By Rose Barrett
Want to get fit and lose weight without the tedium of weighing portions and the restrictions of walking the same 5km loop every day?
You can, thanks to Niall Newman of Dance Yourself Fit.
Niall has combined his career as a professional dancer, a mentor and his training in personal development to introduce Dance Yourself Fit – the 28 Day Challenge.
The fun, high cardio dance workouts can be enjoyed by all ages and all fitness levels – and the phenomenon has taken off across the globe.
Niall, who hails from Harold’s Cross, revealed: “I’m dancing since I was five and moved to England to pursue a career in dance when I was 15. I was dancing long before it was cool to do so, and loved learning ballroom, modern, Latin.”
In his 20s Niall began to tire of the endless travel. And even though he enjoyed competing in top tournaments, he came home when his mother was diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease.
He told Dublin Gazette: “I wanted to help and to be near her so, for a time, I worked with my dad. I didn’t want to go back to the competitive dance scene and I had lost the love of dancing.”
Niall started teaching competitively but he rapidly gained weight in his late 30s.
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“A visit to my GP told me I was a walking heart attack – I had gone from a super fit professional dancer to someone who did little or no exercise. In the meantime, I had met Kate, a non-dancer, we got married and have three gorgeous girls Ella (12), Rose (10) and Nina (7).”
Now settled and living in Ratoath, Co Meath, Niall knew he didn’t want to be back on the dance circuit but wanted to utilise his dance and personal development skills.
“I told Kate if I didn’t go back dancing then, I never would. Our parents went out to dancehalls and we went to discos, it was all exercise. We had a pre-conceived idea that we had to ‘go out’ to dance, and too often, people needed a few drinks before they’d get up and dance.
“That was in their head, a mind-set that needs to be ousted. As a dance mentor – I had taught in Russia, Spain, the UK, all over the world – training dancers who competed at world championships.
“I had to motivate dancers to the highest levels so I wanted to use my skillset to get people up dancing and motivated.
“Before Covid, we had classes nationwide, and had a few venues in Dublin. Class members could go online and continue as classes were broken down step by step, a high cardio workout done while you were dancing at home.”
Niall and Kate introduced healthy meal plans and in the space of a year went from four locations to classes in 30 venues across Dublin and Meath including Castleknock, Tallaght, Blanchardstown, Malahide and Donnybrook.
He explained: “With the impact of Covid-19 in March 2020, I felt I could actually do more online for people who had to cocoon. Initially it was for our class members but then we introduced the 28 Day Challenge.
“This is a very different workout; it could be the Cha Cha and the Jive one day, the Samba and Paso Doble the next. I teach the steps as I dance and every day, there’s a new dance routine.
“There are nearly 6,500 steps in every routine, you don’t realise you’re doing a work out – you’re so busy following the steps. Best of all, this can be done from home, it’s all choreographed so you don’t need huge space.
“Like Strictly, we use different themes, 50’s, 60’s, movie theme, and more. It’s an emotional journey and that’s very important too! Every morning regardless of the weather, I (and Kate) do a motivational video on Facebook.
“Mindset is so important. While the pandemic is largely out of our control, I want people to see that they can control how they react to situations out of their control.
“It’s easy to focus on the negative, but we encourage people to get off the sofa, press play, go with the music, get moving and have fun – don’t over analyse.”
Members who sign up can also zoom into their kitchen and watch Kate prepare simple but delicious savoury and sweet treats from homemade muesli to fruit balls.