Werk it Out

Dancer and activist Zackery Torres on finding purpose in and out of the studio

This post is part of a series of Queerty conversations with models, trainers, dancers, and, well, people who inspire us to stay in shape–or just sit on the couch ogling them instead.

Name: Zackery Torres, 22 Years Young

Occupation: Professional Dancer/Author/Advocate/PR Specialist

City: Los Angeles, CA

Favorite Gym: The dance studio

Do you have a favorite exercise playlist?

I really enjoy working out to podcasts. Some people have told me this is slightly concerning, but for some reason it takes my mind off of the workout itself and allows me to escape and find my flow.

What’s the best food to eat prior to a workout?

I definitely cannot work out on an empty stomach, but being too full is never good. I often stick to something light and have something from the major food groups. Sometimes it’s avocado toast with an egg on top, or a hardboiled egg in a salad. I also try to give myself a solid hour after eating before diving into the workout.

What’s the best outfit for working out?

Whatever, I feel cute in that day. It is nearly impossible to work out if you don’t feel good about yourself. For me, some days it’s a baggy t-shirt and sweatpants and others it is a sports bra and shorts.

Related: Celebrity trainer Raneir Pollard on staying fit through virtual reality

How do you balance staying in shape and having fun?

Without having fun, you will burn out. I have been training for over a decade now and have experienced severe burnout many times. The last couple of years I feel like I really started to understand what it means to balance your life and let yourself break when you need it. Now a more specific answer is that I motivate myself to go on runs knowing that I will let myself have a leisure walk afterward. Walking is one of my favorite things to do.

What’s a basic, if useful, workout tip you can offer?

Feed and hydrate yourself before and after. There is no way you can expect your body to work for you if you do not give it what it needs to function.

How do you keep your clients motivated?

Whenever I train people and/or teach dance, I remind people that it is their choice to be there. It often helps them realize why they are doing what they are doing. By connecting to the why they can get through the what.

You’re a lifelong dance enthusiast. How does dancing help you stay prepared?

Pursuing a dance career is not easy. It is not secure, it is not physically easy, and if you don’t train mentally as well, you are screwed. I think the biggest lesson dance has taught me is to take matters into my own hands and remain accountable. Because of this, I feel even more prepared for my endeavors outside of the dance industry.

You’ve also spoken on social media about learning to re-embrace your body post-transition. How has your approach to fitness changed?

Stepping out of the studio and away from the pressures of a career, I was able to do some inner work to realize it was time to choose myself and transition. Throughout this process, I have had to put an even bigger emphasis on self-compassion because training at this level while going through a physical transition is very challenging. There were days in the beginning that I had to cancel my training and lay in bed because of how nauseous and sick I was. In the past, I did not let myself have many days off, but while going through this transition I approach fitness with a gentler mindset and knowing that days off are just as important as days on. I also have spent a lot time building my company, Continuum Community, which aims to provide resources for gender equity. Throughout this process, I have learned a lot about myself and it has allowed me to be a champion for others and myself.

How does staying mentally, physically and emotionally prepared help you embrace an authentic life in your experience?

I have talked about this a lot lately because I just moved into a new apartment, and am taking on a whole new chapter of my life. Right now I see a lot of beginnings. Staying mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared allows me to enjoy the in-between moments of my day. I actively remind myself of the benefits of choosing to look at things with an optimistic lens. it sounds cheesy, but I really have been disciplining myself to not get caught up in the small stuff.

You’ve also recently joined up with One Step Beyond, Inc. How did you get involved with the group?

I have been working with One Step Beyond, Inc. (OSBI) since I was in high school. It started because I was a part of a non-profit that brought dance to low resource communities and then stemmed into working with individuals with intellectual disabilities at OSBI. My best friend’s family friends are heavily involved in the Phoenix branch as well, so once I started getting involved, it just snowballed. Working with them continues to be one of the most rewarding parts of my year, and I am so happy to be able to branch out to OSBI California.

What’s the main objective of OSBI?

OSBI wants to celebrate and make a champion out of everyone for simply being their full authentic self. It really is that simple, and that’s why I love working with them so much.

How does doing charity work help you stay prepared for everyday life?

I have always said that my purpose is helping people. Whenever I am feeling uninspired, burnt out, or stuck I always realize it is because I have been caught up in everything BUT what I truly love to do. I do many different things, and it’s because I cannot sit still, but the most rewarding thing is always helping others in any way I can.

What do you keep on your nightstand?

I have two nightstands. On the left one I have my favorite magazines (Kamala HarrisTime Feature, Joe and Kamala’s Time Feature, and a Time Special Edition on Gender). I also have Barack Obama’s A Promised Land as well as my perfume, a candle, and jewelry. The other nightstand is pretty boring and has all my night and morning vitamins, chapstick, and a lamp.

Bonus Pics: