Q&A with Dara Hartman
At The Sweat Life, we really believe that there is no best of anything, only what works best for you — which goes to say, there is also no best body. Everyone has their own hang-ups about their body image, areas that they would like to improve and body parts they love to flaunt, and what you see is not always what you get. #Sweat Your Body is an ongoing feature, one that promises to be quite eye-opening. Thank you to the rockstars who are brave enough to #sweat their bodies for the world to see, and tell us what they love — and what they don’t.
How would you describe your body type?
Athletic, fit, muscular, and petite.
Why do you think you have your body?
I have my body to carry me through life. My body aids my connection to the environment and to others, enabling me to transcend borders, to move, feel, touch, metabolize, grow, and evolve.
I inherited many of my physical traits from my parents. My whoppin’ 5’2” stature mirrors that of my mom, and my dad is broad-shouldered with muscular legs. I was never super athletic growing up. Like many angsty teens, I often felt awkward in my skin, avoiding team sports and “girly” clothing that would show off any inkling of confidence of my curves. Now, I train for a living. (Who would've thought this tomboy would feel cool and confident enough to teach in a tiny tee, or strike a pose in a busy NYC street, abs-exposed?!)
What do you do to maintain a healthy body image?
I exercise and eat well. I surround myself with what I love, among people who authentically care for me, regardless of how I look.
It’s interesting to think about the unconditional love one can feel for another, and the dysmorphic demons one can battle with themselves. “I am so f***ing fat,” was a commonly heard household phrase, scoffed by a tiny mother with literally no weight to lose. These words still sometimes reverberate in my head or off the mirror. When I’m feeling heavy, icky, puffy, when I’m feeling destructive or critical of my body, I accept it as a temporarily negative moment, a fleeting judgment, and then move on. Every body is different. Every body has beauty.
What triggers you to stress the most about your body?
Change, anxiety, guilt, lack of sleep.
When I start to criticize or stress about my body, I try to take a step back, away from the mirror, and look at the bigger picture. How am I feeling? How did I eat today? What is really bothering me? Usually it’s something else that’s the true issue. I remember to be nice to myself. I remind myself to look on the bright side and try to be body positive.
What does your workout routine consist of?
I teach fitness, so working out is a huge part of my job. I usually fluctuate between 1 - 3 hours a day of working out, from teaching or taking a spin class, to burning it out on the megaformer, to just basic weightlifting. I make sure to schedule a rest day once a week.
How would you describe your eating habits?
I eat often, and I eat when I am hungry. (I feel like I am always hungry!) I try to eat about 6 - 7 small meals a day. I avoid eating at least an hour before I exercise, which can be challenging at times, especially if I have a full day of teaching spin and training clients.
I love protein shakes, smoothies, fresh juices, fruits and vegetables. I primarily try to eat whole, unprocessed, and plant-based food. I have been some form of vegetarian, vegan, and pescetarian for 14 years (I don’t even remember what chicken tastes like!). That being said, I don’t put limits on what I can and cannot eat. I have “cheat meals,” I love to go out to dinner with friends and enjoy the amazing flavors of this city. And if I'm craving something, there's a reason for it: I allow myself to indulge.
What’s your favorite thing about your body?
My booty booty booty!
Let’s get real for a second though: My body has changed a lot over the past few years. I remember when I could barely hold myself in a plank, let alone do a push up. The idea of getting out of bed to “WORK OUT?!?!” put a bad taste in my mouth. I found excuses to avoid the gym, and laughed at others who walked around wearing workout gear. I would have much rather stayed out all night: party, eat, sleep, and repeat. I limited myself, and accepted that I would never be able to have visible abs, I would never be able to run fast, or ‘side plank,’ I would never “look like him/her.”
My favorite thing about my body is its ability to adapt and change.
I can now run a mile in under 5 minutes and 30 seconds. I can lift MUCH more than I weigh. I have completed numerous races, and hours of rigorous endurance training, even through the night, lead by green berets with bricks on my back. I have trained alongside professional athletes and Olympic gold medalists. I can sprint, climb, kick, push, press, pull, lift, jump... all with an honest smile on my face. I have learned not to limit myself. My body wants to work hard, it wants to get stronger. It feels good to move!
What would you change?
I wonder what it would be like to be taller? Tighter? Bustier? Buffer? I really would like bigger arms, and I’m working on it!
When did you feel the best about your body?
I feel the best about my body when I am in a damn good mood. After a great day, a rigorous workout, or even just a long hot shower.
What outfit do you feel best in?
You will most likely find me in sweaty gym clothes, but I love to dress up! I love wearing heels and lipstick.
Are you comfortable naked?
Yes. YES. A thousand times, yes.
Any last words?
I do not exercise to look like you, or him, or her. I #sweat to feel better, to live longer, healthier and happier. “Your size does not define you.”