Beauty-pageant contestants are hard-working women, and no one knows that like their personal trainers — who see them breaking a sweat in the gym, while juggling a busy travel schedule with community obligations and the need to look camera-ready, year-round.

What’s more, when your client wins a title, you have a big responsibility. Alana Ayat, a master trainer for 24 Hour Fitness, has been with the company for 10 years and has first-hand experience with just that. For the past eight months, Ayat has been training 24-year-old Miss Hawaii, Chelsea Hardin, three to five days a week at 24 Hour Fitness Honolulu Super Sport, all the way up to Hardin’s competition in the Miss USA pageant, held in Las Vegas on June 5.

24Life recently sat down with Ayat to find out what it takes to train a Miss USA contender.

24Life: How did you become Miss Hawaii’s trainer?

Alana Ayat (AA): Chelsea Hardin [Miss Hawaii] was referred to me by one of my other clients. I started working with her in October in 2015. She had been working with a trainer at another gym, but wasn’t seeing results, was experiencing low energy and was always tired. I did a 30-minute consultation with her and came up with a safe plan to get her results without crash dieting. I wanted her to maintain a safe calorie range the healthy way, because I knew that the prep she would need to be doing for the pageant outside the gym would be grueling as well.

24Life: What is it like to be the personal trainer for a public figure like Miss Hawaii?

AA: I’m so honored to be her trainer. She is a very sweet girl and is so hard-working. You can tell she comes from an athletic background, because she never tries to lessen or negotiate a workout that I give her. [Hardin played college volleyball and still plays beach volleyball on her off days.]

As a trainer, I knew that she might get some criticism online, but really, it’s been positive. And everyone on my team has been encouraging her. My job is to stay positive, keep up the energy and help Chelsea to stay motivated, even when she has moments of vulnerability.

At the gym, our members are very supportive of Chelsea [she’s a native Hawaiian] and are rooting for her. But they know they can’t ask for a photo until she is done with her workout.

Miss Hawaii
24Life: What is the training program you created for Miss Hawaii?

AA: The Miss USA Corporation only gave contestants two month’s notice of the official date of the pageant, so once we had that date, we upped her workouts to five days a week.

The workouts started with dynamic warm-ups, included plyometric exercises, HIIT and a lot of compound movements, moving from one lower-body move right to an upper-body move. As a former college athlete, Chelsea puts on muscle quickly, which we didn’t want for the pageant aesthetic, so we used a lot of TRX, kettlebells and resistance bands for Pilates-style movements to elongate the muscles. She did high volume, usually 15 repetitions or more, with lighter weights and plenty of isometric holds. Chelsea didn’t have a ton of time for cardio either, so I didn’t give her much rest between sets, and she got a cardio benefit from that, while also burning a lot of calories.

As we got closer to the event, we cut back on the weightlifting moves and did a lot of pikes and squats to get her looking good in a bikini and evening gown.

24Life: How did you balance Miss Hawaii’s training plan with her busy schedule?

AA: If she had a late night doing an appearance and hadn’t slept much, then the next day we might focus on mobility and flexibility in her session instead of doing HIIT, so we didn’t overtax her. We did a lot of myofascial release to keep her injury-free. And we alternated her workouts between HIIT, core work and stretching, so not every session was high-intensity.

24Life: What are Miss Hawaii’s favorite moves?

AA: She loves to get her heart-rate up. Her favorite moves include Turkish get-ups and ice skaters. She is very proud that she has perfected the Turkish get-up while working with me – it’s a move she wasn’t able to master in college.

24Life: Besides a great trainer, what does it take to get in “Miss USA” form?

AA: It’s about confidence and a goal. When you have a goal, you work hard and you follow a plan consistently, you get the chance to bring out your confident body.

“People get motivated when they stick to a plan and reach it. They begin to look amazing. And confidence impresses people.”

There are a few practical tips you can take with you, too. I recommend buying resistance bands to bring with you when you travel, so you can always get a workout in. And I’ve coached Chelsea to always have healthy snacks (like fresh fruit or protein shakes) on hand whenever hunger strikes. It’s always better to cook your own food, too.

24Life: What do you think are the three most important moves someone should do in a workout?

AA: There are three important moves that people should do in their workouts, and I have Chelsea do all of them regularly.

  1. Hip bridges to fire the glutes (and improve support for the torso).
  2. Turkish get-ups for mobility. (You don’t have to get heavy; everyone can do them.)
  3. Prone isolated and side isolated planks. (We all need to keep these core muscles strong.)

24 Hour Fitness Master Trainer Alana Ayat was in the audience to see the Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas on June 5 and was proud of Chelsea, who placed as the first runner-up out of 52 contestants.