Olivia Villanti is an editorial strategist and probably the most Parisian of all the women we met in New York: she wears grey and black, thinks it's strange to wear leggings when you're not working out, and calls Pina Bausch her sports hero!
This said, she still represents Brooklyn and is a Renaissance woman when it comes to sports. She practices various types of yoga, pilates, running, Tracy Anderson and The Class. She bikes as much as she can, walks when she can't... And is always on the move.
Inside/Out: What’s the first sport you ever practiced?
Olivia: Dance! Some sort of ballet/jazz hybrid that I took and my favorite part hands-down was the costumes. Oh my god, like opalescent mermaid costumes. I loved dance and movement, in general. I was always pretty active.
I/O: And the first sport that made you feel confident?
O: Running. For a period of time, I held one of the fastest mile times for a girl in my elementary school.
I/O: Was physical education a central element of your identity at school when you were a kid?
O: Yes! I had an older brother so being physical became an important part of relating to him and his friends—they were always playing soccer or basketball. I took classes in both and wasn’t very good at either, but I remember loving being active and being able to “hang with the boys.” I have a lot of nervous energy—it needs an outlet. I was never a passive spectator, I just liked being involved and with sports you have to just throw yourself into them.
I/O: Are you a sports fan? If so, which team/athlete?
O: Honestly, no. I never watched sports, I just liked playing. My husband is a huge soccer/world cup fan so that can be super fun to immerse myself into when he’s around. Otherwise I don’t get into watching sports.
I/O: What sports heroes do you remember from childhood?
O: All the Knicks players as per my brother: John Starks, Patrick Ewing, Anthony Mason. My own personal heroes were developed late and they were all in the dance community.
I/O: Do you ever feel intense emotions during your mind/body workouts?
O: Sometimes. I particularly had a really intense experience when I started Yin Yoga on my birthday this year. It’s a slow paced yoga that focuses on the fascia and ligaments. It brings up all sorts of stuff and it’s really difficult for people who have trouble sitting still (hi!). I wanted to cry, curse, cry, curse. It’s at once challenging and relaxing—so hard to explain. Just imagine applying pressure to your shoulder joint for 4 minutes. The release is wonderful, the pressure is extremely intense. Otherwise I really rely on exercise to keep me from over thinking. I can get an idea in my head when I’m working out and it’s so clear and energizing. It isn’t riddled with doubt or anything overly analytical. It’s usually where I hatch my best plans. Or where I solidify a feeling that’s been permeating.
Leggings and Running Shoes: Nike, Cap: Brooklyn Nets
I/O: Favorite sports moments of the last 20 years?
O: Maybe seeing Nefes by Pina Bausch at BAM in 2006 and meeting her at a Gala after. She’s one of my heroes and inspired everything I did as a dancer/choreographer in college.
I/O: How would you define the relationship that New Yorkers have with the active lifestyle? Do you feel it always been this way?
O: I think New Yorkers are naturally competitive, driven people which makes them gravitate towards physical activity. I also think they tend to be pretty overstimulated and over-committed which means they need some sort of reprieve. Exercise can give you that. It cancels out the noise and allows you to hyper focus. Within that I think New Yorkers, and I’ve been guilty of this, get so hyped up on certain workouts they can often become addicted to them. Like they need that release and fix so bad, they’re crabby if they miss SoulCycle. I get it. It’s medication in a way. Honestly I can’t speak for the state of NYC 20 years ago, but in my 14 years here there have certainly been a lot of workout trends that have come and gone. I think the dependance on exercise is not new though, just maybe the workout du jour.
I/O: Do you think that New York sportswear has had an impact on global style and fashion?
O: Absolutely. You can talk about athleisure or whatever you want to call it, but I think overall the shift towards casual is the bigger movement. Everyone is gravitating towards this effortless, cool, undone thing and it’s really refreshing to me, because that’s the side of fashion I’ve always been most drawn to: The T-shirts, the well-worn hoodies, the old, loved denim...I think it’s so great to see people wearing things that they’ve put their personal stamp on. In terms of athleisure... I don’t know. I still think it’s funny to wear leggings if you’re not working out. I always feel a little naked if I’m in mind and not actually running or doing yoga. But zero judgement from me on others. Wear what you want!
I/O: What is your ideal performance garment or product?
O: Black, for one. And probably if I’m performance-y on either side, legging or top, I like to balance that with something that’s not performance-wear specific. So like a sweat or a T-shirt or a hoodie. I used to exclusively wear Nike but then I stocked up on H&M’s line when in Oslo last summer and it’s been in heavy rotation. Nikes on my feet though. Those are non-negotiable.
I/O: Your favorite activewear brands?
O: Well I love Outdoor Voices as a brand and they really have been leading the charge in the stylish activewear realm. I used to live for Danskin and KD dance. Nike, of course, because OG. I own a little bit of Adidas that’s more for chilling on a Saturday than working out.
I/O: What lifestyle rituals or routines do you do before or after working out?
O: Before, not much. I am a mom so if I have a second to work out I literally throw on clothes and get off before I get derailed. After I try to keep the health vibes going. Water. Something nourishing. But honestly it’s hard to do anything too significant. I’m pretty much back in mom mode, stuffing my face with whatever’s convenient after I’m done.
I/O: What about beauty: the perfect hairstyle for training? Accessories? Products?
O: Ponytail. I love a good turban for yoga (the cheap kind you get at drugstores), or just an inexpensive headband or hat to keep my hair off my face.
I/O: What activities say New York the most?
O: Running probably. Soulcycle for sure. Power yoga. The Class With TT is also soooo NY to me. Mind/body with a healthy dose of anger management thrown in for good measure.
I/O: From street to studio, define your style.
O: Casual. Denim. T-shirts. Leather jackets. Army jackets. Really low maintenance. I like keeping myself somewhat pulled together with a few high end accessories like a good bag or a nice shoe. Those are my only splurges.
I/O: What lifestyle trends do see happening? Which do you like?
O: Wellness is trendy at large I guess. Lots of fashion people seem to be gravitating towards wellness so it’s gotten stylish, if you know what I mean. Which is funny because wasn’t fashion about excess and cigarettes and champagne not long ago? I don’t know. There’s an accessibility that’s helped it become mainstream: Headspace, MNDFL—they’ve made wellness into a very easy, approachable part of urban life. With that of course comes some not-so-great things. Sometimes the inconvenience of taking care of yourself is where the growth really happens.
I/O: What activities have you recently discovered or want to try?
O: I want to try Moves, Lauren Gerrie and Marisa Competello’s dance class on the LES! It’s sadly at the not-very-mama-friendly time of 8pm on Thursday nights but one day I’ll make it there.
I/O: Favorite studio and class?
O: I don’t have one! When I first had my son, the baby pilates classes at Sangha were a godsend. They got me out of the house, into the company of other women and my son loved seeing the other babies.
Jeans: vintage 501s, Sweater: Acne, Beanie: bought off the street in NYC
I/O: In the city that never sleeps where does mind/body training fit into your life?
O: Honestly, this is a unique moment in my life as the mother of a one year old. Mind/body are often at odds with one another but I really do my best to be as active as possible even if just for 20 minutes.
I/O: Have you ever traveled for wellness?
O: No, but I’d love to do a yoga training somewhere far away. It’s not in the cards at the moment but I have the feeling it’ll happen.
I/O: If you travel alone, are you likely to connect with some sort of community?
O: I have never traveled alone. Crazy but true. Seems like something I need to check off the bucket list!
I/O: What destinations are on your wish list?
O: Well, yoga in India seems so obvious but it’s on there. A half marathon anywhere outside NYC would be great for me I think.
I/O: What role does music play in your practice(s)?
O: I listen to music all the time. Often the only reason I can get myself out on a run is a new playlist. It helps energize me and really get into the zone.
I/O: Are selfcare and working out the new nightlife in New York these days?
O: Haha. It might be. I’d take a sauna and spritz over a nightclub any day of the week. My husband and I each get one night entirely to ourselves every week. I often get reflexology treatments or massages and these are by far the best way to spend those evenings. I always return to our apartment sooooo happy and rejuvenated.
I/O: How have sports or physical activities impact your eating habits?
O: I wish I had a better answer for this. Dancing definitely impacted my eating habits negatively but training for a half marathon made me into a bottomless pit. In general I find mind/body activities like yoga or pilates make me want to eat really clean. I become really aware of my body during those activities. Whereas running, which I’m sure could also be classified as mind/body, makes me want to eat lots of carby, doughy, not so clean foods.
I/O: Does challenging yourself physically take you out of your comfort zone in other areas of your life?
O: You know, I actually think it’s been the other way around. I think my personality has always been driven and excitable. I think I move towards things that take me out of my physical comfort zone to satiate my need for change and challenges.
I/O: How do you strive to find balance between different areas of your life?
O: It’s so hard to make time for everything: Husband, career, baby, general life maintenance... I try to excuse myself from striving for perfection. It’s a dirty word, "perfect", because it’s not obtainable and often makes you feel inadequate. I think the most important thing for everyone is to make time for yourself. Scheduling it in, treating it like a task, is the only way it happens for me but it’s very necessary.
I/O: What does female empowerment mean to you?
O: Female empowerment means owning your femininity. Not feeling like you need to conform to some else’s definition. That you can trust your gut and can love and appreciate other women and you go out of your way to support them. I think people go further together so yes, women too!
I/O: Do your wellness practices give you a sense of community?
O: Yes absolutely. I love Sky Ting because I think they’ve done a wonderful job at cultivating a community at their studio. You really want to spend a day there, not just one class.
TIPS AND ADDRESSES
1 tip to improve performance: Let go.
1 power song: Anything by Whitney Houston
1 app: The Weather Channel, Astro Zone, Googlemaps
1 podcast: God there are too many! Bon Appetit Foodcast, Ted Talks, The High Low, S Town, Anything by Crooked Media
1 blog/site: All from my girlfriends: OKREAL, Inside Elsewhere, Inside/Out and my husband's blog Miscelanea NYC, an extension of his NYC shop, featuring Mexican artists, chefs, creatives.
1 food address: Champion Coffee on Manhattan Avenue (AKA "my office")
1 beverage: GT Kombucha
1 inspiration: Pina Bausch. Forever.
1 woman we should interview: Amy Woodside