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Monday, June 09, 2008

Doing Double Duty 

Posted by James at 11:55 PM ET

In addition to her work on Citytv's Breakfast Television, Asha Tomlinson is on the Eskies' cheer team

By Cary Castagna
The Edmonton Sun
Asha TomlinsonJust in case she's ever lacking in the motivation department, Asha Tomlinson has one more compelling reason to keep fit.

The vivacious 29-year-old Edmontonian already feels plenty of public pressure to keep up her healthy appearance as a reporter and host on Citytv's Breakfast Television.

After all, everyone knows the camera adds 10 pounds.

But now Tomlinson will have the peering eyes of thousands of Edmonton Eskimo fans checking out all her shimmies and shakes at Commonwealth Stadium.

NO SLACKING

Tomlinson is one of the newest members of the Eskimos cheer team. Talk about added pressure to not slack off when it comes to her physical conditioning.

"Other girls on the cheer team, especially the stunters, oh my gosh, their abs are just unreal. And so you look at that and you're like, 'OK, gotta work out,'" she says with a laugh.

"Seeing all these skinny minnies definitely makes me more aware of what I eat and how much I exercise."

It all started out rather innocently for the former Toronto Argonauts Cheerleader who weighs a fit 125 pounds at five-foot-nothing.

In March, Tomlinson decided to take on a fun work assignment: Put together a first-person story on what it's like to try out for the Green and Gold's cheer team.

The bubbly TV personality - and hip-hop dancer extraordinaire - ended up acing her three-day tryout and making the squad.

Over the past three months, she's been reminded that cheerleading for a CFL team takes more than just looking pretty in the uniform.

"That's the thing I wanted to show off for the dance team. People think, 'Oh, they look pretty and they just do a few cheers.' No, they work hard," she explains. "They're the best of the best. You have to be a good dancer and practise."

Not to mention memorizing all the dance routines in the cheer team's ever-expanding repertoire and then performing them with pinpoint synchronicity.

"It's a lot of material that you have to remember," she says. "With the amount of routines that we've learned, I have to be at home in my living room practising just so I don't forget them."

Indeed, the gridiron grind ain't easy.

Plus, Tomlinson, who cheered for the Argos circa 2002 when she was working in T.O., has received some grief from her eastern friends over her allegiance shuffle.

"My friends in Toronto have a problem with it. They're like, 'What are you doing? Eskimos? Where's your loyalty?' " she says with a chuckle. "But I'm an Edmontonian now."

One active Edmontonian.

In addition to two weekly cheer-team practices that typically last more than three hours, Tomlinson also works up a sweat teaching several hip-hop dance classes throughout the year - including an introductory course for students at the University of Alberta that runs four times a week for 90 minutes each session.

Rather than just sitting back and barking out instructions, the energetic dancer enjoys grooving along with her students.

SWEAT HARD

"I try to show them and instruct them and do the routine with them," she explains. "We're all sweating by the end of it. I challenge them and they seem to be having fun, so they really try to work hard. That's how I know that the class is a good one is when they come out of there and there's sweat marks."

Tomlinson's perspiration, however, isn't limited to throwdowns on the football field and dance floor.

For the past several months, she's been suffering through Club Fit's gruelling boot camp sessions up to three times a week.

The heart-pumping, lactic acid-producing workouts take place in all types of weather and involve everything from pushups and chin-ups to climbing the "big, huge, nasty stairs" in downtown Edmonton's Ezio Farone Park - a torturous activity affectionately known as the Tour de Stairs, notes Tomlinson.

"Honestly, I'm not a gym person. I love group settings, which is why boot camp works for me," she says.

A glutton for physical punishment, Tomlinson has also signed up to run a half-marathon - her first - in San Francisco this October. She has just started training for the 21-km jaunt, a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

And if that's not enough, the busy gal likes to end most days with some Pilates, core work and a dose of light weight training aimed primarily at toning her arms and chest.

Tomlinson, whose Citytv work hours typically run from 5 a.m. to around 2 p.m., has the late afternoons and early evenings - along with weekends - to pack in all her physical pursuits.

Meanwhile, she's been cleaning up her diet in a bid to lose five to 10 pounds. With the Esks set to host the Grey Cup champion Saskatchewan Roughriders on June 19 in a preseason tilt, Tomlinson - who admits to having a sweet tooth - is feeling a sense of urgency.

"I think I've got to keep working on it," she says. "I do not want to wear the Eskie outfit and not look so good."

With her calorie-burning schedule, it shouldn't take long for her to drop a few pounds.

But no matter what the scale says, Tomlinson is happy and healthy - and that's something to cheer about.

Online Home of the Edmonton Eskimos Cheer Team is here.

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