HOW A CIRCUS ACROBAT BECAME A WORLD CHAMPION FITNESS MODEL
6 MIN READ
Laura Basta plays to win. A lifetime athlete and performer, she's a World Champion PNBA fitness model, international circus acrobat and entertainer, and the creator of CircusFit, an alternative fitness class based on her own circus training.
Currently National Group Fitness Manager for Fitness Playground, she leads a team of instructors and manages a class schedule across five gyms in two states. Last year, she also became the Australian Women's Health Next Fitness Star and a Puma ambassador.
Despite being pulled in so many different directions, she's got this boundless energy that hooks you from the start. It's hard not to have fun with her, even when you're swinging upside down feeling like you're thisclose to falling on your face.
We sat down with her to find out more about her unconventional career path, how she tackled the challenges she faced along the way, and how she's adapted her training as her professional focus has shifted.
I'm more like a clown than a fitness model. Before I came to Australia I was an instructor in Paris, but when I arrived here fitness competitions were so popular. I was like, maybe I could try one competition? I'd never dieted before and I knew I could learn a lot about diet and training.
Six months later, I was a world champion. My first competition was the Regionals for NSW, where I came top overall. My coach and my dietitian were like, you can't stop now, you won, you have to keep going. I said OK, if you say so. Why not?
So, I went to Nationals and won, and then I competed to get my pro card. I finished up in Vegas at the PNBA World Championships and came home as a Pro Fitness Model Champion. It was a massive surprise to me – I didn't expect anything like this!
A month after I got I home was selected to compete in a US TV show, where I was surrounded by some of the best athletes in the world. It's an obstacle course – like Ninja Warrior, but harder. I can't say much now but you can watch it on Netflix later this year.
While I was preparing to compete I was weight training five times a week with my trainer, plus cardio. Never on a treadmill, though! I just rarely sat down. I was teaching 25 classes a week, plus 25 personal training sessions on top; I didn't have car so I was cycling everywhere, and most weekends I went for a walk on the beach or in the bush with my friends or my boyfriend.
For 24 weeks my dietician looked after my diet. She gave me a different meal plan each week with lots of really healthy, yummy food. At one point I was eating more than 3000 calories a day and still leaning out!
I never veered away from my goal, so honestly, it was harder to socialise during this period. I never ate out. Catching up with my friends was training sessions, walks, healthy brekkies, saunas and massages, movies – it was great, actually. They were all amazing and really supportive.
I've been training since I was really small. I started dance when I was two and a half, and gymnastics at five. At 11, I was preparing for the national championships and I broke my elbow. The doctor said I would never extend my arm again.
I practised for a year. I started to do rhythmic gymnastics, which is all about the posture, and I did rehab by myself every day. It was painful, but it worked. After 12 months, I had full extension of my arm again. That year I won the national championships for rhythmic gymnastics. It wasn't really my thing, though.
My dad took me to the circus and I loved it. I started practicing when I was 14-years-old, and performing professionally in an acrobatic show when I was 17. There were some moves that got me a bit worried at first, but I would never perform something I could not control. You train so much, and you know every move. There is no space for fear. You're used to it.
After I arrived in Australia I was missing circus so much I decided to mix my two passions – circus and fitness – to create CircusFit. The class is designed so everyone can be successful – it doesn't matter how fit you are. I still have people coming who came to my first class and I use them as examples for the new beginners. I tell them "guys, when they started they couldn't do a pull-up." It just takes practice. We all have different fitness and skill levels, and that's OK. It's about how you feel your body in the space, and how you control it.
I'm really happy with what I've done as an athlete, but my current challenge is more professional. I had to stop doing personal training. After my competition I was really focused on training one-on-one, but then I started to take on more classes. I was teaching up to 25 classes per week, plus 25 or so personal training sessions. It was the hardest thing, but with management as well ... I had to.
I still train myself Monday to Saturday – it's like therapy for me – but what I used to do is different to what I do now. Back then I was doing 25 classes a week, dieting, training six times a week – it was easy for me to lose weight. But now, I'm sitting down all day, my neck is sore, my wrists, my back hurts, my hip flexors are tight.
At the moment my training consists of three weight sessions and three bodyweight sessions (like gymnastics) a week. I'm just enjoying it right now – I don't have a specific goal I'm working towards. I feel the same about my diet. I'm still eating healthily but I'm definitely not counting macros. It's all about balance now!
The hardest thing for me is to do nothing. I always want to be productive but now I actually allow myself to be tired. It's something new. I've been pushing through for a long time but I'm trying to step back a little bit. You want to give time to everyone, but you have to do what is good for you.
I try to make yoga breathing a part of my day, too. Sometimes my brain is out of control, so I sit there, do my breathing seven times, and OK, let's go. I do it to reset.
Interviewed by Emma Startup
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