The Importance of Mental Fitness

At 17, a devastating accident in 1996 changed ballerina Christa Calitz’s(CC)life forever. Flung out of a moving school bus and dragged underneat hit, she was told she’d never be able to walk again – not without a prosthesis. Losing sixpints of blood (the average adult has almost 10), and not knowing whether she would recover, her dream of dancing seemed as shattered as her body. Having suffered serious muscle, nerve, blood vessel and soft tissue damage, there were mult iple surgeries along t he way. But her drive, determination and discipline proved that the mind has the power to uplift even the weakest body and strengthen the spirit. Twenty-one years later, Christa is dancing again.

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Do you recall your mental state after the accident? CC: Shock, sadness, anger and denial are what I experienced after the accident and for many years later. After the birth of my two daughters, I started suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. For many, symptoms begin almost immediately, for others, only later. I experienced flashbacks, panic attacks and sleep disturbances. Participating in anything physical was terrifying, and it still is today to some extent.

How has your fitness journey impacted you mentally? CC: Immensely. In June 2016 (20 years after the accident), I started training with Geoff Amess, who is qualified i n spor t s cond it ion i ng, a mong other things. During those training sessions, I had new weekly records to beat, and that motivated me to eat clean and embrace a healthy lifestyle. Three months into training, I felt that I had reached a level of confidence and fitness to start thinking about dancing again. In 2016, I returned to ballet, and launched my Fifth Element sportswear brand.

How do you prepare mentally for your training regime? CC: By setting goals for myself. I stick to at least seven training sessions a week, which entail aqua aerobics, zumba and core strength through barre and zumba. I include protein in my diet after all strenuous workouts and have reduced my alcohol and sugar intake. I only have a glass or two of wine over the weekend.

What inspired you to return to ballet? CC: It was a combination of factors: growing stronger physically; seeing what my body is capable of doing; growing stronger mentally, gaining conf idence and having fait h in my strength; being motivated by my trainer; and – as a mom – watching my gi rls dance at Stel lenbosch Ballet Association.

Do you believe that fitness begins in the mind? CC: Yes, I believe that the body can achieve what the mind believes. Our bodies can withstand almost anything, it is our minds we must convince to believe that. A healthy lifestyle not only changes our body, it changes our mind, attitude and mood.

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