Cara Santana's Fitness Secret!

Smack dab in the middle of shooting for her newest film, Reunion, actor Cara Santana reveals why charity is so important to her and fiancé, Jesse Metclafe, and how, despite her busy schedule, she still manages to keep in tip top shape
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Cara Santana's Fitness Secret!
Cara Santana

Currently in the middle of shooting a new movie, Reunion, due to be released later this year, you are also engaged to Jesse Metcalfe, arguably one of the most handsome men in show business. What else in on the agenda for Cara Santana in 2013?
Well, I often find that my agenda and that of the Universe is not always in agreement; so I’ve been trying to not make so many plans, because the way our lives are, its perpetually subject to change. That being said, with Jesse on hiatus, I’m really looking forward to doing a lot of travelling this summer and enjoying some quiet and quality time together. We’ve also just purchased a new home in Los Angeles, so we’re really taking time to remodel and redecorate it which I find so enjoyable. And then, of course scowering projects to hopefully find something really wonderful that I can line up for my next role. It’s such a great time for women in both film and TV, with characters that are so strong, complex, thoughtful and interesting; its rather exciting. I’m dying to get my hands on one of them and just sink my teeth into it. We’ve really evolved from the secondary, aesthetically based characters and I’m thrilled by and for that!

Growing up in El Paso, Texas, what was it that motivated you to pursue your career as an actress?
Its funny, ever since I was a little girl I had this wild imagination and a creative mind which really translated into concocting these alternate realities full of all these amazing characters. I really would create people in my mind that were completely full and specific. I loved doing that and I would pretend to be them and fully embody these people I had manufactured. I know it sounds a bit bizarre, but it was just a young girl expressing herself. My parents saw this and, being in tune with their child, put me in theatre arts summer camp. I fell so madly in love with the world of acting that, from about seven years old on, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. The adventure of fully creating every part of who a character was consumed me; from their favourite colours and meals to their inner most thoughts and desires. It was almost freeing to take a break from being me and embodying someone else.  I felt so safe in the environment and a lot of security and self esteem came from that passion. I genuinely liked stepping out of myself and into a person I had made up. It was so natural. I immediately had a sense of direction and have been pursuing acting ever since.

Both you and Jesse have been involved in a number of charitable events and foundations, most recently at the North Texas Food Bank last month. Which charities mean the most to you both and why?
I see any selfless pursuit as admirable. To me though, basic human necessity takes a strong priority specifically. As I’ve travelled both locally in the States and abroad I see a world with so many resources and countries so rich that it seems ridiculous that not everyone has basic human needs: food, water and shelter. Its frankly deplorable and inexcusable. I immediately feel a strong desire to invest in organisations that are combating those issues; whether a global organisation like UNICEF or a local home grown, grass roots one like the North Texas Food Bank – I really believe it starts there. If you have food in your belly, water to drink and a roof over your head the better chance you have to break the cycles of illiteracy and poverty and all the issues that come along with it. And most importantly everybody is entitled to have those things. That fact that people are starving, water deprived and homeless is just shameful. I feel compelled as a person on this Earth to do something where it needs to be done and starting there, for me, makes sense.

As with many things fitness related, having discipline is key to getting the physique you want.  How do you manage to keep in shape while you’re on the road or working on location?
I had always seen working out as a necessary evil and truly lacked the discipline to head to the gym every morning in my youth. Luckily, I was engaged with sports and my with my natural genetics I  didn’t really have to worry about it all that much. However, as we age, that all changes! For me it’s really about finding a routine and fitness programme that you enjoy. I’ve done that! For the last two years I have been hooked on the Tracy Anderson Method. This workout is customised to fit exactly what you need and want. They prescribe a regiment for you and it changes every 10 days, so it never becomes monotonous. When I travel I either take with me the Tracy Anderson Method DVDs which anyone can purchase online or ask the studio to write out a programme for my specific needs; I can do these in my hotel room or hotel gym with ease. It’s so simple. For me that’s key. Most of the routine doesn’t require anything more than your own body, so it’s perfect for being on location or travelling. Now, instead of a strictly vanity thing, it’s a mental wellness thing as well; to look good and feel good and because I’ve found this great programme and method that suits me, I enjoy the process of working out!

Described by one British tabloid as having the “perfect pins”, it’s clear to see you keep yourself in great shape. What is your secret to keeping your legs slim and toned?
That’s awfully generous, isn’t it? Ironically, that is my area of most concern. I’m so insecure about my legs. I always wished I was 5’9 with legs for days, but instead I’m 5’4 and that means they can only be so long. I’m constantly worrying about them. Due to this neurosis I pointedly asked the trainers at the Tracy Anderson Studio in Los Angeles to design a programme that tones them without bulking them, elongates  and also defines them so that I retain femininity and length while keeping shape. They’re quite used to this request, as most women have similar desires, so the majority of their DVDs are geared towards this as well. There is a lot of stationary floor movements that use your own body weight to stretch and then contract the muscles to create that effect. All exercises use your tiny accessory muscles that often get overlooked as well as the large muscles to produce this desired effect. We do typically 30 reps on each side and while the working legs is moving, the non working leg is also using its muscles in each exercise in a strategic way. Its hard work, but I’m so happy to know it’s paying off!

Having recently arrived in Dubai, what are your initial impressions about the UAE?
Yes, this is my first time as well. The UAE has to be one of the most unique places I have ever been. There is this incredible dichotomy that cannot go unnoticed. You have this very deep respect and homage to both cultural and religious heritage, juxtaposed to a very modern and contemporary society. The UAE has maintained its heritage while evolving with popular culture, modern architecture, and a new age lifestyle. I love how the people retained their traditionalism while accepting the evolution of societal change and growth. It’s so impressive and highly respectable and something you don’t see a lot of. They’ve melded the two extremes beautifully and created a great balance. I was also struck by the melting pot of diversity of the people. In, Dubai, which is where we’ve been, there is no shortage of a thriving metropolis full of a cosmopolitan city with people from all places of the world. I love it! The hospitality has been wonderful. There is never a dull moment as there is a plethora of activities to indulge in, beautiful resorts to relax in, fabulous food, opulence and extravagance, as well as amazing history to learn. It’s really an incredible place.

Our shoot is being hosted in the Talise Spa as part of the Jumeirah Emirates Towers – what do you think of the facilities?
See, for Jesse, the gym is the second most important aspect of a hotel (next to the rooms) and for me, it’s the spa! This holds up quite well! It’s super chic, fully equipped, and very contemporary. We enjoyed some treatments and I was blown away at the facilities. There’s steam rooms, saunas, Jacuzzis, a snow room – yes, a snow room – a couple’s section with every treatment imaginable – the list goes on. Its luxury to the highest degree. I loved it and highly recommend it.

What advice would you offer to our readers who are looking to tighten up those bums and tums in time for summer?
My advice would be find an exercise method that works for you; one you enjoy, one that’s effective.

Today’s shoot is focusing on a typical workout for you – can you tell us a little about the workout you’ve chosen and why?
So today we’re doing a programme I had written for me to do while traveling in the UAE: The Tracy Anderson Method for my travels to Dubai. We’re going to start with some dance cardio. I love to turn up my music and just move. I’m not a dancer at all, barely have rhythm so if I can do it - anyone can. Just keep moving. Ultimately you want to get up to an hour, but a good 20 - 30 minutes for me gets my heart rate up, my muscles working and a sweat breaking! These are dances designed by Tracy that work the legs and get your body working to burn that fat. And you just go from one dance to the other. It’s so fun! Typically we do it in 90 degree heat with 60% humidity, but since we’re in a public gym we’ll do it at regular temperature. It still gets the job done.
After our body is warmed up, I like to move to the beginning part of the body sculpting, starting with arms. I do about 15 to 20 minutes of arms with some back and shoulders in rotation as well. I start off with no weights and I follow Tracy’s DVD, in which she takes the viewer through a series she’s created with her specific technique. It’s a mix of all different movements and motions using every muscle in the arm and almost never resting. It really creates the tone I love, without the bulk.
Then I simply add two pound weights and repeat similar movements. In the workout you target biceps, triceps, shoulders and back. It really strengthens and defines the muscles in a very lean, yet defined way. The movements are not exactly your typical weight lifting arm exercises and that’s why I enjoy it. She really goes into the science of the body to create optimum results.
Afterwards it’s time for legs. I get a mat and my two pound weights and start my 10 day leg programme. This programme has some lunges, inner thigh, outer thigh, and of course glutes. First we start with a combination move. It begins with a leg lunge and then we extend the leg across the body into a diagonal and repeat. Just in that exercise alone you’re working multiple areas of the lower body.
Next, I’m into my inverted leg extensions. We start with the knee bent in and extend the leg up and out, 30 times. Again all exercises tone, stretch and lengthen the area you’re working.
Onto my favourite, but the hardest: the hydrant. You pull the leg into the oblique then straight back. It’s a killer in the outer glutes, but really has given me a fuller more round bum.
And today I’ll end with the ‘butt buster’, which lifts the bum up. No one wants a saggy booty. Sometimes the exercises add weights and arm movements to activate the abs, or isolate a muscle or just continue to tone the arm. It’s such a full and balanced workout and I love the results and also how I feel when I’m done.
Lastly, we finish with some abs. Again, we engage the legs or arms to help activate a specific area and really sculpt the stomach. I usually do about 10 to 15 minutes lying on my back. There are loads of crunches, sit ups, oblique bends, and contractions that work every aspect of the abdominal region. Afterwards I’ll finish with some standing abs which stretch the muscle and viola: finished!

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