Meet Ashleigh Wilson, member of the London Contemporary Ballet Theatre and founder of the London based Ballet HIIT Workshop.

Originally hailing from a farm in the Gauteng Province in South Africa, Ashleigh now resides in London where she works as a freelance artist and trainer.  We discuss her healthy habits, wellness rituals and proudest achievements.

How has nutrition and fitness impacted your life?

As a professional dancer, I have always needed to fuel my body with the right foods. I love learning about nutrition and keeping up with new discoveries. I take for granted that I am using my body all day and contributing to my health, whereas most people are bound to a chair. I do believe, however, that there are so many tiny habits you can implement in your day to keep your body moving and your metabolism fired up: cycle, take the stairs, take calls standing up, find opportunities to build your healthy lifestyle.

What inspired the idea of your Ballet HIIT workshop?

Classical Ballet and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) are two concepts that bring Strength and Grace together in one workout. HIIT is a highly effective, fat-burning exercise programme which blasts the body for a short period of time (perfect for time-poor Londoners). However, I find the traditional structure like the workouts you find at bootcamps are too extreme for most bodies. Thus, I brought the Principles of Classical Ballet into High Intensity Interval Training. Ballet HIIT creates long, lean muscle tissue and it transforms posture and burns fat, but without the injuries or unhealthy aches and pains.

Apart from your workshops, what other forms of training do you enjoy?

Having done yoga, pilates and all kinds of sports growing up, I’ve always challenged my body to enjoy different movement patterns. I think switching it up builds incredible body awareness, co-ordination and keeps you from reaching a plateau in your training. I also like mashing up different disciplines in the same class. Ballet rebels is a class I teach at The Refinery in Hackney, which fuses ballet, yoga, pilates, barre and fitness for a full body sweat.

What are your favourite foods to eat before and after training and why?

I have been vegan for about 5 years so I tend to enjoy nuts and seeds to get my protein in before I start. I try to listen to what my body is craving. Most of the time my body asks for coconut water and hummus and falafel wraps after my workout. And I listen!

What are your all-time favourite foods (they don’t have to be healthy)?

Coconut anything and dark chocolate are always in stock in my house. I also love getting fried plantains from the old-school Jamaican take-out around the corner.

What achievement of yours are you most proud of?

I have always been the first South African to join any of the Ballet Companies I’ve worked for. Having a South African passport and working in one of the most competitive industries is a challenge to begin with. I chose to build a life for myself in Europe away from my family and the sunny comfort of Cape Town to do something I am passionate about and that rewards me every day. Oh and that one time I performed for the Royal Family!

What makes you angry?

The injustices of bureaucracy. I have always been treated appallingly as a foreigner inside government buildings throughout Europe. As someone who is trying to contribute to society and build an honest life, it makes me angry to see how people are treated differently according to where they are born.

What exciting plans do you have coming up that you’d love to tell us about?

I’ll be in Berlin, New York and Cape Town in the next few months. The company I dance for, London Contemporary Ballet Theatre, has some really exciting seasons coming up this year, both in London and abroad, so I’m really excited to be on stage again with such an incredible team.