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Top 5 Fitness Pointers for Petites

By: Alyssa Burns


In this industry, I’m sure we all know it is crucial to take great care of not only our bodies, but of our minds, relationships, and overall well-being. But what some petite models might not know is that not all health and fitness trends are beneficial for our physique. In fact, studies show that women 5’4” and under should follow more specific regimens surrounding exercise and nutrition.


As a certified holistic health coach and personal trainer I’ve gathered my top 5 daily habits that have helped me to thrive in not only my career; but in all aspects of my day to day life! At the end of the day, what’s most important is that we FEEL our best.


1. Prioritize Sleep


This habit can be easily overlooked (believe me, I’m guilty of it myself). Sleep is the #1 most important way our minds and bodies heal. As models, we tend to carry a lot of stress with schedules, juggling all kinds of responsibilities, and staying on top of our image. Since our face is our career, we must ensure our bodies have that time to relax and rejuvenate overnight. Even just one hour less of sleep a night, over time, can lead to a significant increase in aging, weight gain, and stress/anxiety.


When it comes time to unwind, aim to set a consistent time you’re at least washed up and in bed each night. The more routine we can build our sleep schedule, the better. I know a lot of factors come into play regarding sleep–early work hours, kids, etc. What matters most is that you make the effort to improve your sleep, at least a little each night. Even if you can only get in 6-7 hours a night, make sure your space is dark, comfortable, and distraction-free to ensure a solid night’s sleep.


Some tools that can help improve sleep quality are showering before bed, diffusing lavender essential oils, playing white noise or meditation frequencies, wearing ear plugs, and turning your phone off at least 30 minutes before bed.


2. Hydrate your Hustle


It’s time to invest in a super cute water bottle and HYDRATE BABY. Unless you’re mindfully drinking water all throughout the day, chances are you’re not drinking enough. Ideally, we should be drinking at least half our body weight in liters of water. It may seem like a lot, but that’s because of how much water does for our health! Dehydration can cause many issues, both shot and long term.

From dry, aging skin to bloating and poor digestion, without enough water, our daily bodily functions suffer.


There are so many delicious ways to make your water taste better and you’ll happily finish multiple bottle refills before you know it. One of my favorite ways to boost my water is with lemon juice and a couple stevia drops (it literally tastes like lemonade at the fair, but calorie/sugar free)! You can also diffuse fruit or natural flavoring drops found at most leading grocery stores. Electrolyte powders are also a wonderful supplement to drink once a day to boost your body's absorption of water and prevent dehydration throughout the day, especially after a vigorous workout.

Photographer: Joe Underbakke


Each day is a new opportunity to better yourself and your life.

With proper hydration, you will notice an increase in energy, clearer and softer skin, better sleep, better mood, and improved digestion. As models, these are all things that are incredibly beneficial in supporting our career and always bringing our best to set. When your skin is glowing and people ask your secret, the answer will be the simplest of all: drink your water, baby!


3. Resistance Training


Let’s talk about fitness. If you’re unfamiliar with resistance training, it’s exactly what it sounds like–working with resistance! There are many different kinds of resistance training you can try. Just find what works best for you!


As petites, our bodies naturally have a slower metabolism because we don’t have as much body to fuel! That being said, it can be frustrating to feel like we can’t eat as much as women who are taller since they have a higher resting metabolic rate than we do. Science says it all, we need to work a little bit harder to boost our metabolism and build muscle tone so we aren’t stuck in a chronic diet or restrictive lifestyle.

Working with weights won’t mean you’ll get bulky. It actually helps our bodies utilize muscle and burn more fat at rest. As petites, too much cardio is actually counterproductive, leaves our bodies stressed, and leads to fat storage. Resistance training is higher intensity, but lower impact. It not only increases muscle tone, but leads to stronger bones, better energy levels, strength, reduced levels of stress, and a higher BMR (basal metabolic rate).


The best ways to perform resistance training is with free weights, in boutique fitness classes, reformer Pilates (such as solid core), and simply in the gym with machines. I highly recommend not attempting strength training without proper instruction and guidance. Be sure to talk to a personal trainer or class instructor on how to come up with programming that fits your individual needs and goals. After all, no two petites are made the same ;).


As a personal trainer myself, you can ask me questions on instagram at @Alyssa__burns. Also, if you want to try some classes around the city, my personal favorites are Barry’s Bootcamp and Solidcore! What is important is that you approach fitness from a place of safety, excitement, and motivation to feel your best.


4. Steady State Cardio - 3 Mile Rule


“Just run a ton of miles a day and you’ll lose fat” right?! Wrong. Cardio is glorified in society, especially all over social media. Sure, cardio is great for cardiovascular health and endurance and should definitely be a part of your weekly workout routine. However, high intensity cardio should only be performed a max of 2-3 times a week, and even that is a LOT. As I mentioned before, we petites have different needs. For women taller than 5’7”, cardio is great. However, they have higher resting metabolisms and don’t need as much muscle to burn more calories. That’s not that case for us.


One method of cardio that actually is very beneficial in many ways is steady state cardio, a.k.a. WALKING! Yup, you don’t need to run yourself to the ground to get the same benefits as an intense cardio session. Getting at least 10,000 steps per day can help improve mood, sleep, fat loss, metabolism, stress levels, and digestion! It also helps us to preserve the muscle we’re building in our resistance training sessions each week.


Get those steps in daily, keep HIIT to a minimum, and see and FEEL your body change for the better.


5. Protein Intake


I could write a whole separate blog post on nutrition and what foods to eat to support your mind, body, and career (and maybe I will ;)), but if you’re going to focus on one thing: PROTEIN. With the increase of resistance training comes the tearing and rebuilding of muscle fibers. For proper muscle growth and recovery, we need to be on top of our protein intake.


If you’re looking for a body recomposition (aka decrease body fat while simultaneously increasing muscle mass), you should be aiming for about 1g of protein per pound of body weight. So, for example, if you weigh 115 lbs, your goal would be to try and get as close to 115g of protein a day. This number caps out at 130g. However, if you just want to maintain muscle tone and not make significant body changes, around 60-80g of protein is a healthy daily intake!


There are many lean protein sources you can incorporate in each of your meals throughout the day. The easiest way to make sure you’re eating adequate protein daily is by centering each meal around the protein source. So, for example, say you choose chicken breast for lunch and turkey burgers for dinner. The meal you make should be built around chicken and lean ground turkey. As a vegan, this can be a little tricky, but I can guarantee you there are plenty of WONDERFUL high protein vegan options on the market, including extra firm tofu, seitan, and mock meats.


One Step at a Time!


If you’re just getting started in your fitness journey, this info can seem a bit overwhelming. Each day is a new opportunity to better yourself and your life. Even if it’s something as small as drinking an extra glass of water, each small step is still a step in the right direction!


This is the first of many posts from WNP about this topic, so if there’s anything in particular you’re curious about or want more information on, feel free to let us know! I’d be more than happy to share my knowledge with all of my petite queens;) Also, don’t be shy to DM me personally at @alyssa__burns with any questions or for additional tips! I promise, we are your biggest cheerleaders, you’ve just got to believe in YOU and take action! You’ve GOT THIS!


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