Fitness Tips from 5 Inspiring NYC Athletes

By Annie Georgia Greenberg, Refinery29

On Sundays, you can nearly always find us sitting on our sofa (or, okay, in our favorite gastropub) wearing our hometown team's football colors. But, we don't really care about Eli Manning's workout tips or favorite practice outfits (sorry, Eli). It just doesn't seem relevant. Instead, we turned to our own backyard and found five incredible female athletes who kick ass in NYC on the daily. We tapped these strong, inspiring movers and shakers (and weightlifters and boxers) to help us create a go-to guide for all kinds get-in-shape goodness.

There are at-home ab-tightening tips, lessons on what to eat while training, and even the top songs to blast to while getting your heart rate up. Plus, as we're wont to do, we styled these gorgeous women in equally standout looks, relying on designer styles from Norma Komali's new fitness line. As for those football players? It's safe to say these ladies could take them any day - in both a walk-off and an arm wrestling contest. Bring. It. On.

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Refinery29 Jordan Rafko, Professional Dancer for the Brooklyn Nets

How is being a Brooklynette different than being on another other team?
"Not only do we perform routines put together by some of the industry's hottest choreographers, but they vary constantly from swing to hip-hop to Latin, etc. And, when we're not flipping each other on court, our routines often include props like nunchakus, scarves, car tires, and even giant umbrellas! If that doesn't set us apart enough, we do all of that in a head-to-toe, cutting-edge wardrobe by renowned costume designer David Dalrymple, whose clients include Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, and Britney Spears."

What happens if the team has a bad game? Does it affect the routine?
"Win, lose, or overtime, we give 100% until the very last buzzer. It's Brooklyn - we go hard!"

What is it like being on a team of girls? Any sorority-type stories?
"We're certainly like sisters! We push each other to be the best we can be with every performance (we even partner up as we're cleaning the routines to help make sure we're all dancing as one unit) and we support each other no matter what - on and off the court."

Tell us about your weekly workout regimen.
"My workout regimen is anything but typical. In fact, I rarely do the same thing two days in a row. I'm usually taking dance classes or in rehearsal with the Brooklynettes three or four hours a day at least two to three days a week. To mix it up in between rehearsals, I love taking classes at Crunch Fitness, like yoga, Pilates, TRX, and even pole dancing. I try to take at least three or four classes a week if my schedule allows it."

How do you keep yourself motivated when you're tired?
"I remind myself how much better I always feel physically and mentally after working out."

What's your favorite part about your job?
"This one's easy! I love sharing what I'm most passionate about with the world, be it on set, onstage, and especially on center court at Barclays Center. I also love getting to participate in our community appearances with the Brooklynettes and helping the next generation believe in themselves and their dreams."

Tell us about your most memorable day at work.
"I'd have to say it was getting to perform with some of my fellow Brooklynettes at the NBA 3X events in Singapore!! That is an experience I will never forget."

Who did you look up to growing up? What about now?
"I've always gained daily inspiration from my close friends and family. I also looked up to the older dancers at my studio when I was young, because they knew so much and I wanted to be able to move just like them. These days, I have many role models in the dance industry, but a few women I look up to in particular, not only for their success but for their character and work ethic, are Tanisha Scott, Lisette Bustamante, Chonique Sneed, Mary Ann Lamb, and Adar Wellington."

What's your biggest accomplishment? And, what do you hope to accomplish in the next year?
"My biggest accomplishment to date is having been selected to choreograph a routine for the Brooklynettes alongside some top industry choreographers whom I greatly admire. But, of course I don't want to stop there! My next goal is to get more involved in the commercial industry of dance, be it in TV, film, commercials, dancing on a tour with a major recording artist, etc."

What's your ideal on-duty outfit? What's your off-duty look?

"I love many Brooklynette pieces, but I could wear our black-leather, custom logo pants and/or our sequin cropped jacket at every game! David Dalrymple certainly knows what's hot!

"While I love to glam it up in performance mode, when I'm rehearsing or taking class I like to keep it simple with a nice pair of harems, leggings, or sweatpants (or the occasional workout shorts), a nice pair of Dunks, and a loose, fitted top or sports bra."

What are two moves you love that readers can do at home?
"Planks, planks, planks! It's a great exercise that engages your entire body, requires no weights, and you can do anywhere. The other would be dancing, of course. You don't have to count or know specific routines, just push your couch back, put on some of your favorite music, and get to movin'! It's called 'freestyling,' and you'll work up a sweat in no time."

What's your guilty pleasure?
"I love curling up with some frozen yogurt while watching episodes of Sex & The City. I also have a huge weakness for those high maintenance lattes that sound more like desserts than coffee."

Any funny behind-the-scenes stories with the Brooklyn Nets players?
"Funny you ask! I also coach the Nets Kids dance team alongside my good friend and celebrity choreographer Tanisha Scott. The kids recently learned a routine from Tanisha called 'The Cookie Dance,' and we thought it would be too cute to have them teach part of it to a few of the players. Just imagine these serious ball players who are well over six feet tall emulating the "cabbage patch." The funniest part turned out to be how serious the players took it - especially Brook Lopez! He wanted to make sure every step was done correctly and he asked a lot of questions until he got it right."

What is some advice you'd give to girls that want to become sports dancers?
"Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is really important for any dancer, but especially for a team like the Brooklynettes. We perform very high-energy routines that incorporate a lot of athleticism, partnering, and prop work, so our bodies not only need to be flexible and agile, but strong. Some advice I would give is to take many different style dance classes to stay well rounded and find a way to work in some weight training into your workout regimen. Oh yeah, and confidence! You have to believe in yourself no matter what."

What's your motto or theme song?
"'Be the change you wish to see in the world' - Gandhi."

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Refinery29Teresa Scott, Women's World of Boxing Founder/Personal Boxing Trainer

What's your favorite part about your job?
"What I love most about teaching women how to box is the moment when they throw a punch perfectly and their eyes light up as if it's the first time they're feeling their own strength. It's when they discover that they're stronger than they ever imagined themselves to be."

Tell us about your weekly workout regimen.
"My weekly workout regimen consists of a three-mile daily run (sometimes more depending on the previous night's training), boxing, jumping rope, shadow-boxing, strength training, and conditioning. "

How do you keep yourself motivated when you're tired?
"I pick up pictures of myself when I was 215 pounds, then put them down, and keep it moving."

Tell us about your most memorable day at work. "One of my most memorable moments at the gym is when an old-school boxing trainer was working nearby with one of his fighters, stopped him in the middle of his bag work, pointed at one of my girls, and yelled at him to 'hit the bag like her!'"

What is your biggest accomplishment? And, what do you hope to accomplish in the next year?
"My biggest accomplishment has been teaching over 1,000 females how to box. In the next year I intend to open Women's World of Boxing, the first women-only boxing gym in New York City, in it's own independent space."

How do you respond to people who think boxing is scary and dangerous?
"Boxing is a collection of skills: There's footwork, timing, offense, defense, perception, working angles, and developing a keen sense for what you think may happen next. It's no more scary or dangerous than crossing any midtown intersection during the holidays. "

Who are your favorite boxers?
"Mia St. John, Ava Knight, Kaliesha West, Ana Julaton, Amir Khan, Manny Pacquiao, and Miguel Cotto."

What's your ideal on-duty outfit? What's your off-duty look?

"On duty, I'm always outfitted in my old-school black Russell Sweats, my black 'Women's World of Boxing' tee, and my brightest rotation of Nike kicks. Off duty, I live in my True Religion Jeans, knee-high Frye Boots, fitted tee, a hoodie, top layer jacket, and aviators - even if it's raining."

Who did you look up to growing up? What about now?
"Wonder Woman. Every woman."

What areas of the body does boxing target best?
"Boxing is a sport of discipline that targets your mind first. You don't try boxing - you either do it or you don't. Once you decide to do it, then the training will develop your legs, arms, core, endurance, stamina, and agility while strengthening your heart and spirit."

What music do you listen to when you train?
"Lately, Afro-Cuban, house, tribal, and hip-hop."

What do you eat while you're training?
"I generally have a low-carb, low-gluten diet and mostly eat foods high in protein."

What's a move you love that readers can do at home?
"The hardest thing for most people new to boxing is learning to move their feet. In boxing, your legs are everything and your footwork should be a work of art. Shuffle back, shuffle forward, to the side then bob-and-weave are moves that I encourage people to do at home, in the office, on the subway, and at the club."

What's your guilty pleasure?
"Baked goods. If it's soft, has layers, and resembles any cake or cookie of any kind, there maybe a problem."

What's your motto or theme song?
"My personal motto is that your present circumstances don't determine where you can go - they simply determine where you start."

Refinery29Ariane Hundt, Founder of Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp, Personal Trainer, & Nutritionist

Tell us about your weekly workout regimen.
"I teach about eight to ten indoor boot camp classes a week and participate in all of them, so that's what kicks my butt the hardest. However, to prevent muscle loss (yes, too much working out can do that!) I lift heavy weights at least once a week in the gym. I also take my dog Remi for long walks in Central Park and on steep hikes upstate on weekends. I take at least one to two Ashtanga Yoga classes every week to stretch out my body and calm my nervous system."

What's your favorite part about your job?
"I love seeing people change beyond what they thought was possible. When a client signs up for my programs to get stronger, leaner, and fitter, the transformation doesn't just stop there. It transcends their relationship with themselves, with food, and often transfers onto their career and their friends and family. When you take action to go for your goals, magical things can happen, not just physically. I love that the people in our classes have together created an incredible community of awe-inspiring people. They spend time with each other outside the classroom and pay it forward. My Slim & Strong program has been selling out based on word-of-mouth alone for the past six years. That's love!"

What's different about Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp from any other boot camp?
"At Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp we truly care about your progress. We remember your name, take an interest in where you are and where you want to go, and we cheer you on along the way. Our workouts are very challenging, yet very effective, as they will get you results in just five sessions. We also pride ourselves on our sense of team spirit. Our participants cheer each other on and train with each other with a lot of laughs."

How do you keep yourself motivated when you're tired?
"I don't have the time to ask myself whether I'm motivated or not. Working out is my job and I have to to be 'on.' So, once I get going with the first set of jumping jacks, along with a packed class, the energy is already there. The secret is that motivation doesn't just appear out of nowhere: it comes as you exercise and take action. I'm motivated by wanting to feel a certain way in my skin. Working out hard and effectively, along with a clean diet make me feel like a million bucks. Nothing can beat that."

Tell us about your most memorable day at work.
"There have been so many highlights in recent years: the first call from a TV producer to feature the workout; the first magazine article; the week the phone wouldn't stand still after ABC News ran the Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp story in the taxi cabs; the incredible physical transformations; people being inspired to become trainers and nutritionists themselves; and the opportunities that have come as a result of my work. I remember being so excited about being on a casting call for Biggest Loser, or getting incredible business offers, to getting emails from my clients telling me about their life changes. It's tough to just settle on one day. "

What is your biggest accomplishment? And, what do you hope to accomplish in the next year?
"My biggest accomplishment privately was to decide to go for what I truly believed in: a career in fitness and health. It took me a long time to leave the corporate world and get things into place."

What's your ideal on-duty outfit? What's your off-duty look?

"On duty, I love my Lululemon pants in all colors. Nothing gives my lower body more shape. My favorite tops are our black Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp tank tops. They're comfy and look great. A lot of people in class wear them as their uniform of sorts. I also love tank tops of all colors.

"Off duty, I feel most comfortable in my skinny jeans in blue, black, or green, boots, a silky blouse, and accessories like long necklaces, big rings, and bracelets."

What music do you listen to when you train?
"In class we listen to a lot of the new stuff on the top 40 list, which my DJ mixes into great playlists. When I work out on my own, I go without music as I want to connect with my body or with nature if I'm outside. To relax, I love to listen to Fink, William Fitzsimmons, Massive Attack, or Bon Iver."

What do you eat during the week when you're working?
"I stick to eating clean for the most part. I focus on protein and veggies and avoid sugar, grains, and starches. Breakfast is always eggs and veggies. Lunch is a big salad with protein or salmon burgers with veggies. Dinner is usually a soup or salad again. I snack on Quest bars, protein shakes, and veggies. And, when I go out I usually use those occasions as cheat meals. A single gal has to enjoy herself on dates, too."

What are two moves you love that readers can do at home?
"My top two moves are donkey kicks of all variations and step ups.

"We end every indoor class with at least 5 minutes of butt work and donkey kick variations, so it's not uncommon for my participants to get complemented on their assets.

"My other favorite move is the step up. You place one foot on a bench, and step up with the other foot to meet it. Then, step back down with the same leg. You repeat this step-up 15 to 20 times, and your entire lower body has been worked. It creates a lifted butt, firm hamstrings and quads, and defined calves."

Who did you look up to growing up? What about now?
"Growing up, I knew I wanted to be a well-rounded person who made a difference in some way. For the longest time I struggled with deciding what I wanted to do, so I always admired people that knew what they wanted to do with their lives and went about it with confidence. It took me 30 years to listen to my gut and put my dreams into action. I haven't regretted a moment since.

"I'm inspired by people like Jillian Michaels, who managed to create a huge brand based on her personality and expertise. I admire people that fearlessly go for what they believe in and affect other people's lives positively."

What's your guilty pleasure?
"My guilty pleasure is beer in the summer and red wine in front of the fireplace in the winter. I love dark chocolate when a craving strikes and enjoy a good slice of pizza from Two Boots. However, I have become so super-sensitive to junk food that I don't enjoy it because of the awful way it makes me feel. "

What's your motto or theme song?
"My personal motto is: 'Get out of your comfort zone.' Nobody has ever created big changes or made an impact on the world by doing ordinary things and without pushing their limits. In class, we go beyond what we think is physically possible, and with that, we build mental strength. That in turn makes you believe you're capable of doing more than you thought you could - physically and in other areas in life. "

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Refinery29Fana Tesfagiorgis, Professional Dancer

Tell us about your weekly workout regimen.
"Working at Ailey is a workout in itself, but I do enjoy cross-training outside of dance. A few times a week, I train with Clifton Brown and Renee Robinson in Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis respectively, which helps me to use my energy to lengthen and strengthen my muscles throughout my joints. Four to five times a week, I do a swimming session that was introduced to me by Lisa Johnson-Willingham, incorporating kick-board laps as cardio,and a water-ballet barre with floaties around my ankles. It helps with my balance, kinesthetic awareness, and other discoveries that I can bring to ballet on land."

How do you keep yourself motivated when you're tired?
"The opportunity to do what I love for a living is overwhelming motivation for me to keep pushing. Even when I'm exhausted, I try my best to give everything I can, because that's what our job will call for on those lengthy tours. Each audience deserves our best - mind, body, and soul. I may as well practice that way."

What's your favorite part about your job?
"Performing is my favorite part of my job. To share my spirit with others, along with experiences, emotions, and thoughts undiluted by words is an honor. I also love that we can be artists and athletes, both to the extreme and that they complement one another differently each day."

Tell us about your most memorable day at work.
"There was one piece that I got to learn that I absolutely loved, but just couldn't pick up. It took me forever to get the style, sequence, and coordination and to understand the music. It felt like a foreign language to my body in a way I had never felt in dance. A few of my friends in the company were extremely generous and coached me for hours during our off time. With their experience and advice - and many more hours of living room rehearsals - I finally started to get it. The first time I performed it felt like such a victory!"

What is your biggest accomplishment? And, what do you hope to accomplish in the next year?
"My biggest career accomplishments so far have been graduating from Ailey/Fordham's BFA Program and joining the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. I will remain focused, open, positive, and constantly seeking what's beyond my maximum, and trust God in His plans for the future."

How is being an Alvin Ailey dancer different than dancing anywhere else?
"This company demands versatility in ways I never imagined. The numerous choreographers and genres of dance that we experience are an exciting challenge, and require an ability to switch gears instantly. "

What is some advice you'd give girls looking to dance professionally?
"To anyone looking to dance professionally, I'd encourage them to value each part of themselves equally: mind, body, and spirit. All of these elements will endure stress in some way before any growth happens, but if you remain focused, healthy, humble, and hopeful, anything you want to do is possible."

Do you ever get stage fright? How do you combat it?

"I often get nervous before I perform, but once the curtain goes up, I don't notice the nerves anymore. The best way for me to prepare for a performance is to walk through the piece on stage while visualizing my movement. I also pray before each performance, keeping in mind our purpose to share what the audience needs to receive."

Any memorable moments/funny stories you can tell us about being in the company?
"I once got a note from a friend and senior dancer to make sure I wasn't lip-synching on stage. She could see me from the wings! Sometimes I sing or hum in rehearsals because I'm really feeling the music, but I couldn't believe I'd done it during a performance! Embarrassing, but hilarious!"

What is your favorite song to dance to both on stage and off?
"On stage, I love dancing to Duke Ellington's music, both in "The River" and "Night Creature." Off stage, I love dancing to Beyoncé's hits."

What's your ideal on-duty outfit? What's your off-duty look?
"I love to wear Yumiko leotards and leggings when I'm in rehearsals. They give me clean and visible lines with colors that pop. Outside of dance, I like to dress for the occasion. Sometimes that means simple, comfortable jeans and sneakers. Other times, I like to mix elegant and fly styles, unique patterns and colors with simple accessories."

Who did you look up to growing up? What about now?
"I always looked up to my family growing up. My mom and dad worked extremely hard and made many sacrifices for us to have the opportunities we've had. We were raised to keep love and family first. My brothers are the most creative people I know, I think because we were encouraged to always be ourselves and speak our minds. I still look up to my family - they're the reason that I'm here!"

What are two moves you love that readers can do at home?
"I love to pirouette (turn on one leg)! I also love a Horton Lateral-T, which you can find in every Alvin Ailey work!"

What's your guilty pleasure?
"Chocolate and peanut butter."

What's your motto or theme song?
"'Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.' - Matthew 17:20."

Refinery29Melissa Simson, Coach at CrossFit NYC

CrossFit is kind of a new phenomenon in the workout world, at least to us! What are its guiding principles?
"CrossFit is all about performing varied, functional movements that are applicable to real-life scenarios. But, it's also about the community. Athletes are able to form a strong bond by commiserating over brutal workouts (misery does love company!). This bond allows them to support each other. Someone will finish a brutal workout and even if they're exhausted and drenched in sweat, they turn around to continue cheering on their fellow classmate. Every class has a 'no man left behind' motto, where the class isn't over until the last person has completed the workout. This solidarity is extremely powerful and helps build that strong aspect of community around every CrossFit gym."

How did you get into CrossFit?
"I've always been active and loved weight lifting. One day, I saw some guys doing some cool-looking moves at the gym. Once I discovered Crossfit.com, I was hooked and doing the workouts on my own at a chain gym. It seemed like a natural fit for my energy levels: It challenged me, but was also varied enough to maintain interest. Every day was something new!"

Tell us about your weekly workout regimen.
"I'm part of a CrossFit competition team that trains one-to-two hours a day, five days a week. Our practice sessions are complete with strength and traditional weight lifting, skill work, and short - but intense - conditioning workouts. The best part about CrossFit is that most workouts can take less than an hour, but the intensity is high enough that they're incredibly efficient. You end up getting the results you want. "

How do you keep yourself motivated when you're tired?
"It's much easier to stay motivated when you love what you're doing. I look forward to training every day. But, it's easy to feel discouraged sometimes, so I remind myself of all the progress I've made. I train hard, and it's so rewarding to be able to look back in my training journal, even after just a few weeks, and see how far I've come as an athlete. My training pushes the boundaries of what I think I can do and seeing consistent progress is what keeps me hooked!"

What's your favorite part of your job?
"Helping my athletes reach their goals and continue to improve. I see a variety of types of people in our gym, some of which have never worked out before and are completely new to fitness. When I see my athletes taking classes, even with other coaches, and demonstrating good form and kicking ass in a workout, it's so rewarding to see the progress they've made. They've really come a long way. My athletes' success is far more rewarding than my own progress in my training because I know my coaching is responsible for their success."

What are two CrossFit moves you love that people can do at home?
"Burpees and Air Squats.

"Burpees are notorious for raising your heart rate in a matter of seconds. They're also a fantastic equipment-free, full-body workout. The Burpee begins in a standing position, then the athlete crouches down to put their hands on the floor and kick their feet out into a plank position. From there, they do a push-up, kick their feet back up toward their hands, and stand up. The Burpee ends in the upright standing position; however, the athlete must jump off the ground and clap with their arms above their head to finish the movement. You can do Burpees anywhere!

"The Air Squat is also a great strengthening exercise that is the building block for all CrossFit movements. In the squat, your feet are hip-width apart. With the weight in the heels, the athlete sits back as if they were going to sit in a chair, keeping their chest upright and their back in a flat position. It's important to focus on sitting backwards so your knees do not come over your toes. Squats can be done with or without weights, and we always recommend athletes squat to full depth, which means they squat until their knees are parallel to their hip crease. No mini squats!" Tell us about your most memorable day at work.
"I had just started coaching CrossFit classes and was still building up my confidence with the job. An athlete who had just finished my beginner class asked me to help him with a skill he'd been practicing for months. After 15 minutes working on drills and technique together, he was able to complete the skill with full range of motion and perfect form! I guess he surprised himself by completing it after months of trying and the look of satisfaction and elation on his face was priceless. I still see him at the gym, since he's a regular, and his skills have only improved with time and dedication. Every time I see him complete the skill that was once so difficult for him, I can't help but smile!"

What's been your biggest accomplishment? And, what do you hope to accomplish in the next year?
"I work hard for everything I've accomplished, so it's hard to pick just one. I find that as I continue to grow, I have big accomplishments and milestones for different stages of my life. When I landed my dream job, I thought that was my biggest accomplishment. But, then I ran a marathon in the hills of San Francisco and that became a larger milestone. I'm sure as you become a mother or a wife, your accomplishments change in line with your life stage as well. I'm a big believer in celebrating the small accomplishments along the way!

"This may be cliché, but I hope to accomplish the perfect life balance. I love to train and CrossFit, but I also love coaching and my work in advertising. At times, I find it's hard to give an equal 110% effort to each endeavor, so I hope to accomplish an ideal balance where I'm giving my best to each, but not feeling guilty or that I'm sacrificing other areas of my life, such as my personal life or mental health."

What's your guilty pleasure?
"I'm a huge NASCAR fan. Sundays are race days! I'm also known for spontaneous dance parties in my living room."

What's your ideal on-duty outfit? What's your off-duty look?
"My ideal on-duty outfit is flattering yet functional: Lulu Lemon spandex, a neon Lulu sports bra, and our soft, cotton racerback "Coach" tanks. Off duty, I'm wearing dark skinnies, booties, and a flowy, silk tank."

What music do you listen to when you train?
"In CrossFit we don't really have music - sometimes it will be on the background, but I tend to tune it out. My personal playlist, though, would combine a lot of Rihanna, Jay Z, and some loud/angry rock that just pumps you up!"

Any general fitness/nutrition tips for keeping trim this holiday season?
"Use the time off with family to do something active together. Instead of meeting friends for brunch, take a class together or go on a run to catch up and buy coffees afterwards. After eating a gluttonous holiday lunch, take the family on a walk around the neighborhood! If you have a big family, sometimes even games such as charades or a Wii dance game are fun ways to get everyone involved during/after a holiday meal. Some of the fondest family bonding memories are done while doing an activity."

What's your motto or theme song?
"'There is no substitute for hard work.' - the Thomas Edison quote resonates with me every day and can be applied in the gym and to life in general - especially at my day job in advertising!

"I also strongly believe that one's best work and strongest work ethic comes out when they're truly passionate about something. Find what you love, and do it often! It doesn't matter how you choose to be active, but whatever you like to do is ultimately what will give you lasting results because you'll stick with it! The fitness world has so many crazes and fads, and not all workouts are for everyone. There's no trick!"

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