Dancers are a rare breed of artist and athlete. It requires qualities of both to successfully convey meaning and emotion through strength and power.
Ballet dancer, Chelsea Thronson knows this duality especially well; she has just finished training for and competing in her first triathlon, all while still dancing with Cincinnati Ballet II.
She pushed the balance of athlete and artist to the extreme. While training for the triathlon, Chelsea documented her journey through a series of journal entries and vlog posts that she’s hoping will help others see the difficult and beauty that comes with pushing yourself to accomplish your goals, no matter how challenging they seem! Chelsea will be joining Bayerisches Staatsballett beginning in the fall of 2019.
Below are some of Chelsea’s most telling journal entries. They highlight the challenges, commitment, and breakthroughs of her intensely athletic endeavor.
April 17th, 2019Today was amazing. I’ve been training for about 2 weeks and I’ve been thinking that normally after a long day at ballet I would go home and rest. But the past few days after working out I’ve been feeling energized and great. I am really liking this lifestyle change so far and the training has brought out the best in me. I think this has shown a lot in my dancing. In just 14 days my body feels so placed, and everything is easier. It feels like I have so much more power and control over my body. I can’t believe I’m still doing this, but I am having so much fun. I love telling people about my training and that I’m doing a triathlon I love it so much!
(last week of my season; was very busy rehearsing and performing)
This week I’ve been feeling faint after class and today I really felt that way and I was exhausted. I had a Gatorade which helped but I still felt pretty tired. I think I need to shift my nutrition a lot because clearly I’m not getting enough of something. I’m going to start making sure I’m getting enough protein and also whole grains.
I wasn’t going to train today because I had a busy rehearsal schedule but I really wanted to because I love it so much. Once I got in the pool though, it felt like I was swimming through concrete. I could only swim for 15 minutes and made myself stop because I was worried I would pass out in the water and drown. It was such a letdown because I’ve always been a strong swimmer. I guess I am just still learning how to train intuitively and listen to my body. It’s just hard because I really enjoy doing it.
I am proud of myself for putting the work in and I am going to try and be more conscientious of my nutrition and hydration from now on.
I went on my first outdoor bike today and it was so incredibly hard. But it was also exhilarating and beautiful. It was a little bit scary going so fast and over bumps in the roads. I really don’t want to crash and am trying to be safe and not get injured. About 20 minutes on the bike it got really hard and I wasn't sure I could keep going. I was shocked when I made it back to my car because I would never think I could bike this much. I’m really impressed with myself and the strength that I had to power through the bike ride when it was so hard. Then I went home and took a nap. I woke up feeling great so I decided it would be a good idea to swim and run today too. I felt really strong but now I am so tired. I can’t believe I did that. I feel a little bit crazy, but I love triathlon training so much; I think. I am so excited.
May 24th Vlogs
Today I feel really defeated because my run was so hard today. I can’t believe I ever thought I could do a triathlon. I’m not sure what I’m going to do, it’s just so exhausting. I didn’t realize that it would be this hard. I couldn’t even make it home from my run; I don’t know what’s wrong but I just felt faint and nauseous. It felt like my body was shutting down. If I can’t even make it through 3 miles of running how will I make it through the triathlon?! It’s just really disheartening. Today I did not win but I’m hoping tomorrow goes better. Sometimes you have to go up a mountain before you reach a peak and I guess that’s something I have to remind myself of.
It’s the night before my triathlon. It’s only 8 o’clock but I am going to bed now so I can get my rest in because I have to wake up early to drive there. I am super excited but I’m not sure I’m ready. I’m so nervous and I’ve never done this before so I’m feeling this new kind of fear and anxiety, even though I am really excited! I’m going to get some sleep and just try to survive the race tomorrow.
Today I finished my triathlon and it was amazing. I did it in the amount of time I was hoping for and was so proud of myself. In the beginning, I just told myself that the faster I went, the quicker it would be over. It was way harder than I expected and when I was in the run it felt like I had to go into another world to make myself keep running. Even though it was so hard, I loved it and was all smiles the whole time. Finishing was an amazing feeling.
I feel like ever since I started doing triathlon training my life just got so much better. I was happier and I valued myself more. I think that I’ve found a new passion of mine because I feel incredible doing this. In the past, I have only felt completely myself when I’m dancing, but now I feel the same way when I’m training too. I feel so lucky to have found this new passion within myself and for being open to the spontaneity of it and the big impact it had on my life.
Many times in ballet I’ve felt defined by how instructors or choreographers valued me and let that guide my individual worth. I falsified confidence most of the time because I was afraid of my definition of failure. But as I was training and kept surprising myself with my strength and determination I realized that I am the only person who can decide my personal value. It’s kind of crazy I had to become an amateur endurance athlete to realize this, but I am so grateful. Spending all the time alone swimming, biking and running, just listening to my thoughts helped me become more in touch with what I was thinking and feeling.
These intangible benefits of training surprised me so much because just doing different kinds of cardio work in a repetitive motion for an extended amount of time doesn’t seem like a deep, introspective experience. But I learned so much about myself and this knowledge made me happier, more confident, and emotionally resilient.
All of these qualities will help me in the future as I deal with the inevitable ups and downs of life and a ballet career. I definitely want to keep doing this when my ballet schedule allows and am just so happy and fulfilled to have had this miraculous experience.