At first glance, it looked as though there was a Rush class happening inside the Macleod Trail World Health group exercise studio.
Instead, upon entering, I came across the ladies of the Calgary Stampeders Outriders lunging and bicep curling in unison, clad in matching uniforms of black workout shorts and sports bra emblazed with the Stampeders logo.
Each three-hour practice begins with a team workout; tonight’s was led by Outriders captain, Ashley.
“Our coaches are so great making sure we have the opportunities to workout,” said Outriders four-year veteran Kendra. “We all also have a World Health fitness membership, and everyone that works for the gym is so educated so that helps if we have questions. We are encouraged to come to the gym on our own, and before our practices you can find us all in the gym working with different trainers here.”
Raylene, a third-year member, loves interval training, sprinting and strength training. She uses her two complimentary personal fitness consultations to get new ideas to incorporate into her fitness routine.
“If you do the same thing all of the time, you don’t feel the benefits of your workout,” she said. “I like to switch it up; during my last session I was introduced to the proper form for deadlifts and we did a lot of glute work. I’m shaking!”
Their 30-minute warmup includes cardio, strength training, abdominal work, pushups and a long stretch. Next is what’s called “across the floor”, which finds the Outriders travelling from one side of the studio to the other doing kicks, jumps and turns to work on their dance technique.
The final two hours of practice are spent rehearsing dances and cheers. “One of the strengths of our team is that we are very clean and sharp. Out there on the field every girl is doing the exact same thing and we look very together,” said Cassandra, a rookie.
It is a priority for this team to be conditioned and healthy.
“I couldn’t believe how tired I was after,” said Raylene recalling her first game as an Outrider. “I thought I was in good shape, but the endurance you need physically to dance but also to smile and remember your posture, and all of the things we worked on in practice takes so much energy. Being physically fit is crucial to make it through a game – or Grey Cup where we are dancing for 10-12 hours a day. You won’t be able to perform at your best without being fit.”
Kendra agrees, “I think there is a huge stereotype for cheerleaders and dancers to be super skinny, but we place such an emphasis on being fit and being athletic. We are cheering for a professional sports team, and we are professional athletes ourselves. That means strength training, it means running, it means being strong and confident, and it means fueling your body properly.”
Nutrition is an important part of any Outriders routine. Without the proper fuel for their bodies they wouldn’t be able to maintain high-energy levels for an entire three-hour game, and sustained energy doesn’t come from a quick sugar fix.
Raylene has her game-day meals down to a science. “I do a really good breakfast of scrambled eggs with vegetables in it: onions and peppers. I love coffee, so I have a cup of black coffee, too. I don’t like to feel too full before a game, so I have to make sure that I’m having little snacks throughout the day so I don’t crash. I bring a bag of nuts and some cut up vegetables with me to the field.”
On the field, the Outriders spend the game holding flags for “O Canada”, tunneling for player introductions, cheering on the sidelines and dancing during quarter breaks.
“I love getting to be out on the field performing in front of 30,000 fans,” said Cassandra. “To be out there with the team, and the crowd is cheering and you’re cheering on the Stamps, it’s a cool experience.”
“It’s like family,” said Raylene. “My favourite part about being an Outrider is my teammates. We have a great group of women who are all so well rounded. Some have their Masters degree and one is getting her law degree. We are proud of the ladies who make up this team and are fantastic role models to other girls.”
World Health is a proud partner of the Outriders.