Meet seven Colorado athletes whose superhuman training programs and otherworldly self-control over their diets allow them to push their bodies to extremes—all for a shot at being the very best.
Principal Dancer, Colorado Ballet
Height: 5 feet 4 inches
Weight: 103 pounds
Average weekly training hours in season: 40
Hometown in Colorado: Englewood
Dance choreographers worldwide seek out the long, lean muscles and arched feet that Chandra Kuykendall was born with. But it still takes strict adherence to a nutritious diet and long hours on the stage, in the studio, and at the gym to maintain the petite physique and musculature the 15-year veteran of Colorado Ballet needs to leap across the stage. ◗ The dance industry has long been known to be particularly hard on the human body—and psyche. The negative eating habits that have plagued ballerinas for years once haunted Kuykendall, who admits to struggling with her body image as a teenage dancer: “Your body is changing, and it’s really hard not to get wrapped up in that,” she says, “especially when there is a ‘typical dancer’ look.” With age, however, has come wisdom. In her 20s, Kuykendall abandoned both the calorie counting and the dangerous belief that skinnier meant better when she realized, with the help of a supportive family, that “health takes a priority over everything.” ◗ Her focus today is moderation. Breakfast and dinner are Kuykendall’s larger meals (think oatmeal or an egg with toast in the morning). The dancer limits her carbohydrate intake by avoiding the bread basket and big pasta dishes. Three years ago, that measured lifestyle helped her get back onstage just six months after having her first child. That, and eight hours of daily rehearsal in the studio. ◗ Even her off days aren’t truly “off.” When Kuykendall isn’t rehearsing or performing, she heads to the gym to take a yoga class or to use the elliptical, treadmill, or recumbent bike. Once in a while, she takes a quick break and zones out during a pedicure. “But I always have to tell them right away, ‘I’m a ballerina, so don’t be too shocked.’ ”