With tryouts looming, how a Texans cheerleader gets into peak shape

Photo of Joy Sewing

It's not even sunrise, and Houston Texans cheerleader Olivia is working up a sweat at a CrossFit gym in Midtown.

Early morning is the best time to workout, says the 25-year-old rookie cheerleader, who also is a middle school teacher and track coach. She'll be one of nearly a thousand women - and a few men - who will try out for the 35-member Texans Cheerleader team on Saturday at the Houston Methodist Training Center. Even current cheerleaders have to audition for a spot on next season's team.

Though it's not a full-time job, cheerleaders have to attend regular squad practices, games and make other appearances. (The Texans also do not allow cheerleaders to share their last names.)

Olivia, a Sam Houston State University graduate from Nederland, says being on the team has changed her life - and her fitness routine.

"I'm always encouraging my students to take risks, but I realized I hadn't taken one risk," she said. "I cheered and danced all of my life, so I decided to take a chance."

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Although it paid off with a spot on the squad last season, Olivia said started doing CrossFit to build her strength and endurance. At the time, she could barely lift much over 20 pounds.

"She works extremely hard, but when she first started it was hard for her," said CrossFit coach Trey Mays, who recently tied the knot with another Texans cheerleader, Ashley. "These HIIT (high intensity, interval training) workouts are really good at building up your muscle endurance, and that strength helps with every day life."

Olivia starts her day at 4:30 a.m. with a 45-minute home workout of squats, burpees, jump rope and, most importantly, abdominal work. (Texans cheerleaders are known for their abs.) She also does CrossFit several times a week and can do overhead presses and deadlifts with two 45-pound weights with ease.

Texans cheerleaders also have required workouts with team trainer, Shawnette Shields, also a former Texans cheerleader. The workouts, which are held at the Methodist Training Center, are as grueling as those done by football players themselves and include resistance training and cardio power - using body weight through high-energy cardio blasts

Olivia said she's gained more confidence in her abilities as she's gotten stronger in her fitness.

"My weight hasn't shifted, but I'm definitely stronger and healthier. I can run longer. I think I'm actually stronger than my mind thinks I am."

She's also learned a few things about healthy eating, too, given that she has a sweet tooth.

"It's about choices," Olivia said. "I love chocolate cake, but I've learned I can have chocolate drizzled on pineapple instead. I don't have deprive myself, just make different choices."