I've been a fitness trainer for close to 20 years in L.A. Yes, I've trained some celebrities, though not anyone who's body you'd see splashed on the cover of US Weekly in a bikini, so that's probably a good reason you don't know my name. Most of my private clients are high-profile, though, and can afford to have any trainer they want, so I am grateful they chose me to entrust their bodies and psyches to.
Gratitude and attitude aside, I was recently training one of my newer clients, an editor of a popular women's magazine. While she was doing her cardio intervals, we were watching Kim Kardashian on The View. Our conversation followed the natural trajectory: how to get sex videos off YouTube, butt size, butt shape, gravity and cellulite. Then, the obvious transition to the topic of celebs and trainers.
"It's interesting," I said, "because some of the best, most educated trainers that I know, who are Ph.Ds of exercise physiology or have their master's degree in exercise kinesiology, don't tend to train celebrities." Just like most other industries, in fitness it's more about who you know than what you know. And, also like most businesses, it's the end result that counts. Meaning, it doesn't matter so much whether you're a Ph.D or just a trainer with a solid program, if a client is looking red hot on the red carpet, a movie set or The View, people will want to know who their trainer is!
So, let me enlighten you on how any good trainer (celeb or otherwise) gets results for their clients. This is the secret sauce to body transformation, and you can do it yourself if you have the discipline:
- Spend more time sweating. Not in the sauna or at your summer house in the Hamptons, but on the treadmill, elliptical trainer, Spinning bike or whatever cardio you enjoy. Many people schedule an hour to workout, but in that time frame, they're checking emails, texting, recovering between intervals, taking a stretch break. Don't count those minutes! Only count the time that you're physically "working out." The most effective calorie burning minutes are the ones where your heart rate is high and you're breathing hard. This may mean blocking out more like 75 to 90 minutes in your day rather than an hour.
- Pretend someone is watching you and kick up the intensity! Personal trainers and fitness instructors are in business because many people won't work out as hard when left to their own devices. It takes a Type A exercise mentality and a certain enjoyment of pain to inflict that type of discomfort on oneself. When you go to a fitness class or workout with a trainer, someone is watching every move you make and that makes you push harder. We're not satisfied until we see you giving it your all.
- Add another day to your workout week. The recommended national guideline is to exercise most days of the week. If you're only at three days, make it four. If you're at five days, make it six. If you're already at seven days a week and you're not getting any fitter, see the second item above and keep reading! You should need at least one, if not two days off to rest if you're working out harder. (You can do easy cardio on these rest days if you need.)
- Pick your poison. Here's the shocking news most trainers don't really want you to know: It's not so much that the trainer has discovered a new groundbreaking form of exercise or movement pattern that's making their client see dramatic results, it's the fact that the client is doing something new and different. When you switch up your old routine to something totally new to your body, you burn calories like crazy. Remember how much you sweat and how sore you were after your first yoga class or rock climbing lesson or stair climbing workout? The most dramatic change happens in first few weeks to months of doing a new program, activity or type of exercise (depending how fit you already are). For example, when you tell your trainer, "I've been jogging three miles a day, four days a week for a year and I haven't seen any improvements in a long time," any knowledgeable trainer will automatically begin adding intervals to your jogs and some type of resistance training. Then, boom! You start seeing results. If you're open minded to it, you'll also be adding a brand new mode of exercise. It can be a sport like tennis, something solo like swimming, a group workout like Zumba, Spinning or kickboxing or a new form of resistance training where you trade in stale old weight machines for kettlebells or a suspension trainer.
- Count your calories and write 'em down. Yeah, yeah, you know this already, but do you do it? Do you write down what you eat? Don't say you can remember. What did you have for your lunch last Thursday? I rest my case. Calorie reduction and proper nutrition is 75 percent to 85 percent of the getting lean equation. Knowing how many calories a day you're eating vs. how many calories a day you're burning is the key. Multiplying your body weight by 11 will give you a guesstimate of your RMR (resting metobolic rate -- that's how many calories you burn a day doing nothing but breathing and blinking your eyes). That's the bare minimum number of calories you should eat and add a little more on workout days.
Note: this does not factor in any medications you may be taking or other medical conditions.
If you want to delve a little deeper in this by yourself, there are more detailed formulas to help you calculate your RMR (or BMR, basal metabolic -- it's the same thing). The numbers won't be exactly the same, so just pick one or take the average. Once you know how many calories to aim for to get that rockin' bod, you'll want to know roughly how much protein you should eat to feed your new found muscles, multiply your body weight in kilograms by 0.8 and 1.1. Somewhere in that range is what to aim for (the lower end for women and the higher end for men - but I'm all for higher protein even for the ladies). If you're going for the American Gladiator body, you probably need even more. For a DIY customized plan, go to a website like Spark People or Freedieting.com. There's also plenty of menu planning software out there that can create the perfect plan for you and your goals if you consult with a professional.
Finally, I won't discount the fact that many trainers, especially successful ones, offer the motivation and knowledge that you might be lacking on your own. Close bonds are often made between the client and trainer that sometimes turn to good friendships. This dynamic also makes the client more apt to stick to the program. This would be the final item: accountability.
Just know, when you're trying to re-boot your body and take it to the next level, you have to be comfortable with the fact that your body's going to be a little uncomfortable. Any celeb that says getting into their best shape says was easy is lying! (Or they had surgery and are lying about that, too.) And, any trainer that tells you getting into great shape is easy is also full of it. However, if you find a trainer that really knows their stuff, that you enjoy working out hard with and that puts you on a program that you think is kinda fun...(oh, and that you can afford) well, then you hit the jackpot!
Share your story: When you were in the best shape of your life, how did you do it?