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A Joffrey workout: 3 dancers suggest exercises to tone muscles at home

They’re easy enough to do while binge-watching your favorite Netflix series, and best of all, they’re ideal for everyone from workout novices to diehards.

Three Joffrey Ballet dancers: Princess Reid, Graham Maverick, and Brooke Linford posing for a group portrait after demonstrating their favorite at-home workout exercises on Wednesday, May 13, 2020.
Joffrey Ballet company members Princess Reid (from left), Graham Maverick and Brooke Linford are photographed in their Chicago home.
Victor Hilitski/Sun-Times

Even with the prospect of Illinois businesses reopening in phases in the coming months, and the warmer weather beckoning us to step outside for a walk or jog to keep fit and get some much-needed sunshine, there are still plenty of indoor workout options to consider in this stay-at-home age.

We turned to Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet company members Brooke Linford, Princess Reid and Graham Maverick to share some easy-to-do-at-home exercises to help tone and stretch. They’re easy enough to do while binge-watching your favorite Netflix series, and best of all, they’re ideal for everyone from workout novices to diehards.

“I now try to work out five days a week,” said Linford, a six-year member of the Joffrey. “Especially stretching. It’s so important.”

While the dancers technically work out six days a week during a regular Joffrey season with rehearsals, dance classes and general exercise, the pandemic has meant the cancellation of the company’s entire season — and that community experience. And while the company provides online classes via Zoom three times a week for its dancers, working out during a quarantine has become an individual effort.

“The [online] classes make us feel like we’re all together in a way, but working out on our own is a big part of [staying in shape],” Linford said. “I would encourage everyone to try some kind of stretching exercise a few days a week if possible, even for 15 minutes. Most important is to set goals for yourself and not get discouraged or frustrated. You don’t need a full, intense workout every day. Just do what you can to make your body feel healthy and happy.”

Joffrey Ballet dancer Graham Maverick demonstrates calf raises, his favorite at-home workout exercise. Utilizing body weight, these “standing” calf raises help increase the strength and tone of your lower body, especially the gastrocnemius and soleus (two major muscles in the back part of the lower leg).
Joffrey Ballet dancer Graham Maverick demonstrates calf raises, his favorite at-home workout exercise. Utilizing body weight, these “standing” calf raises help increase the strength and tone of your lower body, especially the gastrocnemius and soleus (two major muscles in the back part of the lower leg).
Victor Hilitski/Sun-Times

Graham Maverick

Number of years dancing with the company: 13

Favorite workout and why: I love working out in many different ways. Between yoga, ballet, biking or just going to the gym it’s hard to say what is my favorite. One of the exercises that I have been doing more now at the house has been calf raises. You stand with the ball of one foot on the bottom step and do about 20 to 30 releves (rises) on each side at a time. It helps strengthen both your calves and ankles, and you should get a nice burn quickly.

Some things to think about when doing your calf raises: Make sure that your body is completely parallel with your foot and when you do the raises make sure that you not only go all the way up but also down. One of the best things about this workout is that you don’t need much to do it, only a staircase or even a large [hardcover] book such as one of the later “Harry Potter” books.

Music inspiration: I enjoy a lot of music, new and old, but what I’ve been playing for my workout recently has been Black Sabbath’s first album. Really gets the blood going for me.

Joffrey Ballet dancer Brooke Linford demonstrates the proper way to do “clamshells,” her favorite at-home workout exercise. As a general exercise, the clamshell can help strengthen your medial glutes, bringing more power and stability to your hips.
Joffrey Ballet dancer Brooke Linford demonstrates the proper way to do “clamshells,” her favorite at-home workout exercise. As a general exercise, the clamshell can help strengthen your medial glutes, bringing more power and stability to your hips.
Victor Hilitski/Sun-Times

Brooke Linford

Number of years as Joffrey artist: 6

Favorite workout and why: My favorite exercise is clamshells because I feel like it is the “magic physical therapy exercise” to make my body happy and healthy. It targets the gluteus medius, and in doing so also provides stability in the ankles, knees and back. I feel like at any given time in ballet class or rehearsal there is always one person doing clamshells.

What should people make sure they do in order to do this exercise correctly: There are different angles at which you can have your knees and still have it work. But the most important thing is to not rotate your hips [forward] and keep your body in line. Sometimes I like to put my hand on my hip to make sure I’m not opening up to get a little more rotation with my knee.

Best household item to accompany your workout: For extra strengthening it’s helpful to add a resistance band or theraband tied above your knees. But if you don’t have that available, using your hand on your thigh and gently pushing when opening and closing adds good resistance as well.

Favorite workout song: It depends on my mood, but right now I’m feeling the disco essentials playlist on Apple Music. I definitely need something with a strong or funky beat to help motivate myself.

Joffrey Ballet dancer Princess Reid demonstrates her favorite at-home workout exercises, the “pigeon pose,” which helps to elongate the back, stretches the hip flexors, and can alleviate pressure on the low back.
Joffrey Ballet dancer Princess Reid demonstrates her favorite at-home workout exercises, the “pigeon pose,” which helps to elongate the back, stretches the hip flexors, and can alleviate pressure on the low back.
Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times

Princess Reid

Number of years as Joffrey artist: 2

Favorite workout and why: My favorite workout is actually a stretch called the “pigeon pose.” I like this stretch because it really gets into your hamstring and the front of your hip (hip flexor). It’s nice to do before a class or workout.

Favorite workout song: One of my favorite songs to workout to is “Fantazia” by Roy Blair. I like this one because the beat is great for cardio.

Note: Always check with your health care provider before attempting any new exercises or workouts.