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Dance Yourself Fit—an Interview with Mike Peele

Dancing is a fun and effective way to get your body moving and build fitness. Mike Peele—actor, dancer, choreographer, and fitness program creator—joins Get-Fit Guy to dig into how he thinks we can use less training and more inspiration in our fitness programs.

By
Brock Armstrong
10-minute read
Episode #505
The Quick And Dirty
  • Dancing is a fun and effective way to stay fit and healthy at any age.
  • Dance workouts fit perfectly into an otherwise well-rounded fitness program. 
  • You don't have to take formal dance classes to enjoy and benefit from things like Hip-Hop Fit.
  • Being inspired to change your lifestyle is much better and more effective than being simply told what to do. 

Physical inactivity is a global health challenge. It's associated with adverse health effects related to aging, weight control, physical function, longevity, and overall quality of life.

Dancing is a form of physical activity I've covered in the past (like in this article about BodyGroove) because dance is associated with health benefits across our lifespans. And no, you don’t have to be a professional dancer (or even be on TikTok) to get the benefits.

In a recent meta-study, researchers systematically reviewed the literature on the effectiveness of structured dance interventions, in comparison to other structured exercise programs, on physical health outcome measures.

After reviewing 11,434 studies, a variety of dance genres and structured exercise interventions were compared. This meta-analysis showed that dance interventions significantly improved body composition, blood biomarkers, and musculoskeletal function. The effect of either intervention on cardiovascular function and self-perceived mobility was equivalent.

Dance interventions significantly improved body composition, blood biomarkers, and musculoskeletal function.

The study concluded that “undertaking structured dance of any genre is equally and occasionally more effective than other types of structured exercise for improving a range of health outcome measures. Health practitioners can recommend structured dance as a safe and effective exercise alternative.”

Special guest Mike Peele on dance and fitness

None of this will come as any surprise to my special guest, Mike Peele. He's no stranger to the benefits of dance. In fact, Mike was recently asked by Verv.com to add his Hip-Hop Fit videos to their workout library.

Brock:

Mike, you have a degree in film and television, you've worked with artists like Beyonce, Rihanna, and Madonna. You've been featured in a ton of national commercials, feature films, and you are a two-time Fitness Universe and a two-time Fitness American champion plus an accomplished dancer and choreographer. Every good superhero has a creation story. So what's your creation story?

Mike:

Oh, gosh. My creation story is that I come from a single-parent household. My mother raised me by herself. She did an amazing job. She instilled in me hard work, dedication, not giving up on myself, and believing in all of my talents.

I am the type of person that's just like 'There's nothing that I can't do.' And if I can't do it right now, you know, I'll learn.

And my mom was super talented back in the day. She was a dancer, she was an actress as well, like in high school plays and everything. She was that active woman. And she had a kid, and it was me. And I guess for the lack of a better story, I took on her traits and more, and just kind of carry the torch of what I do as far as entertaining people. But also uplifting and motivating people and just loving to be around people.

So, I am the type of person that's just like "There's nothing that I can't do." And if I can't do it right now, you know, I'll learn. As you said, my degree is in film and television, masking your production. So, I know how to do everything behind the scenes. I know they say "Jack of all trades; master of none," but I literally am a Jack of all trades and I know how to do each and every one of those trades—I don't like to say trades—or each one of those talents very well. So it's a blessing, man. It really is.

Brock:

I have a background in dance, as well. When I was a very young child, my mother put me into dance lessons and I ended up going into professional ballet right out of high school. Obviously, you went in a different stylistic direction, but was it your also mum who put you into dance lessons?

Mike:

Well, actually my mom did the whole put-me-in-front-of-everybody [thing]—"Do the Michael Jackson" or "Do the MC Hammer." So I actually didn't take a professional dance class. I was always what you call a street dancer. I always knew how to dance. I could just dance. That's natural, like drinking water to me. And anything that I saw, I could mimic or learn by just watching, even if it was a ballet move, a tap move, modern dance, jazz, African. If I saw it, all I had to do was watch it a couple of times and I could just teach myself how to do it.

My mom did the whole put-me-in-front-of-everybody [thing]—'Do the Michael Jackson' or 'Do the MC Hammer.'

I didn't take my first dance class until I was, oh gosh, probably 19 or 20. Even now, over the years, I take classes very sporadically and I only take from people that I'm inspired by and that I feel I can learn from, and that move me. Which is very rare to find these days.

Brock:

Well, there definitely is a genetic aspect, or at least some biological luck, of being born having the ability to build those neuromuscular connections easily. It’s like being born with the motor cortex of your brain connected to the right muscles, or at least being raised without the fear that you can't connect them.

Mike:

Absolutely. And not everybody has that. So I'm very thankful for it. And I think I will probably have it with me until the day I die. I might not be able to dance like I do now when I turn 70 or 80, but I'll still have that motor to, if I hear something, I can still do a little something.

Brock:

Well, never say never. I mean, in another 20 or 30 years, I'll check in with you and see how you are doing.

Mike:

Exactly. You're like, "Man, this man is better now than when he was younger!"

Brock:

It's possible. Who knows?

How Mike stays fit

If you haven't seen Mike's videos, or seen him on TV or his Instagram channel, for lack of a better term, Mike is "jacked." (That's the not-so-technical term for having muscles on muscles.) So, I had to ask him what other workouts he does, aside from his Hip-Hop Fit workouts to stay both mobile and muscular. 

Mike:

So besides Hip-Hop Fit, I'm in the gym—I lift weights. Weight training is a major part of me and what I actually look like. But I also do some yoga—I stretch a lot. I love Pilates. I never wanna be so jacked that I can't— You know how some of the guys have that robotic type move? There's no flow. So I make sure that stays intact.

Brock:

Well, that sounds like an incredibly well-rounded fitness regimen. You've got the mobility, you've got the flexibility, you've got the strength, and then the dance. Do you feel that dance qualifies as a cardio or endurance sport for the most part? How would say dancing actually contributes to your overall functional fitness?

Mike:

Yeah, any dancer is an athlete because it's just so physical. It demands so much of your energy, of your body movement, maybe moving in weird, weird ways. So, it actually is great. It's a great workout. If you hear a song that you love, you start to move, whether you can dance or whether you can't.

If you hear a song that you love, you start to move, whether you can dance or whether you can't.

Cardio is a huge part of losing weight and maintaining weight loss, and mental health, releasing stress. And you're not thinking about it. You just have fun. And I think that one of the things we're missing in fitness is fun.

Everybody is not a weightlifter. Everybody is not trying to—and doesn't need to necessarily be—super buff or really tiny. So, I just wanted to introduce this in a different way, coming from somebody like me, who has both the fitness and the dance background. Like, "Hey, you guys, this can be done." So it's amazing and I'm glad that people are getting it. They're really getting it.

Brock:

That is really interesting. You’re addressing a few different things here. You can go to the gym, and you can lift some weights and get the benefits from that. You can also do the dance and get the benefits of cardiovascular work from there. But you're also benefiting mental state and your mood and aspects of your brain and all those other things along with it.

Mike:

Absolutely. That's important that when I'm in the gym and I'm working out with weights, I am connecting my brain to that muscle. So why can't we connect our brain to a different type of workout?

Do you know how many people hate doing cardio? They hate being on the treadmill or the stair machine. They hate it. It's not fun. I get so many people dancing that are like, "Oh my God, 30 minutes is up already. I can't believe it" or "45 minutes went up already!" And they're sweating buckets. So you got to connect those two. You got to connect those two and you'll be fine. You do what works for you. Absolutely - what works for you.

A Normal Week for Mike

Brock:

So can you take me through like a normal week in your, in your sort of workout plan? What would, what would a week or 10 days look like for you?

Mike:

Yeah. So I'm gonna give you what I can. So, first of all, let me just say, because it's so saturated now in the fitness industry, that even if you look a certain way, people assume that you're on some type of steroids or whatever, so I'm not nor have I ever been. No judgment on anybody else, it's just not my thing.

So, throughout the week:

  • I will have about two to three days out of the week where I go hike and do my meditation. And if I don't do that, I will then go bike ride and still add in the meditation, I'll stop somewhere and meditate at the park or somewhere that has a lot of green or a little bit of silence.
  • I work out in the gym, typically between Monday and Sunday, about a good four to five days a week. That's the weight training.
  • My cardio is probably every other day. So like a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, maybe Sunday. And that can be dance or I get my cardio in when I'm actually filming any Hip-Hop Fit videos. Because I actually shoot two to three videos in one day and they're 30 minutes, sometimes 40 minutes, a piece.
  • And then with anything else that is active. So whether I'm walking my dog, or I stretch every day, I am not a person who just sits around. So, just finding that balance. but I'm a very extremely active person - extremely active.

Brock:

You are basically the poster boy for everything that I talk about in every article that I've ever written and in every podcast I've ever recorded, you are the embodiment of functional fitness. Your program is so well rounded. I hope everybody is taking notes!

3 Dance Fitness Tips

Based on all of Mike's coaching experience and all the experience he's had over the years, I asked him to give us three things that we can start doing tomorrow to start becoming just a little more fit.

Relax, set some realistic goals, and just take steps to meet those goals.

Mike:

  1. Probably number one is throw out all of the unrealistic goals that you have. And stop putting so much pressure on yourself. Your fitness journey, your lifestyle change, which is what it should be, is a journey. It's not a race. This is not, who's gonna get to the finish line fastest. So, stop being so hard on yourself. Relax, set some realistic goals, and just take steps to meet those goals.
  2. Number two would be to start being active little by little. If you're a person who used to be active and trying to get back into it. If you're a person who was never really active and you're kind of a couch potato, or you really don't exercise, this is the time - right now - to take those steps to do just little stuff. Whether it's a walk - that walk will start to turn into a jog, that jog will turn into a run. Those five pushups will then go to 10, go to 15, go to 20, and go to 25. They will go up. Those AB workouts will become less strenuous. Like all of that stuff.
  3. Thirdly, you will need to go and get your butt up and go and do Hip-Hop Fit, plain and simple. So if you're following me on my Instagram, you can get it. Or I got some exclusive content with verv.com. They recently announced the new dance section - I am on there. We are killing it. I have some backup people with me. It's three different levels, but it's basically for beginners advanced and then pros.

Being an Inspiration not a Trainer

But listen, it takes a coach or a trainer - the right one - to motivate somebody and to inspire them. And I don't necessarily consider myself a trainer. I hate the word trainer. No offence to any personal trainers out there because training now or people being trainers is so trendy now. My background is in entertainment, but I would rather people call me their inspirational coach, their motivation coach - that's great. You know what I'm saying? Because it takes somebody special. Anybody can tell you, "okay, I'll train you. Now come here. All right, give me two, give me five more. Give me ..." a stand there with their arms folded. That's fine.

I would rather people call me their inspirational coach, their motivation coach.

It takes a special person to guide people, not to only make them look good, but to also make them feel good and feel good about themselves. You can not make this amazing outer person and the inner person still looks like "what happened?" The inner person needs to be fixed as well.

And have fun. It's like I said, it's a journey. It's not a race. And fitness should be a lifestyle change. Lifestyle means you're changing your lifestyle. You're going to do better. And this is not for play. This is not for, "I need to lose weight to get into this dress in six weeks." You need to make a lifestyle change. And understanding that everybody is different. Your body types are different. We're all built differently. And that's fine. You know what I'm saying? I really believe that everybody is not built or made to look like each other. That's crazy,

Brock:

Very well said. Now I'm going to put links to all of the stuff that you talked about, your Instagram and Verv.com and the Hip-Hop Fit in the show notes, but just for the people who are in their cars or at the gym or anything right now, what's the one spot that they should file away in the back of their head to go and find you.

Mike:

Oh, the best spot is probably thepeeleeffect.com. That's my website. Everything is there. So you can always go to the website and then branch off into YouTube and Instagram and all of that stuff.

Brock:

Well, thank you so much for coming on the Get-Fit Guy podcast. This has been a great conversation - and man, we could not be more aligned in our thinking and I love it. So thank you so much for all the work that you do and for joining us today.

Mike:

Oh, thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. Cause you didn't have to have me on, so I just thank you so much. Thank you.

Brock:

One last thing before we go. Mike arranged for you to get a special deal on your Verv.com membership so you can try out some of his videos. So, send an email to getcode@verv.com and mention the Get-Fit Guy podcast in the subject line. Do this quickly though! There are only 25 discount codes available and this offer is only valid through the month of Oct 2020.

Sources +

About the Author

Brock Armstrong

Brock Armstrong is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute. Do you have a fitness question? Leave a message on the Get-Fit Guy listener line. Your question could be featured on the show.