Women In Wellness: Sarah Steele of SteeleSculpt On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Comparing yourself to others is an inevitable part of learning + growing. Rather than attempt to avoid comparison altogether, try to keep your comparison constructive and kind-hearted.
As a part of my series about women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Steele, the founder of SteeleSculpt. Steele, as a professional ballet dancer who performs with The Washington Ballet, brings to life a unique digital fitness experience — low-impact, high burn workouts led by fitness-certified professional ballet dancers — directly to screens anywhere. Founded amidst the global pandemic, SteeleSculpt offers subscribers aka “Burners” on-demand fitness classes with a unique twist in a completely virtual format with zero equipment required. SteeleSculpt workouts use a combination of Pilates-inspired mat work and bodyweight strength and conditioning moves to elevate fitness and wellness routines.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
While I’ve been a ballet dancer as far back as I can remember, an ankle injury brought me to Pilates when I was 19 years old. It was the only form of exercise that I could do with my feet elevated in the air to decrease swelling! I quickly felt how Pilates increased my strength in the ballet studio, and I became a Stott Pilates mat instructor very soon after. Over the course of six years of teaching in parallel to my ballet career, I realized I had developed a class format, style, and exercise repetoire that I could call my own — no longer strictly Pilates, but a bodyweight sculpt class that was seasoned with the mechanics, choreography and intensity that kept me feeling strong. SteeleSculpt was born!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
Fitness is flush with aesthetic-focused marketing, which has always been unhelpful to me as a ballerina who is already hyper-critical of herself. However, against all odds, the more I taught, the more my appreciation for my own body grew. Today, in retrospect, I can draw a direct connection between SteeleSculpt and my improved mental health. When I’m wrapping up a class, it feels as though a bunch of fuzz in my brain has been swiped away.
As SteeleSculpt grew, I would keep asking myself, “What do I want to stand for?” One of those things will always be an emphasis on strength and functionality over aesthetics. Ultimately, what your body can do for you is so much more valuable than what it looks like. For that reason, I’ve become mechanics-obsessed; Because I’m so busy nerding out on which muscles are firing, I can easily leave behind ugly phrases like “flatten your tummy.”
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have definitely taught classes that are borderline impossible to get through. There’s a tough-as-nails ballerina inside of me at all times who is a bit masochistic, and I’ve had to temper her over time. Balancing exercises that challenge you and exercises that just make you feel good is key. And if you think about it, as human beings, it’s unrealistic to believe that you’re going to get stronger every workout. Sometimes you just need to move, sweat, and feel confident for a while.
Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
I find the biggest difference is made in people’s individual lives. How someone perceives themselves, how they treat their bodies, how their body feels when they’re hiking with their family or playing with their kids is where SteeleSculpt makes an impact. When someone messages me and says, “I have the best abs of my life!”, that’s obviously thrilling — but I feel like crying of happiness when someone lets me know that my workouts got them through the depths of quarantine or helped them heal from an injury.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
I love this. Here’s a few things I’m currently working on for myself!
- Be realistic about your workout routines. Your life doesn’t just automatically become more fantastic + wonderful as you live it — it’s full of highs + lows, periods of stagnation, struggle and wild success. Expect your relationship with fitness to change over time.
- It’s easier to stay on the wagon at 2 mph than to fall off the wagon entirely and have to find a way to get back on. If you can’t commit to moving your body every day, keep doing whatever you can, whenever you can.
- If you wouldn’t say something nasty to your best friend, don’t say it to yourself.
- Everything in moderation. This mantra — which my mom used to repeat to me all the time — translates to every part of life. Indulgences and restrictions are unnecessary when you don’t make anything off-limits.
- Nothing changes if nothing changes. I used to have this quote as my phone background in high school when I was exhausted, stressed and scared to fail. It kept me going on the days when I wanted to give up and makes me feel empowered when I’m having a tough time.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Mandatory walks in the sunshine for everyone for at least 15 minutes a day.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- There are zero shortcuts. Put in your due diligence as early as possible so you’re always standing on a solid foundation.
- Find out what you’re bad at doing and delegate those things to others.
- You don’t need to preach to inspire others — leading by example is far more powerful!
- Comparing yourself to others is an inevitable part of learning + growing. Rather than attempt to avoid comparison altogether, try to keep your comparison constructive and kind-hearted.
- Expect the worst, hope for the best. Get comfortable with the idea that things may very well spectacularly fail. You’ll be a lot less anxious.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
1000% mental health. Professional ballet is brutal in terms of mental health, and fitness has been a cure to that for me. When you experience something like that first-hand, you just want to shout it from the rooftops so that as many others can benefit in the same way you did. The mind-body connection is truly incredible!
What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights! We wish you continued success and good health.