When she was younger, Alero Akuya was obsessed with female heroes, like Dominique Dawes and Michelle Kwan. Today, when you meet her at the gym in the morning, you might think that she's training for the Olympics, too.
Alero believes that "you create life’s opportunities by asking for them", loves dancing and capoeira, runs like a sprinter and plays to win.
Inside/Out: Are you a sports fan?
Alero Akuya: I’ve always been more interested in playing sports then watching them. I have a tremendous amount of respect for athletes at all levels; yet, do not follow one specific sport, athlete or team. As a child, I was obsessed with gymnastics, figure skating, swimming and soccer. Growing up and would spend most of my recess trying to be Dominique Dawes (African American gymnast on team USA from a city near my hometown), or pretending to perform routines like Michelle Kwan the figure skater.
Inside/Out: What’s the first sport you ever practiced?
Alero Akuya: The first sport was dance – when I was young I would stand in front of the tv and mimic the moves I would see in Michael Jackson’s music videos. I was in awe of his ability. As a child I began to take ballet and jazz dance classes, I then transitioned into a sprinter in middle school after winning a few 100 meter dashes against classmates, boys and girls alike. I continued as a sprinter/hurdler into high school and college.
I/O: And the first one that made you feel confident?
A: Dance by far makes me feel the most confident. Free flowing movement inspired by music – it's ever-changing experimental and expressive –it is my favorite creative outlet. Capoiera is a close second, as it is a Brazilian martial art that embodies dance, acrobatic movement and music and is extremely challenging.
I/O: What sports heroes do you remember from childhood?
A: Dominique Dawes, Kerri Shrug, Michelle Kwan – I’ve always had female heroes.
I/O: Was physical education a central element of your identity at school when you were a kid?
A: As a child PE was engaging. Here in the States we had a program called the "Presidential Fitness Challenge" in elementary school. Students would have to complete a series of test ranking you amongst your classmates and the national average. It was competitive but fun. The test included:
- Completing as many sit ups or crunches within 1 minute – to test muscle tone and core strength
- Endurance run
- Pull ups /rope climb for upper body strength - which was hard!
- Shuttle run for speed and agility
- V-sits reaches to show flexibility
Even though it was challenging I enjoyed it – it gave PE a purpose beyond learning the rules of traditional sport. It was about pushing your comfort zone.
I/O: Favorite sports moments of the last 20 years?
A: Any champions league final, World Cup or Olympics, and Kobe’s retirement game.
I/O: Do you have a mantra?
A: Play to win.
I/O: Does challenging yourself physically take you out of your comfort zone in other areas of your life?
A: Yes – but conversely I think life imitates art or in this case movement. I remember starting a new job a few years back that took me out of my comfort zone. To counter balance the energy I was feeling at work I began to take capoeira. It gave me the permission to be a beginner –to learn the right moves with time.
I/O: How do you strive to find balance between different areas of your life?
A: Build routine and commit. Half the battle is showing up – the most successful people in life are habitual creatures.
I/O: What lifestyle rituals or routines do you do before or after working out?
A: Either before or after the workout depending the time of day I always get a coffee – eating something post workout immediately is so critical (avocado or fruit).
I/O: How do sports or physical activities impact your eating habits?
A: Sports force me to eat consistently simply for the fuel to power through a workout. At the same time – my habits are not without its flaws.
I/O: What about beauty?
A: I’m a simple girl – all I need is a hairband or a headband – to avoid sweating out my hair.
I/O: From street to studio, define your style.
A: Experimental – my style mimics my mood for the day (or the lack of time).
I/O: How would you define the relationship that New Yorkers have with the active lifestyle?
A: New Yorkers by definition are active – your body is your armour you use it to commute daily – carrying a series of bags from morning till night. I think in order to not just survive here but also thrive people realize that sport/active lifestyle is necessary. I don’t think it’s always been this way – I lived here 10 years ago and that was not the case. I would say NYC has seen a transition in this world within the past 6-8 years. The number of gyms in the city has increased based on the desire and demand to sweat. Wellness is a lifestyle, eating a balanced diet, going to your favorite studio, training with your favorite trainer, wearing your favorite tights/bra combo, indulging in brunch with your friends post workout because you deserve it – these are all hallmarks of a NYC active lifestyle and a staple of your week.
I/O: Do you think that New York sportswear has had an impact on global style and fashion?
A: Absolutely. New York sportswear is minimal, functional, classic and transitional.
I/O: What trends do see happening? Which do you like? Which ones are over (or should be)?
A: I'm not sure if they are trends are much as they are cyclical chapters of wellness that have moments of increased engagement: Boxing, HIIT group classes, strength training, yoga and meditation. I enjoy them all.
I/O: What activities have you recently discovered or want to try?
A: I experienced a soundbath for the first time about a year ago – talk about relaxation and clarity. Love it.
I/O: Favorite studio?
A: Just follow me on Instagram – Im not a committed to one type of work so I like to try new things and challenge myself.
I/O: In the city that never sleeps where does mind/body training fit into your life?
A: It is a non-negotiable. It provides me with supplemental energy, deep sleep. Its where I derive my power from.
I/O: If so, is it something you do on your own or with a friend, some friends?
A: Yes I would do it solo, or with friends for this trip I did it with the YFBP group. I’ve always wanted to go on a dance retreat – I think that would be incredible. Any one want to create one with me?
I/O: If you travel alone, are you likely to connect with some sort of community?
A: I LOVE solo travel. It has to be one of the greatest experiences in life – the best part is that you can easily connect with communities along the way but still have down time to absorb and process new experiences on your own.
I/O: Do your wellness practices give you a sense of community? Is this a motivating factor or a secondary effect?
A: Absolutely. Wellness practices give a sense of community – you end up meeting like-minded people – and in life you are a sum of the people you spend most of your time with (for better or for worse). My wellness community encourages healthy habits and hold me accountable.
I/O: Have you ever traveled for wellness?
A: Yes. I did a yoga retreat with Yoga For Bad People in Miami at the Edition Hotel – it was amazing.
I/O: What role does music play in your practice(s)?
A: It's the soundtrack to my life so it's always necessary for motivation or it even helps me with my timing.
I/O: Is working out and self care the new social/nightlife?
A: I don’t think social/nightlife could ever be completely replaced – but evolve to a new lifestyle. For some people their nightlife consists of working out (#realtalk). I personally like to have a healthy balance of both.
I/O: What does female empowerment mean to you? Do you feel that women go further together?
A: To me female empowerment is about making space and providing support for women to reach their full potential – in all aspects of life. Eliminating the boundaries, the red tape, the glass ceiling and letting her grow. Community fosters connection and support, so together we achieve more.
TIPS AND ADRESSES
1 tip to improve performance: Sleep hygiene – go to bed at the same time everyday.
1 trainer: Too many to list – there are incredible trainers in NYC it's important to find one that can help you define your holistic approach to training/wellness.
1 app: Slack
1 podcast: Quote of the Day
1 blog/site: Morning Brew
1 food recommendation: Balvanera - Argentinian restaurant on the Lower East Side.
1 beverage: Latte all day
1 woman we should interview: Radha Agrawal
Thank you: S10