Part injury prevention and rehabilitation, part fully body workout.Whether you’re injuredor in peak condition, Sugarfoot Therapy is a challenge.My physical therapist Nick Cutri and his wife (and fellow dancer/choreographer) Katie Schaar created SFT to disrupt dancer’s bad movement habits.While dancers look and move like superheroes, they often develop movement patterns that stress and damage tissue overtime.SFT was integral in rehabilitating my torn shoulder(s) and continues to strengthen my body as a whole today.
But Sugarfoot Therapy is not just for dancers, I’ll let them explain:
Where did the idea for Sugarfoot Therapy come from?
I (Nick) had been treating several dancers in the PT clinic, rehabbing existing injuries. Every time I went to discharge a dancer patient, they would express that although their injury was fully healed, they wished they could keep coming to PT…they had never felt stronger in their bodies…they wished somebody had taught them these types of therapeutic exercises much earlier in their lives.
We did some research and realized that there were very limited resources for dancers in terms of science-based conditioning and injury prevention training. While many athletic programs have well-developed strength and conditioning programs, dance was in need of a program that bridges the gap between up-to-date kinesiology and physical therapy practices and dance technique. We decided to put a program online so that it could be a universal resource for the dance community.
Through our website, any dancer or dance teacher in the world can instantly access clinically proven exercises and workouts. A home exercise program is a huge part of the Physical Therapy process. With Sugarfoot Therapy, we have created a library of our evidence-based exercises…used by my patients, dancers and dance teachers worldwide, as well as by other Physical Therapists.
What does a typical workout look like?
I am a specialist in Functional Science; it is at the core of my practice as a Physical Therapist. With Sugarfoot Therapy, we merge functional exercise with dance-relevant movement. Our workouts always begin with dynamic mobility and neuromuscular activation exercises and then progress to strength and stability work.
Many orthopedic dance injuries are overuse injuries caused by a repeated dysfunctional movement pattern that places continued stress on a tissue over a period of time. The only way to fix the problem is through a process of movement re-education…and this takes repetition and practice. SFT exercises first retrain the neuromuscular system with functional exercises, and then we advance the exercise into more extreme dance-relevant positions…such as external hip rotation and demi point. This way the movement re-education translates into actual dancing.
Your routines seem to stress hip stability. So what exactly is hip stability?
Hip stability is having the neuromuscular activation and muscular strength to control the hip joint through its entire range of motion…during push off, during landing, while standing on one leg and kicking the other, etc.
…why is it so important?
The hips are the center point of the body, so if the hips are unstable it can cause a chain reaction of problems throughout the body…both above the hips and below the hips. Dancers often have tremendous mobility in their hips…not meaning that the muscles around the hips are extremely flexible, but that the hip joint itself has a huge range of motion. This is how dancers are able to create the gorgeous lines and shapes they are known for. The problem is many dancers lack the functional strength to control all of that range of motion. And instead of taking the impact of their expansive and explosive movements into the big structurally stable hip joint with it’s big powerful musculature, they take the impact into the soft tissue surrounding the hips.
Furthermore, one cannot adequately control their hip mobility, that instability often trickles down through the femur and affects the knee…which can then continue down and affect the ankles and feet.Over time this can wreak havoc on the connective tissue in the hips, knees, and lower back.A large number of injuries can be traced back to instability in the hips. So with SFT, we focus heavily on creating mobile stability in the hips, and how that mobility and stability integrates into the function of the body’s movement chain.
Can non-dancers benefit from the SFT Routines?
Yes! I prescribe SFT routines to non-dancers all the time. The main focus of our exercise routines is to improve your body’s functional biomechanics. This is something that benefits all bodies and can help us to live sustainable active lives, while reducing the occurrence of pain and inflammation caused by dysfunctional movement patterns.
How would someone who is new to fitness with less body awareness, know if they’re doing SFT right?
We teach our program with a lot of joint alignment cues. For example, “Your toes should be pointing straight forward and as your knee bends it should track straight forward over your second toe.” With our emphasis on hip stability, you will feel a great deal of glute activation…so sore booties are common! Also keep in mind that you should never experience joint pain with SFT. At the end of a workout, you will feel both strong and flexible.
Would you consider a SFT Routine a complete workout?
Absolutely. Many of our workouts focus on a specific joint or movement principal (e.g. SFT Ankle Stability Circuit, SFT Jumps, SFT Knee Stability Circuit), but every workout works the entire body. For example, if you are looking to strengthen your ankles and prevent future ankle sprains…the only way to actually develop functional ankle stability is to work on the ankle with all of the other moving parts in a full body workout.
Outside of SFT, how do you two workout?
Nick: We go on a lot of hikes/walks/jogs pushing our 18 month old son in a stroller! I workout at the PT clinic at the end of my work day…usually a 45-60 minute circuit workout of functional exercises and traditional weight lifting.My focus is always trying to create movement authenticity by incorporating 3 dimensional movement into my program design.
Katie: Dancing/choreographing professionally is a lot of my workout. I teach SFT classes weekly and perform the circuits regularly.But I love how my body feels with a variety of training…yoga, Pop Physique, running, aerial silks training.
Check out Sugarfoot Therapy for yourself! Click here.
Let me fess up to a few neurotic habits I’ve committed to while I was on a health kick — Preparing all my food without oil or salt. Bringing my own meals to parties. Eliminating fruit except apples and berries. Counting my almonds. I was borderline insane and 100% not living life. Eating food that is delicious and more importantly satisfying around the clock is what keeps my on track today. Nut butters give you that fatty satisfaction and protein to keep you full. I am thrilled to partner with Mara Natha to share how nut butters are easy to travel with, quick to fill you up and satisfy both your sweet and savory cravings. Here are my favorite MaraNatha recipes that keep me motivated throughout the day.
Almond Swirl Overnight Oats
Most mornings I barley have time to brush my hair and let’s be honest, a lot of these healthy breakfast bowls and smoothies require so many dang ingredients it’s just too much to think about while running out the door. My go to for a busy week is throwing together a couple jars of almond butter swirl overnight oats on a Sunday night. You can add fruit, jam, chocolate, protein powder, the list goes on make them but here are the basics, no measuring involved!
Spoon MaraNatha almond butter blobs into jar
Fill HALF the jar with oats (I mix steel cut oats and rolled oats for a variety in texture)
Sprinkle a some chia seeds and cinnamon on top of oats
Drizzle some maple syrup or favorite sweetener
Fill the jar with your favorite milk (I use almond)
Screw lid tight and shake to mix oats and swirl almond butter
Refrigerate a few hours or overnight
Cinnamon Almond Butter Dip
I’m sure I’m not the only one who likes to eat nut butter by the spoonful and dip anything from apples to pretzels to fig newtons right into the jar. To slow my roll on polishing off an entire jar in one sitting I mix coconut milk (thicker dip) or almond milk (thinner dip).
Blend 1 part milk of choice to 1 part MaraNatha almond butter + cinnamon ( + sweetener as you’d like ). The photo was 1/4 cup almond butter and 1/4 cup coconut milk (from the can)
10 Second Energy Bites
Easier than making powerballs and cleaner than eating a packaged protein bar, these energy bites take 10 seconds tops to throw together. In a pinch or before I work out I grab a pitted date, smear some MaraNatha almond butter on it and sprinkle bee pollen on top. The date gives you the natural sugar, almond butter protein and fat, and bee pollen for B vitamins!
Almond Tahini Pad Thai
After a long day, these is a recipe for me to look forward to – Here is a fresh twist on Pad Thai. In these photos I used brown rice Pad Thai noodles, but I’ve also made the dish with kelp noodles, zucchini noodles, and a no noodle version served on top of brown rice. It’s really about the almond tahini sauce- make it as thin or thick as you want by varying the amount of water you add. Also, feel free to add less spice, but do make up for it by adding soy sauce or else your Pad Thai will reside in bland land 🙂
Make the sauce
1/4 cup MaraNatha almond butter (crunchy or smooth)
3 tsp Sriracha
1 T Tahini
1 tsp ginger – either graded fresh or I use a jarred for convenience
3/4 cup water
Boil a pot of water for your brown rice pad Thai noodles, rice or any other grain. Prepare as advised on packaging.
Slice your favorite veggies so they’re similar in size – I used spiralized zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, broccoli and broccoli slaw.
Heat vegetable oil or coconut oil and 1 clove of garlic minced. Sautee veggies until soft.
Add protein and noodles to cooked veggies. To save time, I buy a rotisserie chicken (no salt option is best), shred the meat. For a vegetarian/vegan version, add cubed tofu.
Remove from heat and add sauce, stir
Top with the juice from 1/2 to 1 whole lime, slivered almonds and cilantro
Yes- looking forward, thinking bigger, and creating the fruitful and fulfilling life I want to live is at the center of my mission. I don’t believe in dwelling on the past, but even more so I don’t believe in forgetting it. I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I moved to California and went to Loyola Marymount University and have lived in LA ever since. I attended a fancy private school with a fancy tuition to match, but none of my core college friends had their lives handed to them. We worked the mailroom, ran event centers, taught dance classes and drove the school shuttle a.k.a. Lion Express. We shared rooms with twin beds (even after we graduated) and of course took on the dreaded student loan debt that continues to haunt most of us today.
Over Memorial Day weekend the gang got back together. We united in NYC and took a trip up the east coast to celebrate one of our bests get married in Maine. It didn’t take long to realize how far we had come in 8 years. My friend Taylor is his own fashion empire- creative directing, styling even photographing campaigns we see everyday. Kelly runs a designer eyewear label, Jessica represents the most working choreographers, Jacqui just opened Maine’s favorite artisanal ice cream shop and Ashley runs a high school department and is our first mom of the bunch! My two majors (dance and business) have actually become my career- I’ve danced for my favorite pop stars, in my favorite TV shows, have a fitness lifestyle blog and create content for the brands I grew up loving. As we live our lives day in and day out, we get lost in what we haven’t accomplished and neglect to take a moment and realized what we have. We all agreed we want more, but recognized that we have all come so far on our own, never hesitating to ask each other for help along the way. If you can’t come up with your friends, what’s the point? Your success is measured by the success of those who surround you.
As we drove from Manhattan to Maine in the gorgeous 2017 Volvo S90 sedan, we realized it’s a symbol of how far we’ve come. Outdoor noise muted, music crystal clear and wifi flowing to pull up all of our favorite memories along the way. The smooth ride allowed us to stay the course and focus on us. Thank you Volvo for perfectly accessorizing our coming of age reunion.
The days of keggers, clubs and beer pong are officially gone and now a Friday night turn up is a popcorn party y’all! Not only is popcorn low carb and filled with fiber, you can season it to your liking or your glass of wine. My friend Ashley Cinq-Mars came over and we swapped our favorite flavors- two herbalicious healthy options and one treat because hey, it’s Friday! Don’t tell me you still pop popcorn in the microwave…I’ll ignore those who said yes and you can read below to see how easy it is to make a fresh, radiation free batch of popcorn.
YOU KONG POP IT
How to pop popcorn on the stove
Coat the bottom of a large pot with high heat oil like CANOLA or VEGETABLE OIL (3-4 tablespoons) or COCONUT OIL (2-3 tablespoons)
Pour a layer of popcorn kernels so it covers the bottom of the pot like the photo on the left
Cover the pot and place on high heat
Listen as the popping kernels slow and remove from heat
Add as much of each ingredient as you’d like… the oil is key so the yeast and turmeric have something to stick to.
If you’ve recently had a light colored manicure, beware that turmeric will stain! The popcorn is delicious without the turmeric as well.
Minced fresh rosemary 1-2 T and/or regular dried rosemary
Truffle Oil- 100% authentic truffle oil is insanely expensive and very strong tasting. We found a truffle/olive oil blend for $15.
Toss popcorn with these ingredients and enjoy. Always start with less truffle oil and add to your liking.
White Chocolate Funfetti
1 bag of white chocolate chips, spring for the good stuff!
Sprinkles, your favorite shape
To melt- Stovetop: Fill a large pot with a few inches of water. Put the chips in a smaller pot inside the larger pot with water and place them on a medium flame. Watch and stir the chips until melted, no longer. This will keep the chocolate from burning, which we did the first time 😉 Microwave: Place chips in microwave safe container and heat for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between until melted.
Everyone is always harping on about protein intake. We know it keeps you feeling full and your muscles feeling strong, but why is that? Turns out, like all things in life it’s not that complicated. Protein literally passes through your body (a.k.a. metabolizes) at a slower pace than fat or carbs. This is why a protein heavy choice keeps your energy up and your cravings at bay (hopefully) longer than a gorgeous pastry or cream cheese smeared bagel. That being said, protein is not stored in the body which is why we need to eat it on the regular– at least 0.8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. I am 5’7 and 135 lbs (61.23 kilograms) which means I should eat about 49 grams of protein per day. However, athletes and the super active should eat more. For young women that’s 15-23 grams of protein post workout. When I am in peak shape, I’m eating 20 grams of protein per meal (60g/day). A typical day looks like this: shake in the morning, eggs, egg whites, beans or quinoa at lunch, and chicken breast or turkey burgers for dinner.
The morning is often the most difficult time to get protein in, especially after a sweat sesh and before work. This post-workout shake will help soothe your muscles, replenish your strength, and sustain your energy well into lunchtime with 3 key ingredients:
OLLY Super Foods Smoothie Mix –
I have long embraced plant based protein over whey (dairy) which is why I love this OLLY Super Foods Smoothie. I consider dairy a gateway drug: with cheese comes bread, with milk come cookies. OLLY protein is a blend of pea, golden chiorella and flax. Unlike other vegan proteins like rice or soy, pea based proteins are considered “complete” meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. The Super Foods blend has two serves of fruit & veggies with 6 different super foods which is great when I’m super crunched on time I can shake it up with almond milk and run out the door.
Bok Choy- Chinese Cabbage
Like broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts, bok choy is a crucifer. Its leaves and stems are soft and fully edible. It’s great in stir fry, salads and soups, but not often forgotten when it comes to smoothies. Bok choy is high in antioxidants, vitamin K and omega-3s which help reduce muscle inflammation – key for post workout fatigued and sore muscles.
Tart Cherry Juice
I’ve long heard about runners drinking tart cherry juice to expedite muscle recovery. An Oregon Health and Science study found that runners who drank tart cherry juice immediately after a run, had 23% less pain than those who didn’t. However you’re sweating, unsweetened, 100% cherry juice is packed with antioxidants and potassium both major contributors to soothing your worn and torn muscles.
I wanted to share some highlights from this year’s Wanderlust 108 on Santa Monica Pier! This was my second year attending the mindful triathlon and per-usual, it did not disappoint. The morning started with a 5K beach run followed by yoga with Chelsey Korus and meditation with Joanna Harper. Nothing like a long day in the sun, laughing, flowing and dancing with hundreds of your closest friends. I was excited to be outfitted in the new Adidas x Wanderlust co-branded apparel. The strappy back made for an awesome tan line 🙂
Meagan Kong is no stranger to the world of dance but can still acknowledge that it’s never an easy job. She’s danced professionally in the worlds of entertainment and sports for years and yet still experiences pre-audition nerves and the struggle of jumping back onto the fitness grind after a hiatus. Meagan is just like the rest of us, and is living proof that hard work and determination will get you far. From dancing throughout high school as a hobby to gracing stages and TV channels worldwide, to even working with major brands like adidas, Meagan is living her own personal dream. Check out our interview with her to get peek into what it’s like to dance professionally.
When was the point that you decided to make dance your career and how did you prep for that?
I decided dance would be a career in Minnesota while in high school. One day I realized how much time and money my parents were putting into allowing me to dance whenever and wherever I wanted. All night after school, away on weekends, in LA during the summer. We’d save and hustle side jobs so I could train with the best. The idea that someday someone could pay ME to do what I loved was mind blowing.
I prepared by training in as many disciplines of dance as possible, even Irish soft shoe. I also went to college and graduated Cum Laude–from Loyola Marymount University–with a double major in Business Marketing and Dance. On one hand, some dancers would say it put me 4 years behind in the industry, but within those four years I matured and gained a larger perspective of the business of entertainment and the context of dance within it.
Putting yourself out there through dance requires a lot of confidence, what helps you to become more confident? How do you handle the stress of not always booking the jobs that you want?
It’s definitely rough. Auditions are like interviewing for a new job every week, on a megaphone, while in front of all the other applicants. This never becomes easy, but you develop defense mechanisms to help cope with the fact that despite perhaps being the best dancer in the room, maybe they aren’t looking for a tall, multiethnic, long haired woman that day. I learned to focus on the task at hand rather than fantasize about how amazing the tour, the tv show, or the award show would be. Your drive trumps the fear and speaks louder than any other voice in your head. If you lead with determination, your confidence will follow.
What’s a typical day in the life of a professional dancer?
A day as a dancer is completely dependent on whether or not you’re working. While on a job, you wake up, go to work, come home, eat sleep, and do it again. While not on a job you hustle. Take class and go to castings or auditions. You take care of your body and keep your tools sharp so that you’re ready when jobs pick up.
What’s your favorite style of dance and why?
I don’t have a favorite style, but I have a favorite type of job. I dance for, and assist, Emmy-winning choreographer Kathryn Burns. She’s known to work on a lot of comedic television where dancers are used to make a joke kick. For example–in the CW show Crazy Ex Girlfriend, I was in a yoga class scene doing sun salutations as a pregnant woman. The lead actress fantasized about a song and dance production and the entire class broke into a Bollywood-esque routine. It was ridiculous that I was jumping, kicking, and turning while appearing 8 months pregnant, but my job was to dance like it was perfectly normal. Dancing within the context of a script adds another layer to my performance which I love.
What has been a highlight of your career as a dancer?
Dancing on the scripted VH1 series Hit The Floor. As a dancer, it’s your job to make a singer look cooler, a product look sexier, and a joke punch harder. Hit The Floor is about a fictional LA basketball team and their cheerleaders, so us dancers were woven into the storyline. On the show I had a character name, lines, occasionally hosted, and of course danced every episode. Being principal talent and showing up to Paramount Studios to work with the same cast and crew for multiple years in a row was an absolute dream. The fact that my parents at home in Minnesota and my friends in Paris could watch gave me all the motivation I needed to kill it.
Any tips for young girls out there trying to get into the professional dance industry?
1. Outlast them all.
2. People don’t care about what you’re doing as much as they care about what they’re doing.
3. Remember to be adaptable – the stage, choreography, singers, and actors are always changing, our job is to make them look flawless no matter what.
Being an ambassador for adidas, what’s it like to work with a major sportswear company?
Insane really. It’s rare that the more involved you get with a company, the more you respect it. adidas lives what they sell and genuinely care about the strength of the female athlete. It’s a giant corporation but they project so much trust onto us ambassadors while letting me be me, say me, and do me but with their support.
Favorite sneaker by adidas?
Non-work out: White leather gazelles with gum sole
Workout: Ultraboost X
You’re also a worldwide recognized fitness influencer, have you always been so health conscious?
As a dancer, I grew up super active of course. It wasn’t until after college that I understood that I needed to eat right and train outside of the studio to reach my maximum potential in the studio . I was kind of a mess–Dominos accepted our University meal plan and I thought healthy was a Salandwich (a Caesar salad Sandwich). I would go to diet extremes when dance jobs or auditions popped up to whip my body into shape ASAP. I eventually got tired of constantly getting my body “ready” for something and learned to train and eat cleanly everyday so my mind and body were always prepared.
What are three hidden gems in LA?
1. Hollywood Reservoir
2. Palette Juice and Food
3. Raggedy Threads
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
MISSBISH represents women who own her craft and live their lives unapologetically.
Who’s your MISSBISH? Tell us who she is and why she’s an inspiration to you.
My MISSBISHes are all the ladies I meet who are finding fitness for the first time. Movement is programmed into me and even still, kicking my fitness game up after a month of LAX is rough. The MISSBISHes that find it in themselves to get up, lace up, and show up for the first time fuel me to keep on pushing.
I woke up missing the south of France! I once lived in Monaco for 4 months and would go to Nice to eat my favorite street food: SOCCA. Made from chickpea flour, socca is naturally gluten free, vegan and has a bit of protein. Traditionally you’d eat socca plain, but I like to top it with anything I’m craving to make a pizza/crepe like meal. In the photo below I went with wilted arugula, spicy chicken sausage and sautéed onion and red peppers.
Combine and mix all ingredients well in large bowl. Coat a hot non-stick pan with oil. Pour 1/4 cup batter into pan and shift it around until it thinly covers the entire base of the pan evenly. Cook for 3 min and flip-the edges should be crispy. Drizzle with oil (I use flax) and salt and pepper.
I recently had the pleasure of hosting some runs at an event involving two of my favorite companies: Refinery29 and Adidas. It was all to continue the celebration of the release of Adidas Running’s latest shoe created specifically for the female foot- the UltraBoostX. I’ve spent a lot of time in these shoes the past few months and I love them. The shoe’s floating arch, boost sole and primeknit upper hug my foot like glue to keep up with my every move.
The event took place in Santa Monica, California in front of the gorgeous adidas 3rd St Promenade store. There were 3 runs throughout the day- 1 and 2 miles led by Remi Ishizuka and myself and a 3 mile led by my girls Diana Mireles and Mellie Cay. These three ladies have been at my side since I started sharing my fitness journey last year so this was an especially exciting combination of women 🙂
Throughout the day there were insane performances by treadmill dancers who were once on America’s Got Talent. As a professional dancer, I tip my hats to those ladies turning, leaping and jumping all while in perfect unison on a moving belt! Juice Served Here poured delicious runner themed pressed juices and attendees were able to try on the Ultra Boost X and enter a raffle for an Adidas gift card. Adidas swag, Rx bars and tunes from DJ Lola Langusta kept the energy flowing all afternoon.
Despite the classic ocean-fogged weather, I met SO many new faces full of energy, eager to become #GreaterEveryRun. Thank you to Adidas Running and Refinery 29 for having me be apart of such an inspiring afternoon and thank you to all of my friends new and old for coming out!
In my last blog entry I discuss some brain boosting foods that help you focus fast and sustain your energy throughout the day.
Here is my absolute favorite food for thought, an Almond Butter Berry Bowl. I originally created this bowl for an article on SimonSAID, but am so obsessed with it I had to share it here. Unpeel and freeze bananas in a plastic bag or Tupperware in advance. Using frozen opposed to fresh banana and berries will create the thick, satisfying smoothie bowl you are hoping for. Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. My favorite post workout meal to date!
1 Cup Frozen Mixed Berries
1/2 Frozen Banana (I always keep peeled and bananas in a Ziplock in my freezer!)
1 Scoop Protein Powder
1 T Almond Butter
1 T Chia Seeds
3/4 cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk (1/2 cup for even thicker bowls)
Top with your favorite brain foods— I used dark chocolate, blueberries, whole grain granola and shredded coconut.