packed full of low calorie, low fat foods. As a ballerina, food for me was there to look a certain way, and how it made me feel never crossed my mind. After a few years in a food confused bubble I knew something needed to change, so I got in the kitchen and started cooking for myself. I found a passion for cooking and a love for food I didn’t know I had. I started contributing to different publications and working as the Food Editor at Hip & Healthy (!) – before starting an online space of my own and writing a cookbook dedicated to inspiring women to love the skin they’re in through great-tasting food and butt-lifting movement.
How has being a ballerina influenced your eating habits?
Greatly! It was the inspiration behind it all. I was constantly striving for a ‘perfect’ aesthetic, and made terrible diet choices because of it. Eating in an intuitive, balanced, healthy way changed everything – my performance in the studio and in my everyday life. I saw such a switch in the way I felt, almost immediately and this influenced my entire approach to food. I still love my chocolate, and have a huge sweet tooth – but now practice a lot more control having little and often, and making my own dairy free recipe for those moments.
What are the main benefits you have seen since becoming plant-based?
Since switching my mindset and diet from a ‘meat and two veg’ approach to eating a plant dominant diet, I feel many benefits – my energy levels and skin being two of the most obvious. I used to suffer from terrible eczema, which cleared almost immediately when I stopped eating dairy.
You’ve recently created an amazing workout called Ballet Blast… What was your main inspiration for starting this?
During 10 years of professional dance training, being taught by and working alongside some of the best athletes in the world, I developed a workout program that kept me strong and supple, and at peak fitness. I was severely injured during my last year dancing, spending more time in rehabilitation than on stage. The physio rehabilitation program I was doing didn’t give what I wanted, and my fitness level dropped dramatically. It was then that I started to unknowingly fuse classical ballet work with strength and cardio work in an attempt to create a program for myself. I started working through these routines on a daily basis, teaching my friends and co-workers; It was a hit. Ballet Blast was truly born after hanging up my pointe shoes to work on Naturally Sassy full time, and has been growing ever since.
What is Ballet Blast and who is it for?
Ballet Blast is a fast, ballet inspired cardio workout that fuses high intensity interval training with classical dance principles. Unlike many fitness classes that feel like you’re clenching and shortening the muscles to feel the effect, this method is all about working at length and visualising your extremities to create long lines and work all the muscles throughout the body.
This method is by no means exclusive to dancers; it’s about getting the most out of your fitness class, whatever your experience level, and about coaxing your body into new and challenging positions that will create beautiful long, lean muscles. If you want to work on your balance, flexibility, stability, strength and stamina this class is for you.
How do you suggest to refuel after a tough Ballet Blast class?
Post Ballet Blast it’s all about balance. Making sure you have a good combination of carbohydrates, protein and fats. A protein shake after an intense workout just won’t cut it, so make sure if you’re having a blend to include something like oats and nut butter to balance it out. I have a couple of incredible protein smoothies on my blog – the caramel protein smoothie being my favourite. I tend to eat something within half an hour of finishing a workout while my metabolism is still firing – whilst sipping away on a 1L bottle of water. I’m a stickler for hydrating, and drill it in to my Ballet Blast clients like a crazy lady – but it is incredibly important.
What benefits are people likely to see/feel after regular Ballet Blast attendance?
The advantage of incorporating ballet movements into your exercise routine is that you are naturally lengthening your body and as a result improving your posture. Over time, consistent sessions also drastically improve flexibility, co-ordination and stability. The high-intensity element ensures you are working on your stamina. There’s many different elements that come into play which make for an exciting workout and a challenge for your body – all the moves help to build long, lean muscles and the effect is noticeable with consistent practice.
What other training do you combine with your Ballet Blast to get your incredible bod?
I still go to ballet class every so often, as it’s important to me I don’t loose all that I gained during my training. For daily fitness I do HIIT and TRX workouts, I incorporate weight training twice a week and am a huge fan of Hot Yoga for a little mid-week de stress. A friend and I have recently set ourselves the challenge of doing a crazy different workout each week – so boxing, rock climbing, ariel yoga etc – it’s proving to be a lot of fun, and good to step out of my comfort zone.
Do you find there are any mental benefits to regular exercising?
Absolutely, there really is nothing like it. If I’m not in the best place mentally, the gym is the last place I want to go, but ironically, it’s always the place I need to be. I leave so refreshed with such a sense of purpose and clarity. I workout because of how it makes me feel, for me that is what movement is truly about.
When you’re lacking in motivation (hey it happens to us all!), how do you dig deep and still eat well or head out for a workout?
I always think back to a trip I took dancing in Cuba, exercising in such intense heat felt impossible at times. The Physio there told us a phrase that I’ve held on to – “don’t think, just do”. I apply this quite often in my approach heading out for a workout. If your alarm goes off at 6am, it’s the mental chatter that keeps you in bed. I’ve slowly learnt to switch that off, going into pilot mode and just DOING. Once I’m up and out the door I can listen in again on how I’m feeling.
When it comes to staying motivated to eat well, I just remind myself how great those foods make me feel, normally having a quiet moment and a reminder get’s me back on track.
How have your eating habits combined with your Ballet Blast given you body confidence?
The combination of good food and a consistent exercise practice with my Ballet Blast has benefited not only my physical form but my mental form too. I’m so much more confident and proud of my body – and that’s because I can see how far it’s come and how strong it is becoming.
What are your plans for the future with Ballet Blast?
I’m continuing to run my classes in London, and grow my Plie and Picnic events I hold once a month.
Do you have any long term goals or exciting plans in the pipeworks?
To get everyone doing Ballet Blast! Having it accessible online and in different gyms around the UK. I’ve got some big plans, so watch this space!
If you haven’t already, check our Saskia’s beautiful blog here!
Shop Sassy’s Activewear Edit here!