Born in Venezuela and brought up in New York from the age of 8. Karen is best known for being a professional dancer on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing - she is the longest running professional on the show and has reached the final twice. Last year, she launched her fitness brand Hauer Power which is all about finding your inner power and seeing how far you can push yourself, inside and out. In this episode, Louise chats to Karen about her recent knee rehabilitation, as well as the physical and mental demands of being a professional dancer.
The physical demands of dancing and competition
"Not only is it mentally demanding, but it’s physically demanding as well. I am constantly in pain, I don’t have time to recover"
"I have a very healthy relationship when it comes to work competition. I feel for me, having my career now for thirty years, it’s always been about the structure and the discipline, the learning and pushing into it, you have to push through"
"I only bring out competition when I am feeling exhausted. When I need that push. For me it has always been about the drive"
Louise: "How do you push yourself? What is your thought process?"
Karen: "Getting through it [gives an example of strictly when we had to record a lot and she was in full pain and wanted to cry. All I wanted to do was crawl and just go home. You suck it up. All you think about is the end result which is what is going to make everyone happy nobody knows we were suffering, that we were in pain, that we had been there for hours put myself inside am mostly thinking about not putting my teammates down"
"The only person you would be letting down is yourself. Sometimes we ask so much from our body's and there are times when you have to just stop and be ok with it"
She also discusses how demanding strictly is, as she must lead each partner she is with and adapt to each of their different personalities and skills as amateurs.
On mental awareness and physical capability
"Connecting your brain to your muscles, connecting with yourself and behind aware that you have this amazing machine that sometimes we take for granted"
"If I'm teaching, or if I'm cycling, If I'm with my physio, anything like that I am always connecting with what I am having to do with my body"
On Wattbike, injury, and cross-training
"Doing different things helps, doing other styles of exercises, keeps me plugged in, and keeps me excited about what I do"
"You can always go back and do it again, and learn from that, everything is a learning curve, and everything I am doing now after this injury is all for my wellbeing"
"I use this Wattbike for everything, I stretch on it, I do swings, I use it as a ballet bar, because it is such an amazing piece of equipment"
"When I purchased it two years ago now, I was thrilled."
"It was like my baby because I knew it was going to help me."
Louise: "How does it help you as a dancer"
Karen: Well core, it keeps my core strong, it strengthens my quads, my hamstrings my calves, there's more mobility more stamina more cardio there's the endurance aspect of it. it’s mainly my stamina, me jumping on this bike for twenty to thirty minutes a day, it already gives me that feeling, the resistance that I put, I'm feeling it" she loves the stats and details it gives her - "you become part of the machine and that’s what I love, it’s not just an instrument anymore I am part of it"
"It takes me mentally if I'm feeling frustrated. I just want to focus on me. This is exactly where I go to, it just has so many options for me. I rehab on it"
"I try to use it every day as it gives me a little bit of my structure. I train the way that I dance" biking and dancing is a lot more connected than what first assumed.
"it’s just helped me so much again to just focus, it’s a place where I just, it’s just my time and for my body"
Karen speaking about International Women's Day - Female empowerment and inspiration
"Exercise should be accessible for everyone, nobody should be afraid to move their body. And I think for females as well. There are days that you don’t feel your best, how am I going to move today, there are so many different things that you can do to ease and to bring your body back, to influence in a good positive way about fitness, it’s not just about being skinny, it’s about strength, it’s about longevity, it’s about seeing how much you can push yourself and how much fun you can have with it"
"I had so many amazing women around me, from all my dance teachers, my sister, they were all very strong women who I looked up to and who supported me growing up and during my career"