Born and raised in Atlanta, Katie Veldhuis is an Atlanta Falcons cheerleader and fitness instructor. Veldhuis has performed with the Falcons for three seasons—albeit, not consecutively. She left after her first two seasons to check dancing in New York off her bucket list; leaving the Big Apple when she realized the South—Atlanta specifically—would always be home.
How did you wind up in Atlanta as a Falcons cheerleader?
I'm from Atlanta originally, born and raised here. I grew up dancing my entire life, mainly focused on ballet and modern. I went to college in Georgia—Kennesaw State University—where I got a B.A. in dance, and after, I think during my senior year, my best friend and I decided to try out for the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders, kind of on a whim. It looked like something fun to do, and crazy enough, I made it.
That was really exciting, it was something that was totally different than anything I’d ever done in the past. Especially coming from very serious, heavy concert dance in college. To go to this really awesome, high-energy, smiling-all-the-time kind of performing with the Falcons.
I did that for two seasons because it really drew me in. One, from the dance aspect, which was off the get go; but two, once I became a part of the team the different facets of being a cheerleader were really amazing. I was able to do a lot of charity work and appearances where you get out in the community—that was something that was really rewarding and also just fun. When you have a platform where you can reach out to people and have an impact on their day or their life, however you want to look at it, that was what ended up being really neat.
What does a typical day look like for you?
So, throughout the week, I’m usually up pretty early. I teach a fitness class, whether it’s at Stellar or at TURN. I teach at least two classes a day, if not more. Then I’ll try and squeeze in a workout. Then in the evening I either teach dance at one of my dance studios or I go to practice for the Falcons.
Well, I was going to ask you how your focus on fitness works into your schedule, but that’s pretty much your day!
What inspired you to teach TURN Up at Turn Studio?
At the time I was teaching Lagree Fitness, which is amazing, and it focused on slow movements. I was also teaching cycling and while that is very rhythm based, I still felt like I was missing something where you can really just move to the music and kind of jam out. I also, at the time, [having returned from New York] wasn’t cheering yet and really missed going to practice and dancing with my girlfriends and having a good time. You know, you leave practice on such a high because you had so much fun.
One, I wanted something of that equivalent for me, and two, I thought it would be such a great thing to offer to the people of Atlanta because we really don’t have anything quite like it here.
Walk me through one of your classes. If someone was to come what can they expect?
It’s a 45-minute class, I introduce the class by telling people it’s cardio, you’re gonna sweat. It’s one song to warm up and then basically my playlist is about five songs, but we repeat them. So, we will learn the dance the first time and then we will repeat the songs with the dance at tempo (or fast, if you will). We play the songs twice and then by the second time, you know the routine, which is really the equivalent of jump roping without a jump rope—you just kind of move and jam with it, which is what’s so great about the cardio aspect. It kind of disguises that work into fun. So, we go through about five songs, or five routines, and then we stretch, and that’s pretty much it.
Why would you recommend TURN Up to a traveler wanting to get in a workout away from home?
I think it’s really great if you’re traveling. I know when I travel I always try to go workout, and being on vacation it can be a little difficult, no matter how much you love working out…I like to think of classes as an alternative to an activity, you know, going and meeting up with somebody and taking a class.
TURN’s a beautiful facility, kind of a cool place to go check out in itself. And, in the Super Bowl spirit, I mean you gotta come. We’ll probably have some football, Super Bowl-themed songs, so it’s really gonna be a one of kind experience, I think, worth checking out.
Speaking of visiting Atlanta, are there any other fitness spots you’d recommend readers check out?
I live by the BeltLine, which is at Ponce City Market. It’s huge, kind of like a giant sidewalk that really goes through neat parts of Atlanta. People run, they ride their bikes or just walk. It’s really grown over the past couple years, and I think people would say it’s kind of this cool thing to do in Atlanta when you visit.
I recommend that for being outdoors and then for being indoors, Stellar Bodies was the first Lagree studio to open in Atlanta and in my opinion the best [laughs]. They’ve been rooted in Atlanta and they have represented that Lagree-style workout, which is cool because we see a lot of people who come from different cities, and it’s interesting to share the comparisons from other studios. It’s kind of a small niche for those junkies who hop city to city and try out all the Lagree. It’s definitely worth checking out, whether you’ve taken Lagree or not.
What about non-fitness related “must-sees”?
I love the Hotel Clermont rooftop. It just opened, and it’s got a great view, great vibe. On the other side of town, the west side is really awesome because you can go very high-key, like The Optimist, which is a really nice restaurant or you can go to Ormsby’s, which is one of my favorites...[it's] a neat spot to hang out, play games, go with friends. And then you can really kind of go into that dive bar area with the Northside Tavern; so there's a big spectrum of attractions over there on the west side.
Back to your job as a Falcons cheerleader—you all just got this fantastic new stadium. What has that transition been like for you?
It’s really neat. There are a few other teammates who we danced together our rookie year and now we are back. I was telling one of them the other day, ‘it’s just bizarre how when we are on the field it feels the exact same as it did, you know five years ago.’ And she was like ‘really?’ But [then she said], ‘yeah, but except in a giant, crazy new stadium.’ And I’m like, ‘no! Even with that.’
The stadium is absolutely amazing, but it’s just wild, I mean it goes to show that Atlanta is Atlanta. We’ve kept the heart and the integrity of the team, you know, no matter where you put us. We just got lucky to be put in such an amazing stadium. I think in the Dome, I felt like I didn’t know where I was going. I couldn’t explore, but the Benz is really awesome. It just feels like home.
What would you say the new space adds to the fan’s experience?
I think people really enjoy all the open areas where you can hang out; so, depending on where your seat is, you can kind of mingle and roam around and explore, and kind of watch the game from different viewpoints. Our concessions have great prices, so, even though the ticket prices might be a little high, you know a hot dog is two dollars, a beer is three dollars, whatever.
I think the fans have more access or just a better chance at engaging—really doing more there than just watching the game from their seats.
What’s your favorite memory from your time as a Falcons cheerleader?
My favorite memory from the Falcons was certainly when we won the playoff game in 2012—that was the year we almost went to the Super Bowl. I have so many good memories standing in the end zone as we make a touchdown in the last, like, five seconds. So those always stand out.
How about while teaching your class?
My best memory was recent at TURN: when I unveiled the TURN Up Cardio Dance Class. My very first class I had all my best friends and my mom and all of my other clients from other studios and people who supported me [there]. As soon as I hit play and we started the class, it was just kind of wild to watch my vision come to fruition and see that unfold. And it was real. That was a really, really special moment.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.