As a former professional freestyle skier, Dania Assaly knows what it takes to achieve peak physical fitness. Having skied on the Canadian halfpipe team with the late Sarah Burke, the Vancouver resident draws on her athletic background in her work as a personal trainer.
And although she likes to make her clients sweat, she’s also sympathetic when it comes to people finding themselves more tempted by hot-weather fun than the chance to burn a few calories.
“It’s summer: a lot of people are on vacation; their kids are out of school; everybody’s on the patio having a beer,” Assaly says during an interview in the West End. “Working out becomes a tough part of your routine. It can be a real challenge. I get it; I do a lot of camping and exploring and fun stuff on the weekends. In the summer, you’ve got to live a little.”
Prior to joining Equinox Fitness as a trainer and launching Freestyle Fit, which specializes in outdoor boot camp and small-group fitness classes, Assaly racked up several titles during her slopeside career. She came in first at the North Face Open Halfpipe 2011, the Halfpipe Winter Dew Tour 2010, and the 2009 World Ski and Snowboard Festival, in addition to competing and placing in many other international events.
She also endured a hefty amount of pain. “I’ve had so many injuries,” the Edmonton native says. “I’ve had three ACL surgeries. I have a plate in my hand and collarbone. I’ve had a fractured scapula, broken thumbs, wrist… I spent a lot of time in the gym, recovering.”
These days, when Assaly is not working or working out, she appears in ski films and videos. Here, she weighs in on summertime fitness and other subjects.
Best way to avoid shirking exercise:
“Get your workout done before work when it’s not scorching hot. It’s tough to do it after work. In the evenings, everybody’s out on the patio having a beer. After work, everyone’s like ‘Let’s go sit out on the patio and get some appies or go to the beach and have a barbecue!’ ”
Why the slogan “Safety first” rules:
“In Vancouver, we have so many opportunities for being outside: exercising, hiking, skiing… People here want to move their bodies. But it’s important to learn about your body to help sustain that before your body starts falling apart: how to use your joints properly, how to squat properly, how to pick things up, how to carry groceries, how to sit in an office and not slouch. I love helping people learn about their bodies and how to use them and how to keep themselves strong so they can do the things they love for the rest of their life.”
Why you need to vary your exercise routine:
“If you want to see results, mix it up. Play with medicine balls, run the [rope] ladder, do hurdles, use different tools… Make the workout different every time.”
Why it’s crucial not to overdo it:
“It’s a balance. For skiing, I was really bad with overtraining.…Now if my body’s shutting down and I need to take a week off, maybe I do some yoga and a bunch of mobility stuff and just chill and give my body the rest it needs. It’s really easy to overtrain, but then you don’t get results: you’re tired, you’re fatigued, your body is not able to gain muscle mass the same way. I see it all the time. Your body shuts down. We don’t give it enough time to recover. You need a day or two between body parts for your muscles to grow and to heal. Part of my job is teaching people that.”
What kind of exercise she enjoys this time of year:
“I do everything. In summer, I do some lifting and a lot of calisthenics. I do pull-ups and handstands—all the fun stuff you don’t necessarily need to be in the gym for but that you can do at the beach. I like running 25 minutes to Second Beach, taking a couple of [resistance] bands, and using bars to do pull-ups and body-weight stuff.”
Her ideal Vancouver summer day:
“Hike in the morning, get on a boat in the ocean for the rest of the day, jump in, drink some rosé, and finish the night with a beach barbecue.”