You are here

Spotlight on The A-List Workout

1 of 3

Alyssa Shaffer on Celebrity Trainers

Angelina's abs, Jessica's legs, Halle's back: No, these aren't the features of a genetically engineered superhuman. Rather, they're the masterpieces sculpted by Hollywood's hardest-working personal trainers. These motivational mavens know all the right moves to whip their high-maintenance clients into shape.

If you've ever dreamed of remaking your own body, part-by-part, then The A-List Workout is for you. In this complete get-sexy guide, Alyssa Shaffer, Fitness Director of FITNESS magazine, compiles the expert advice of 10 celebrity trainers. The book is built around a 12-week total-body plan that you can customize to own your goals and fitness level. Featured trainers have worked with a host of celebs, from Uma Thurman to Queen Latifah, and they share techniques suitable for every body type.

So, can The A-List Workout really help you "get a hot Hollywood body"? sat down with Alyssa Shaffer to find out. How did you get the idea to write the book?

Alyssa Shaffer: We used to have a column in FITNESS magazine called "Celeb Trainer," so we worked with a lot of celebrity trainers. I thought to myself, it would really be cool if we brought all these trainers together in one big volume. Even though they work with a lot of the same people, a lot of the top people in Hollywood, they all have different approaches. One person might have a great core training program, another person might be great for functional fitness, a third might focus on flexibility. So I thought that bringing their ideas together would be like a sum of all the parts.

F: I noticed that structure in the book — it's divided by each trainer's specialty. Even though the book features different trainers with different points of view, is there a single philosophy that defines the "A-List Workout" as a whole?

AS: They each have a certain level of expertise that is above and beyond the typical trainer that you find at the gym. They all come to this with a lot of experience, not just with showing how to do an exercise, but with motivation. I think that's a big part of it for many of them: to get these somewhat pampered actors and actresses into shape. They're good at motivating their clients to get out there.

F: So, while you were working on the book and speaking with all these different trainers who are at this highly professional level, did anything you learned surprise you, or contradict what you've been thinking for all these years as Fitness Director for the magazine?

AS: Maybe just the fact that it takes a lot of work. You don't have to spend hours a day, but you definitely can't wish your way to a better body. No matter who you are, no matter what your genes are, you still have to put the time in. You might be Halle Berry, but even Halle Berry works out. In order to get strong and lean, a lot of [celebrities] really do have to put the time in.

F: I think that a lot of people assume that celebrities like Halle Berry are genetically superior. Do you think that it's feasible for a regular person to get a "hot Hollywood body"?

AS: Well, clearly your genes make a difference. If you're short (like me!) you're never going to look like Nicole Kidman. I mean, Nicole Kidman and I could not have more different bodies. So I think that genetics definitely play a role, but I think that everybody could improve their shape by working out and making a commitment to it. I don't want to say that you're going to morph into some superstar, but there are a lot of different body types in Hollywood, too.

F: That's a good point.

AS: I mean, I think Queen Latifah is beautiful. She lost something like 40 pounds, and she works out pretty hard with a trainer. Her trainer's in the book: Jeanette Jenkins. I think [Queen Latifah] is a good example of someone who has definitely worked to improve her body. She may not have the same shape as someone like Nicole Kidman, but she doesn't have the genes for it.

Buy The A-List Workout

Alyssa Shaffer interview, continued

F: I can see that you learned a bit about the celebrities from their trainers. Are there any stories that you can share?

AS: A lot of it goes back to their time commitment. Ashley Borden, one of the trainers, was telling me that when she was on tour with Christina Aguilera, they would go to a gym in the middle of the night after a show and work out, because that was the only time that she could squeeze into the schedule. So here's this woman who's probably just exhausted; she's just given it her all on stage, yet she's still finding time to exercise. I think that was kind of surprising to me.

Also, this isn't really that much of a secret, but a lot of celebrities, like a lot of us, tend to fall off the wagon when they don't have to be in the spotlight. Sometimes they have a goal to train for, like a movie or a concert tour. But if they don't have something going on, many of them tend to do other things, and it's the same for a lot of us. If we don't have a goal set in mind, then we also tend to fall off the wagon, so to speak. But the idea is that you don't need something like a high school reunion or a wedding to keep yourself going: you can set mini-goals all along the way to stay motivated.

F: What are some goals that average people can set? Obviously they're not preparing for a film role or the Oscars, but what are some everyday goals that they might be able to achieve?

AS: Well, different people are motivated by different things. Personally speaking, I like to do races; that's how I stay motivated. Maybe there's something like a 5K race that you want to sign up for, walking or running. Or maybe there's a trip that you want to take: you don't have to backpack the Appalachian Trail, but maybe you're doing something like going to Mexico, and you want to climb the pyramids.

F: What about short-term goals?

A: There are a lot of different short-term goals. I think the most important thing is that you're specific, that you're not just saying, "I want to get in shape for the summer." It needs to be more like, I want to lose a certain amount of weight, or be able to run three miles — something really specific to keep you going. And then as soon as you meet those goals, it's good to set new ones, and also to have both a long-term goal and short-term goals. You think about six months down the line, but you also think about a few weeks from now.

F: Did this project motivate you to drive harder toward your own fitness goals?

AS: Of course it's very inspirational to talk to all of these trainers and to get their exercises and their moves and their tips. Every once in a while I sort of hear their voices in my head, telling me I need to get to the gym [laughs].

F: Was it hard to fit in workouts around your writing schedule?

AS: Well, I have 2-year-old twins, so it's always hard to find time to work out.

F: That's a workout in itself!

AS: Yeah, it's a challenge. But everybody has challenges, and I think that everyone can find windows in their time. For me, I work out at lunch. That's my opportunity. When I'm not crazy busy at work, I try to sneak away to the gym for half an hour, 45 minutes, because I know that at night when I get home, my life is not my own. That's my personal thing. But I think that it's good for everyone to find those pockets of time.

F: As far as staying motivated, if someone doesn't have a personal trainer, how can they get the most out of a book like yours? How can they push themselves to keep going with their program?

AS: Well, you pay a personal trainer for a reason, because they're obligated to show up. I think the trainers give some great motivation tips in the book. A lot of them recommend exercising in the morning, before things get out of hand, or getting a friend to work out with you. Each chapter has trainer tips and a bunch of them have to do with motivation and staying into it. I definitely think it helps to get a friend or a spouse or somebody to work out with you. That's a big point of success for many people.

F: That's great advice. What else makes this book different from other workout books out there?

AS: There are 10 trainers' points of view represented. A lot of times, you pick up a fitness book, and it's one person and his or her philosophy. What I love about this book is that it's so many different people with a bunch of different flavors. You get a lot of variation, both in the exercises and in their approach to fitness. I think that with other books, you're just in one trainer's head, but this book brings you a wider exposure.

Buy The A-List Workout

Originally published on, January 2007.