Carrie was recently interviewed by the team at ClassPass and featured on their blog. Here is her Q&A!
When Carrie Barnhart was 8 years old, she was already a mini-cheerleader. “I can remember playing sports and tumbling in my front yard,” she says. “My father’s love for gymnastics is what actually started my journey.”
She spent elementary school taking gymnastics and dance classes, and by high school, she began competing in cheerleading and dance competitions. Though she didn’t cheer in college, she decided to try the professional route in 2005 and tried out for the Houston Power Dancers.
Her skill and talent shone through the pack: not only was she selected as an NBA dancer, but she eventually held the title of captain. She led the team for five years – and started the Dunking Dancers for the Rockets (more on that later). Now she’s the owner of the fitness studio, Bombshell Bootcamp in Houston, Texas. Not only will you get a killer cardio and strength workout, but you can sign-up for her classes or take classes with other former NBA cheerleaders who teach, too.
If you thought the basketball players are the only athletes during March Madness – Barnhart is here to set the record straight:
ClassPass: How did you train to be a cheerleader?
Carrie Barnhart: Training to be a professional NBA dancer is tough; it takes time management, discipline and commitment. Our uniforms were two-piece and spandex, so keeping a healthy diet was very important. By the time I tried out my first year, I was a cardio junkie. I loved turbo kickboxing classes and taking dance classes on the weekends. Every year before tryouts I would set a goal, for example build up my leg strength and flexibility so my leaps and jumps would be higher and more explosive. Then I would set a game plan like incorporating plyometric jumps into my cardio and leg routines twice a week.
CP: If anyone says cheerleaders/NBA dancers aren’t real athletes, how would you persuade them to think differently?
CB: During my tenure on the team I would say our average practice was three hours. During that time we would perform three or up to five different two-minute routines back-to-back. If there were memory mistakes, we would have to restart the dance routine. Having a strong cardiovascular endurance was key. We practiced three times a week, and would sometimes have three games within the same week. On top of dance practices and games, we were expected to work out before or after our sessions. As a Rockets dancer, we were also required to hold a full-time job or also be a full-time college student, and on our off days we would practice our dunking skills.
CP: How to you apply what you learned as a cheerleader to being a fitness instructor?
CB: My biggest learning experience as a cheerleader was to take care of your body. I learned if you treat your body right by fueling it with proper, healthy foods and making sure you get enough rest, it will perform to it’s top potential. Your body is a delicate machine, it takes time and consistency to see results.
As a fitness trainer my clients are always asking me for a “quick fix” like a pill, workout or cleanse. I tell them treat your body right, fill-it with quality foods that give you energy, rather than making you hungry and be consistent. It’s okay to have a glass of wine or a “cheat” meal every once in a while but staying out late every weekend drinking, eating late-night munchies and not working out will not allow your body to look or perform at it’s best. You cannot out train a bad diet!
CP: What was it like to be an NBA cheerleader? What were some of your favorite memories?
CB: Being an NBA dancer and captain for five years was an amazing experience I will always treasure. I am so thankful for the friendships I made. Most of my best friends today, including Emily [who teaches at Bombshell Bootcamp] were my former teammates. To me I was more than a dancer, I was a role model for young girls and teens. Throughout my five years dancing, I was able to participate in multiple TV and radio interviews.
There are so many great memories and stories I have, it’s hard to pick my favorite! Besides cheering for my hometown Rockets during games, my top memory would have to be traveling to Europe and performing for our US military. To be able to give back to the people who fight for my freedom is a great experience. During our two-week trip, we visited three bases, where we would get to interact with the troops, eat and workout together and listen to their stories.
Another favorite memory for me would be establishing the Dunking Dancers for the Rockets. My second year on the team we had a ton of girls with previous gymnastics experience, so it only made sense to combine a basketball with a trampoline. We practiced all summer running towards the basket holding a basketball, and then using a min-trampoline to dunk the ball.
I can remember our first real game performance: we only had five girls on the dunking team, so the pressure was on to make all our dunks – and we all did it! My in-game photo of the double ball dunk actually made it into the Sports Illustrated magazine, which I am still proud of today!