It’s awards season, when red carpet looks mean everything. How do Hollywood’s elite stay fit and fabulous?
We asked three high-profile celebrity trainers—in-demand Pilates instructor Risa Sheppard, whose “Sheppard Method” is a fave among the Los Angeles set; London-based trainer to the stars Dan Roberts, CSCS, founder of the Dan Roberts Group; and Angelo Grinceri, deemed the “Sexiest Trainer Alive” by “People” magazine, who does bespoke body transformations for an ultra-exclusive New York City clientele—for some of the best-kept fitness secrets of the stars.
24Life: Your famous client has six weeks to get ready for a big event—what are the most important steps to take first to make that goal happen?
Dan Roberts: First, we need to agree on the coaching relationship. I’m a big fan of immersion, so we have a frank conversation. They’ll no doubt be training with me five to six times a week, and I’ll be controlling what they eat, when they eat, what time they go to bed, etcetera. The more in control I am, the more I can get results. The coaching relationship is at the heart of all personal trainer transformations. Techniques, methods, ideas and training strategies come later.
Risa Sheppard: Setting a goal and visualizing the end as already accomplished is a dynamic way to manifest the desired outcome. It gives a blueprint to the subconscious mind so the client has to simply follow the blueprint. Also, setting a schedule and keeping with it—consistency, along with discipline, is essential to a successful goal. Staying positive is important, too. It’s easy to become discouraged if things don’t go as fast or well as wished for. But keeping that blueprint in mind is a good way to remain positive and optimistic … and the more positive one is, the greater the results.
Angelo Grinceri: Start with hydration—I have them drink one to three glasses as soon as they wake up. This really makes a huge difference in energy! I like to do this while spending a few minutes stretching and mobilizing my neck, shoulders and hips. Also, drink a full glass of water before every meal and snack and doing physical activity. Even the slightest sign of dehydration can lead to you craving sugary or salty foods.
Next, get accustomed to being active every day. It doesn’t have to be a crazy workout, but get into a pattern of setting aside 30 minutes to move your body and work up a little sweat.
Finally, I tell my clients to stock up on organic fruits and vegetables. Eat them, drink them, do whatever you need to do to hit seven to 10 servings a day. This is the secret to a thriving body—I promise you’ll feel better after three days of doing this.
24Life: What was your most memorable celebrity transformation?
Sheppard: I was working with a big-name country singer, and she needed to shape up for a televised award show. We began to work on her posture first by articulating and stretching her spinal column. The first night she performed, we were laughing because she lengthened her spine so much that she was taller—and her pants were now too short for her legs!
Roberts: My favorite type of gig is preparing the lead actors/actresses for action movies. After over a decade of training athletes as a strength and conditioning coach, my first studio gig—where a Hollywood production company hired me to prepare the lead of a film—was with “Snow White and the Huntsman” (2012). I had a few months to get the lead actress toned, fit and ready for stunts. That was so much fun, mostly as it was my first exposure to the film preparation world, which included studio politics, avoiding paparazzi and anything that comes with the A-lister lifestyle.
My most recent gig is the “Superman” prequel. I’ve been working with one of the leads doing extensive mixed-martial arts and movement training. Transformative results aren’t always about looks when working with actors. In this case, I’m helping my client attain a certain level of fighting mastery so he can portray the character honestly. I’m very proud of the results so far, mainly because my client has changed the way he thinks about his body and has developed genuine love of martial arts! To me, that’s so much more exciting and fulfilling than just toning someone up.
24Life: People say it’s easier for the rich and famous to get in shape because “they have money and a team of people to help them.” Is that fair, or are there unique pressures and challenges that need to be overcome?
Sheppard: No one is perfect. Everyone has a condition, either emotionally or physically, to improve, and celebrities are no exception. Yes, money helps getting the right kind of help, but unless the client is willing to do the work, he or she is going to fail.
Celebrities have their insecurities, too, and knowing how to deal with those is one of the trainer’s most challenging jobs. The client must learn to trust, let go and move forward.
Roberts: I do think life is easier if you can hire coaches. Yet if you want to create a great body, be it for looks or performance, you still have to put the hours in, lift heavy stuff, sweat and make sacrifices. It doesn’t matter who is standing next to you—be it the world’s best personal trainer or your reflection. It’s still just you doing the work! Motivation is the biggest variable. If you want to feel motivated, having a compelling goal is the only way to go, and it doesn’t matter if you’re unknown or famous, rich or poor. We can all train hard and smart to get amazing results.
Grinceri: For some, being in the spotlight can trigger emotional and mental burdens that money cannot overcome. This is why you sometimes see celebrities gain massive amounts of weight in a short time. Changing habits is hard, changing habits when you’re tired is challenging, and changing habits when you’re constantly thinking about what others are saying about you is even more difficult. It becomes less about the team behind you and more about your mindset and recognizing that you need to make a real habit change. When that mental switch happens, I can really work my magic.
24Life: Is there one universal “must-do” exercise or cardio routine you prescribe to all your celebrity clients?
Sheppard: Being a Pilates instructor, I encourage all my clients to be aware of their “centers,” or the core as it is sometimes called. Always keep a “girdle of strength,” as my mentor Ron Fletcher use to say. Also, stretching to keep your back strong, stomach muscles secure and to open the sternum helps with confidence, stamina and a positive attitude. In addition, I recommend a good brisk walk [Ed. Note: When you’re walking so fast you could run] and whatever else the client feels like doing for cardio. As long as the client enjoys it and sticks with it, the results can be amazing.
Roberts: As a strength and conditioning coach and martial arts instructor, I can’t help but get excited by proper weight training and combat, so all my clients get exposed to these disciplines when they hang out with me.
Grinceri: Every human needs a few things: One, to proficiently get up off the ground; two, hamstring mobility and stability through different ranges of motion; three, single-leg balance; and four, controlled hip extension when standing upright. I have one really simple move that delivers all of that: Grincee’s, which is a variation of a burpee. I like to refer to it as burpee’s well-behaved cousin. It’s less intense and less impactful on the knees for those without enough mobility to properly do a burpee with controlled form. You can check it out on YouTube.
24Life: What would we be most surprised to hear about celebrities when it comes to fitness?
Roberts: I remember training one guy many years ago—he’s a multiple Oscar-winning actor renowned for character work but by no means an “athlete.” I was doing a lot of really complex movement pattern stuff with him, and he picked up the skills far quicker than any pro athlete I’d ever worked with! It was amazing to witness. Over the years, I’ve noticed this happen regularly … with the good actors, anyway. I think their attention to detail and laser-focused curiosity literally transcends to their fitness.
Grinceri: They understand hard work and are not scared of it. Most celebrities I’ve worked with want to be better in every way that they can be. It’s very inspiring. Also, they are always interested in not only the best or most efficient way to do something, but [they] also learn how to make it a sustainable part of their lifestyle.
Photo credit: Konstantin Yuganov, AdobeStock; DragonImages, AdobeStock; Tyler Olson, AdobeStock; Microgen, AdobeStock