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What It's Really Like to Film a Bravo Reality Show


Holly Rilinger is a renowned celebrity trainer, Nike Master Trainer, and Master Flywheel Instructor. Now, thanks to the hot first season of the Bravo show, Work Out New York, she can add "reality star" to her résumé. Here, she shares what it was like to be on camera, watch herself a year later and return to her daily training routine. Tune into Bravo this Sunday, January 31, at 10:15 ET/PT for Work Out New York's season finale.

When I was first approached by a casting director about doing a reality show on the fitness scene in New York, I thought it was a great idea—it's something I've been thinking about for years.

I've been a fitness instructor in New York for seven years now and I've seen the category explode: I've seen boutique fitness take over and everything from people working out for four hours a day to being so dedicated to a certain instructor that they follow them all over the city. This is fascinating because it's a cult and it's a healthy one. People are looking at fitness as more of a lifestyle—and to watch a trainer and see how we live and train clients and then have the ability to come meet us is really powerful.

At the very beginning, I'm sure I was one of the people who held back. I have two great relationships with Flywheel and Nike and knew there was a lot of risk in doing a reality show. But my goal has always been to have a platform where I can reach the world and TV is it.

I watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and fitness reality shows like The Biggest Loser, and I dip in and out of others. But when I knew I was going to be on a reality show, I started watching more.

What I've said to people is that everybody in life should experience filming a reality show. Every single day of filming I knew that I had to be accountable for my actions. I had to react to situations in the moment and know that I couldn't take back what I said. I feel like I grew as a person because I had to deal with conflict immediately. I'm usually somebody who won't pick up the phone after an argument because I want to craft my response.

For the first three to four weeks, you're very conscious of the cameras being there and you have to get used to it. Then, by weeks four, five, and six, it's like second nature.

I was in a constant state of exhilaration and exhaustion because it was so exciting. When filming stopped, I felt really weird because it had become such a normal state for me for 10 weeks straight.

Right after we filmed, I went down to visit my parents in the Dominican Republic and had a panic attack, because I was so accustomed to this super-fast pace and had a hard time relaxing again. I just didn't know how to turn off and for three days I felt so wound up from the experience.

We finished filming a year ago, so now when I'm watching the episodes it feels like reliving life again. I was curious to see if I was going to be really judgmental about myself and how I looked. I think it's human nature to be like, "I don't like my voice or I don't like the way my body looks." But I've gotten 95 percent really positive feedback and have had people reach out to me to say they think I'm authentic and that they like my style, so I feel like I accomplished my goal.

My classes were pretty full before, but with social media now they're crazy. The other morning I was going into the subway and I saw this girl looking at me. I didn't know if she knew me from Spin or the show or something else. I just don't know anymore.

You get this immediate response from people saying, "Hey, I want to come to your class." Because we're in the fitness industry, it isn't like the Housewives. You can find us every day in our classes and it's really cool because you can watch us and then come experience our training styles. Inspiring that kind of motivation in people is more rewarding than just being recognized on the street.


Madeline Buxton

Madeline is a freelance writer and editor in New York covering fitness, tech, and culture. She graduated from Yale University where she was a member of the Journalism Initiative and currently resides in Manhattan. When not writing, she can be found bouldering or exploring the city's arts scene.  More →
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