Power of Ten - Episode One (Transcript)

Aljaž made his debut on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing back in 2013 and in that first year on the series, he won the title with Abbie Clancy! He’s been dancing in the series for 8 years now, and each year he gets better and better and takes his celebrity partners on an amazing journey, as he teaches them to dance.

In this episode he reveals who he is tipping to win this year’s show, what he does to keep physically and mentally fit and the sacrifices he made growing up in Slovenia, to pursue his dance career.


Transcript

Graham:

Welcome to the power of ten, a brand new series brought to you by Decathlon. The power of ten is a mix of one to one interviews, plus some positive health tips. It's all about providing advice on how to improve your wellbeing, both in body and in mind. We've got an impressive selection of talented guests lined up for the podcast series, all ready to impart their knowledge, advice and secrets for improving your fitness.

 

Each episode will provide you with an easy take home message to help improve your mind and body. I'm Graham Bell bow, a five time Olympic skier turned reporter and presenter. I've been to a total of 10 Winter Olympic Games joining me in this episode of The Power of Ten is Aljaz Skorjanec.

 

Aljaz made his debut on BBC Strictly Come Dancing back in 2013, and in that first year he won the series with Abbie Clancy. In 2015, he reached the quarterfinals with actress Helen George, while 2016 saw him bow out in week eight with partner Daisy Lowe. But in 2017 he was back in the final with Gemma Atkinson, eventually just missing out to winners Jo McFadden and Katya Jones.

 

He danced with newsreader Kate Silverton in 2018, Viscountess Weymouth in 2019. This year he's dancing with Radio One DJ, Clara Amfo and we're extremely lucky to speak to Aljaz right now as he's in his studio just about to begin his daily rehearsal with Clara.

 

Dobri-dan. That's the limits of my Slovenian.

 

Aljaz:

And it's a very good Graham. Very, very good. Very good.

 

Graham:

So how on earth do you find time for anything other than dancing? Do you live, sleep, breathe, dancing?

 

Aljaz:

I do agree. I do. Mainly, I just would go get up, have some food, go to dance, go home, get some rest and repeat. But obviously when strictly is on the schedule is hectic. You will rehearse from Monday to Thursday, Friday studio, Saturday Studio, Sunday Studio.

 

So it kind of goes seven days a week really. So that would sort of take out, I would say, about five months, six months with all the group numbers being recorded or prerecorded before then when Strictly is not on its tours. I have done three amazing tours around the country and I've done one with the boys last year with Gorka. So, yeah, life does involve dancing constantly, I would say on every step of the way.

 

Graham:

You're in the middle of the series right now. Have you peaked your fitness levels? Are you the fittest you're going to be this year?

 

Aljaz:

For sure. For sure. We always sort of time are our body, you know, readiness to August when when I approach rehearsals, start for the group numbers.

 

So I always sort of tend to tend to be really careful when the summer starts, you know, when people say, you know, getting ready for that summer body. Well, my summer body starts in October because that's when I'm gone. That's when I get to be on strictly. So, yeah, definitely this year because of lockdown and everything, I wasn't really super active through lockdown. So for sure, this year, more than any other year, I'm at my first now. Yeah.

 

Graham:

So what do you what do you put it down to your level of fitness.

 

Aljaz:

Dancing is such a specific discipline, if you like, that, you know, the only way you improve your stamina and your dancing ability is through just solid dancing. Obviously, you can run, you can do some endurance exercises. But dancing is a funny thing. I've been teaching so many people that go to the gym constantly that would work out even twice a day regularly in in their lives. And after about two minutes of dancing, none of them can breathe. And it's really interesting to see. So I would say that my dancing stamina. Yes. Mainly comes from dancing. And that goes back to what I was competing. I used to love practicing hours and hours and hours. And obviously you lose some of that as the years go on. I'm not a spring chicken anymore. So the recovery is a bit longer now from every single day of practicing. But nonetheless, I pretty much dance every day.

 

Graham:

Is there any time constraints that they put on the training schedule? I can you can you push it longer? As long as your celebrity can cope.

 

Aljaz:

With lovely Clara. I have to say, she's absolutely lovely with that, with the training schedule, this is actually the first year that I get to sort of only spend with her this limited amount of hours a day because she does work on the on the BBC radio, BBC Radio One, and she finishes her show around one o'clock, and then I give her some time for lunch, so we normally start rehearsals about two or three or three o'clock, and then it just depends how long we can really stay up really how long she can sort of stay focused.

 

So I would say we generally rehearse up until about 9pm. Normally I would like to rehearse once strictly from about eight to nine hours a day. But, you know, we always have to make sure that the celebrities, if they do have any work as well, that they get a proper rest and they look after the bodies as well. We've been training now for about six, seven weeks.

 

And yeah, I think I say even through the through the hours we rehearse, you can see how much the stamina is improving with the celebrities.

 

Graham:

So how important is fitness for your mental health? What role does it play in distressing and getting a good kind of attitude on life?

 

Aljaz:

Huge role, huge role. And I really realized that this year with not being able to perform every day with our tour's been canceled.

 

I pretty much didn't dance from last Christmas. And that's never happened to me, really. Prior to Strictly, I was doing theater shows, which was eight shows a week. And so this year we're not being able to dance unknowingly. I sort of was missing something as soon as we got back into the strictly machine and we got into that sort of bubble that we created with all the professionals, which we all took a bit like a boot camp with every single day from morning to the evening. And then we would hang out. And I was really, really noticing then how happy it makes me not that long on sort of, you know, I wasn't happy. It was really uncertain times. But that dancing is what would change my mood of the day, if you know what I mean. If you wake up in a funny mood, as soon as I got to a studio, I always end up being happy. That's why you always see me smile, because I do. That is most of the time.

 

Graham:

And how important is it to get your physique right so that you look good on screen?

 

Aljaz:

You know, it's like any sort of physical activity. Anyone that does that, you know, body is your tool. Body is your body is your instrument.

 

And being fed to me always sort of was more leaning towards esthetically feet, making sure that I wouldn't, you know, stay in shape.

 

But older I get I don't really care as much on, you know, my aesthetic physique. If I have a six or eight pack or a ten pack, I'm more care about that.

 

You know, I do a stretch. I do a warm up, I do a coat on. I get a proper rest.

 

So, yeah, kind of perception changed a little bit in the long lockdown especially.

 

And, but I, but I feel much better now doing strictly and being fit and looking after my muscles in a way that I haven't before because I hit, I hit thirty this year and I know it's, I know it's not a big milestone and everyone keeps telling me I'm a baby, but you know the changes there nonetheless.

 

Graham:

Yeah. Or wait till you're over 50.

 

Graham:

So you're isolating now in a separate bubble from your partner Janette, who's also on strictly how are you keeping the relationship going? I mean, what was going on? Are you have you got like video date nights?

 

Aljaz:

You know, Janette and I've been together for over ten years. We've pretty much lived and worked together for all of those ten years. And so if we're going to ask her that question, she's going to probably tell you, oh, I'm loving it. But, you know you know what? Both of us consciously made that sacrifice. And I feel like on the greater scheme of things, it's a small sacrifice. We both love this show so much. This show gave us, you know, an enormous amount of fun, an enormous amount of pride and, you know, and joy over the last eight years.

 

And, you know, it is a bit funny. And we're not living together. We can see each other on a Friday and Saturday in the studio, obviously keeping the to me at a distance.

 

Graham:

And so that's a bit you know, it's a bit funny, but it must be even weirder when you actually see her. You can't touch her.

 

Aljaz:

It's actually not as much as we sort of we sort of see each other having a chat and then we go on with the day. But it's more people that see us doing it. They go, oh, look, look at the two of you, you know, look at you funny. But, you know, we both love this show. We have two incredible celebrities that we get to dance with this year and Clara and Harvey with Janette doing so well in the competition. But the two of us are so focused, you know, with jobs, so at the moment, it's OK because we're so busy, but if one of us would get to be eliminated and then, you know, one of us will have to be at home on their own. That's what I think it would get a little bit harder.

 

Graham:

So you've won strictly with Abbie Clancy. Janette hasn't. How competitive are you as a couple?

 

Aljaz:

I have one strictly before with Abbie, which was incredible. And I feel like Janette is going to win. Certainly. Definitely. She's so talented. She has so much she has so much great creativity in her. She's amazing at what she does. And it's I think it's just a matter of time where she wants to work as well. You know, for all of us pros, really winning strictly is it's an added bonus. Getting to the final is something that we all always want to do is, you know, get right to the end of the competition, get to do all the dances, give the celebrities, you know, the whole street experience from week one to the to the final. But at the end of the day, even if you don't make the final, as long as you get the best out of people, you feel like you got most out of them that they possibly could give on that floor. And, you know, for some, that is week three. For some, that's making it to the final. At the end of the day, as long as I see it as long as every celebrity that I've ever danced with on strictly can say that they've had the best time. That's my job done. As long as we have fun while while while we're doing it, that's that's the most important thing.

 

Graham:

So who's the best celebrity you've danced with and who would be your dream partner?

 

Aljaz:

Oh, that's a question, Graham. I'm never going to answer. You know, I've been blessed with eight incredible celebrities on my strictly, you know, time so far and all of them lovely, lovely human beings that were so excited to do strictly and excited to dance.

 

So I've always had the best time and I make sure that that they have the best time as well. But if I could if I could have a dream celebrity for the future, if I could do with Janette one year, that would be amazing. If I way I'm sure we would have a little bit of an advantage solely because we know each other a little bit, but nothing to do with dancing. We wouldn't have any advantages there whatsoever. But I would I would love to do it to do it with Janette. Yeah.

 

Graham:

And I certainly has the first ever same sex couple. What are your thoughts on that? Dancing on it last year, whether with it with an all-male partnership and now with what? Nicola Adams, what are your thoughts on how that has evolved with the dancing that they're doing?

 

Aljaz:

The world is evolving, so is Strictly. They've all been dancing on ice, is evolving and watching Nicole and Katya perform are on that studio floor was really, really special. Katya’s so creative. And I knew she's going to, you know, take this take that opportunity and, you know, and completely run with it. And I'm so glad for the for them that are that that have to be out of the competition. But, you know, it was amazing to watch and I'm completely on board with them. It's I think it's a step in the right direction.

 

Graham:

And I completely second that. You mentioned previously that you didn't have a childhood because you started dancing, I think was five years old. Do you feel that you missed out on anything because of that? Or was it is it just become your life?

 

Aljaz:

I thought you going to ask me now, when is your childhood actually beginning? Yeah. You know, I used to always see the way that, you know, I missed out on so much.

 

You know how it is when you're when you're when you're a teenager and your friends in school are sort of, you know, starting to socialize in the late hours and, you know, going to cinemas and whatnot.

 

And that's something that, you know, I would I never had time for my dance school was about two hours away from my hometown.

 

So I would make that journey three times a week. On every other day, I would be training in the local gym or dance studio. Then every weekend we would have a dance competition if only Slovenia around Europe. So I never really had much of a social life as a youngster and as a teenager. I never really thought about it. But when I stopped competing, it really hit me. And then I really tried to, in about a year, really tried to make up for it for every single second that was lost. Yes. I wasn't there for all of those, you know, first time going out. First I'm going to the cinema with your friends.

 

But, you know, I get to be dancing on the biggest show on television and because of my sacrifices that I've made as a kid when I was younger. So I think that on a grand scheme of. Things I'm not that upset that I missed a couple of other things as a kid, and yeah, if I put things into perspective, thank God I did it.

 

Graham:

And how supportive were your parents? Were they were they pushing you or were they kind of the ones the parents were kind of gently encourage rather than driving you onwards?

 

Aljaz:

Great question, because none of my parents are not or no one in my family danced or competed in dancing. I signed myself up into a dance school when I was five years old. So without my parents knowing. So it was never actually my parents, there would be no egging me on. But the support from them from day one was incredible dancing, ballroom and Latin dancing is one of the most expensive things you can put your kids into. And my parents were sort of finance and support that the whole way through my 13 year career. So everything that I've achieved, all them, you know, won the national championships about I think it was 19 times I missed one to be twenty. And, you know, all those countless trips to Blackpool to go to Denmark, to Ukraine, God knows where. You know, it was all my parents who were behind. You know, dancing is not the most marketable sport. There was not many sponsors time wise and financially. I think if it wasn't for my parents, I could have never could have never been a competitor. And, you know, if I wasn't a competitor, I wouldn't be able then to go into theater and into TV. So it's all down to them and it's all down to the support from my from my whole family, really.

 

And now seeing them now proud, you know, with me being on Strictly is the biggest feeling of happiness that I that I ever feel. Speaking to my mum straight after every side of the show, it's the best phone call of the week.

 

Graham:

Fantastic. Fantastic. You recently talked about suffering from psoriasis. Is this antagonized by stress of performing on strictly or is it something that you can control?

 

Aljaz:

Yeah, I've been diagnosed with psoriasis 12 years ago and never before I really find the courage or the reason to talk about it. I feel like it's such a private something that I that I was so ashamed of in a way even. And it really brought me down a really, you know, brought my self-esteem down, but especially to this lockdown. I really value that a little bit and then realize that there is so many people that that I even I know that that suffer from it, that I suffer from a similar skin condition and would get even more worried and frustrated because of it and solely because of that. I figured that if I talk about it and if I, you know, say that I that is happening to me as well, it might make someone else feel a little bit better about themselves. And I solely believe that the only people that have it, people that suffer from it, I notice it as much as we do. People that that don't you know, they don't put focus on it. You wouldn't sometimes even see it. And the reaction from my interview that I had that I did on the morning life was incredible. How many people reached out to me, share their stories, giving me advice on what creams or to use or what food not to eat. And I feel like that that was really the sole reason why I would go out and talk about it is still gets bad. You know, you still have some things that trigger it.

 

But I don't care half as much as I used to about it. And anymore, you know, if I stressed about it for so long, you know, working on TV, being exposed physically like that and then having, you know, a skin condition doesn't help in any way, shape or form. But then me stressing about it makes it even worse. But because it wasn't stressing about my skin anymore and my and about so many other things, my skin got better. And which is which is amazing, really, because in one hand I'm the more stress I've ever been. And then on the other hand, I'm kind of more the most at peace that I've been specifically with this psoriasis. And I do hope that one day there is going to be a cream or a pill that people take and is going to and it's going to it's going to make it go away. But I know that we have bigger fish to fry at the moment. So but I do hope that one day there is something done about that and people can, you know, get on with their lives and not worrying about a red patch on their skin.

 

Graham:

It's that time to talk a little bit about the L-Word ‘Lockdown’. How was your health and fitness affected by the lockdown earlier this year?

 

Aljaz:

I think, my take on lockdown that I would say most people did. I didn't do anything. Graham. I really did not do anything. Janette made herself really busy from. Right from the beginning. She would teach classes. She would do a part of ballet in the morning and then another class and then I talk every day. So she had a really, really good routine, a really good schedule. And I kind of because the tour just got canceled last 2019. I have one week off and not even that's sort of a whole week broken in two days. I had literally seven or eight days off in the whole year. So I really I was really struggling towards the end of twenty nineteen so when I turned 2020, got canceled, I really just said you know what, I'm going to take this opportunity and do nothing. So I switched off my phone for about a month. I really sort of switched off mentally and physically.

 

And the only thing that I would go do is go on a walk every single day just to get some air. So Janette and I stayed in in this flat for four months. And as I said before, we have lived together for ten years, but we've always worked as well. So it was interesting to, you know, to learn about the dynamic of the two of us just being at home, not doing much. But I didn't you know, I would sort of keep faith. I wouldn't eat too much so I wouldn't gain too much weight. But, you know, obviously did put on a little bit.

 

Graham: 

Getting back to keeping fit, we're going to break this next section down into two clear sections, body and soul. Obviously, a fitness regime right now is based around dancing. But if you were not dancing, what would you do to keep fit? What would be your kind of go to exercise that isn't dance?

 

Aljaz:

I was never on going to the gym. A couple of guys on the show. I really, really love it. They go, I know Gorka loves working out in the gym. He actually has a little gym at home as well. But I do love a bit of TRX. I feel like for what I do, your body weight exercises are are the best exercises you can do.

 

Graham:

For the uninitiated, can you just explain what TRX is?

 

Aljaz:

It's an exercise you can buy pretty much anywhere these days and you put it at the back of your door. It has a little handle that gets stuck on the top of the door. And then you have to imagine two strings coming down with two handles on it on each of those strings. And you basically can use your body weight to lift yourself up, to push away from it. You can put your legs in those strings. You can do some crunches, you can do some piece of limitless.

 

Graham:

And then what about your what about mind and soul? Is there anything that you do specifically to kind of the distress or to make yourself feel better?

 

Aljaz:

I did a little bit of a meditation with Jeanette because she started doing it through lockdown. Done. And she really loves it. She really enjoys it. And I did a couple of times I did it a couple of times with her and I was really struggling to get through it and then yoga because I'm one of the most unflexible people you can ever meet. Everyone's sort of really always has this perception that all dancers is are extremely flexible. Yes, girls mainly really are. But as boys are really not and I am struggling to touch my toes. I can you know, I have you do exercises of flexibility, the sort of that work with the dancing. But I wouldn't sort of do splits just because, you know, on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, finally on this section, they say you are what you eat.

 

Graham:

How important is your diet? Obviously, you've got to keep trim, but then also you need energy. So what do you eat when you're when you're training and performing?

 

Aljaz:

I always try not to eat too late in the day. So that's my only food. The regime that I would be, you know, really, really strict on is after six, seven or eight o'clock, if I have a lay down work, I wouldn't eat. I would have loads of little meals throughout the day. So I keep fueled and I and I keep the energy up because then as well, if I have a big meal in the middle of the day, then I can't really train straight after for a couple of hours. So it's a bit counterproductive. So I will have small meals throughout the day, not eat too late. And then because of my psoriasis, I don't really eat much dairy anyway. Our alcohol triggers it as well. So I so I cut that down. So I tried to be healthy. Yes. For the dancing and then for my skin as well.

 

So, you know, juggling between those two, I ended up having this kind of healthy lifestyle. When it gets to food, which I never really planned on. I always used to enjoy a lovely little burger after shows and, you know, little pizza here and there. But it's kind of becoming less and less, but solely because of listening to my body more than anything, I feel like if I eat too late, then I wake up tired and then, you know, I can have as productive day as I was wish.

 

Graham:

So it's time to shift gears now and move on to the Decathlon section of the podcast, it's one of the toughest athletic contests out there made famous by Daley Thompson. But hopefully these questions won't be quite as tough. So this is the Decathlon brought to you by Decathlon. So let's go for it.

 

I think I know the answer to the first one. Question one. What's your exercise of choice,

 

Aljaz:

TRX

 

Graham:

Do you work out alone or with friends?

 

Aljaz:

With my wife.

 

Graham:

What time of day do you prefer to exercise?

 

Aljaz:

Well, if it gets to dancing pretty much all day, every day, what's the best thing about exercise is a sense of accomplishment, a sense of a feeling that you've put your body through something that is going to that is going to make it better. And, you know, when muscles are burning you when when it's happening, you hate it. But when it's when they when they don't burn, you miss it.

 

Graham:

How you refuel after your workout with a good rest.

 

Aljaz:

With a good rest, for sure. Loads of water. And I think the main thing is sleep. I love my sleep. How do you relax Netflix.

 

Graham:

What's the hardest thing about keeping fit?

 

Aljaz:

It's staying on top of your ability, of your readiness, you know, making sure that your body is on a constant goal and you give it enough rest. Like I said, give it enough fuel. I think that's the hardest thing.

 

Graham:

And how do you maintain motivation?

 

Aljaz:

I think it's all in your head, really, isn't it? We can we can achieve wonders whether with our bodies, as long as we put our mind to it. There was this famous quote from an incredible dance teacher that dancing specifically is 95 percent physical and five percent mental. But that five percent rule was the order of ninety five and top fitness. Secret dance, just dance is the best form of exercising. You do it without knowing. You're doing it with someone you like or even love. Your dancing to a music that their children joined and you start sweating and using muscles that you've never even knew that that existed.

 

Graham:

And final question. It's Saturday night. How did you kick back and relax?

 

Aljaz:

I love taking Janette for a nice little dinner. And if not that, the two of us, whenever we get a chance, when I stay home and put on a lovely movie, we both love watching films and face time with my sister, with my little niece and my family. I think that would be the ideal Saturday night.

 

Graham:

So huge, thank you to my guests this week, Aljaz. But before we go out of all the things we've talked about Aljaz, is there any one key message for health and fitness for the listeners?

 

Aljaz:

You know, more than ever, I feel loving ourselves and loving what we do and love with what we can do and can't do. It doesn't matter. It's more important than ever. I feel like the whole world is changing daily and no one really knows what is going to be like when, you know, the long dogs and the virus finally goes away. So, you know, love yourself. Make sure that you look after yourself, stay healthy and keep dancing!

 

Graham:

Brilliant. Thank you very much for joining me. And thank you all for listening. Thank you very much.

 

Aljaz:

Good luck with training, Graham. Good luck with training.

 

Graham:

Thank you. Aljaz again. And thank you all for listening.

 

The Power of Ten was brought to you by Decathlon. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss out on the next episode.