Celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels shows her softer side
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“Give me everything you’ve got,” barks trainer Jillian Michaels. “I want to see blood, sweat and tears.”
The floor is already slick with sweat. Sixty dripping bodies jump, lunge and squat as Michaels yells, “Go, go, go.”
Known for her drill sergeant demeanour on the reality TV show The Biggest Loser, Michaels is leading a sample class of her new Bodyshred routine at a downtown GoodLife Fitness Club. The movements come fast and furious: reverse plank leg raises, squats with biceps curls, the Superman — people on their stomachs, legs and arms raised as if flying.
“Holy crap,” says fitness instructor Lisle Maloney, his T-shirt drenched, as the session ends.
He thinks the rigorous workout — three minutes of strength exercises, two minutes of cardio and one minute of ab work, for 30 minutes total — could have amazing results, but confesses he’s biased. “I’m a huge Jillian fan. The way she motivates people. All that in such an itty-bitty package.”
The celebrity trainer with the big voice and the big brand — she has created Jillian Michaels books, DVDs, video games and apps — is smaller than you’d expect, maybe five-foot-two, but all muscle and energy. She breezed into Toronto last week to launch the Jillian Michaels Bodyshred group workout, which will be at some GoodLife Fitness Clubs next month, and to promote her new book, Slim for Life.
“You’ll see a different, more sympathetic side of me in the book,” laughs Michaels, 38, during a phone interview. She says becoming a new mom this year has made her more understanding of the time crunch that comes with raising kids.
“I get it now. You’re overwhelmed, spread thin. You need something that’s going to simply, brainlessly, authoritatively guide you to get the weight off and keep it off.”
In typical Michaels’ fashion, she lunged into parenthood full force. Last spring, her partner, Heidi Rhoades, gave birth to a boy, and a week later Michaels’ adoption of a daughter from Haiti came through. Lukensia is now three years old and Phoenix, nine months.
While caring for the kids is a joy, she finds that setting aside time to care for herself, even to work out — imagine that — is much more difficult.
She did find time to write the book, her fifth, which offers strategies on eating better and working toward balance. She recommends the 80/20 rule: make 80 per cent of what you eat healthy food and 20 per cent treats, to keep yourself from feeling deprived.
As for when to dine, she preaches the four-by-four formula, where you eat every four hours: breakfast, lunch, substantive snack, dinner. No grazing.
She writes about how difficult staying motivated can be. Her tips include making not only an ultimate goal, but also monthly, weekly and daily ones, and, if need be, standing naked in front of the mirror.
While the book may show a more sympathetic side, motherhood hasn’t turned her soft on The Biggest Loser. “The people are killing themselves with food. I don’t have unlimited time to break through to them slowly. They could be going home in a week or two.”
Next, she needs them to take responsibility and lose the victim mentality. “They need to realize, ‘I created this and I can change this.’”
Then they need to have a success in the gym — and to get it, she goads them to push harder, pump more, run faster. “It shatters their whole idea of who they are and opens them up.”
But during the interview, the famously harsh Michaels suddenly goes soft.
At the other end of the phone line, she’s distracted. “Where are you going, Lu?” she asks her daughter. “We’re going pee now. Oh, the baby is awake. ‘Hi Bud.’” And then the tough-love trainer says goodbye.
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