Behind the body of nearly every Hollywood star, there is usually a personal trainer. So if you’ve admired the physique of Julianne Hough, two-time professional champion of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” you can thank her trainer, Astrid Swan, for that.
The L.A.-based trainer is also responsible for keeping Olivia Munn, Emma Roberts, Kimberly Stewart and Jesse Metcalfe in impeccable shape. She’s also a master trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp, the hour-long treadmill and strength-training class that regulars affectionately call “the hardest workout in the world.” And when she’s not kicking her clients’ butts, she’s busy working as a health coach and fitness model.
But before she was helping her clients to be their healthiest selves, Swan was an international fitness model, a job she admits took a toll on her. “Modeling tainted my body image,” she says. To stay thin, the trainer attempted the “model diet” but — no surprise — it made her feel lethargic and unhealthy — so she started working out and eating balanced meals, then got her personal training certification.
We caught up with the model-turned-trainer to discuss why it’s important to throw out the notion of a perfect size, and how to balance being healthy while still enjoying the finer things in life. “I eat chocolate every single day,” she says.
What have you learned about being healthy since becoming a trainer?
Modeling tainted my body image. I had been self-conscious about my hips and butt since I was 15 years old. Now, I know better than thinking I need to weigh under a certain amount. What both modeling and training have taught me is each of us are beautiful in are own right. There isn’t one perfect size, weight or idea of what is beautiful. Confidence is beautiful. Strength is sexy.
How do you balance society’s emphasis on skinny with being healthy and strong?
Do not live for the scale. Live for life. When people look at me, they automatically think I weigh 110 pounds. When I tell them that they are off by about 20–25, they cannot believe it. I am proud to say that I work out hard, and I eat bread! I don’t work out seven days a week for two hours a day. I workout five times a week and take two rest days. I love myself for me and understand that I am human. Being thin is not the answer; being healthy is. Everything works together. You eat with good choices, you have more energy; you have more energy, you push harder in your workout. You push harder in your workout, you get a better night’s rest.
What are your tips for toning but still maintaining a lean physique?
Don’t be afraid to lift heavy weights. Spend your time working out efficiently. If you find yourself tuning out when you are doing bicep curls, ask yourself if you could be lifting heavier. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and see results quicker. Do not starve yourself. Your body needs fuel to tone.
You’ve been training Julianne Hough for some time. What is her typical workout like?
Julianne is an amazing athlete and friend. She knows how to balance life, and her attitude toward everything is what inspires me the most. She loves to mix it up! She pushes her hardest when she works out, and then rests when her body says she needs it. We focus on full body and depending on the day, put more focus on her arms and shoulders, another day full body with more focus on butt and legs. And we always work the core. I love working with her because she has incredible form — and form is key for results — and her attitude is all in. You will not hear complaining from Jules!
What does your personal fitness routine look like?
I lift really heavy weights. I love HIIT workouts. I don’t have a lot of free time, but I always carve in my workouts — be it 30 minutes or up to an hour. I love to work out with my friends because I am competitive so it pushes me to do even better. I love to take classes around town, too. It’s fun to be inspired by other trainers, and I think it’s important to support each other. The other day, I took a dance class and was shaking my thang and sweating profusely!
What does your daily health routine look like?
I drink water all day, probably about 3–4 liters. I would drink more but I cannot be excusing myself to the restroom every five minutes when training clients! I have 2 cups of green tea in the morning along with my breakfast and one kombucha in the afternoon. I make pancakes every morning with banana, eggs and oats. I love having a wrap or a big sandwich for lunch with a side salad. Dinner is usually protein, veggies and quinoa. I love sushi, too! Throughout the day, I snack. Almonds, Greek yogurt, a green juice — all keep my energy levels up!
Is it true that in high school, you couldn’t even run a mile in gym class?
It is true! I had zero stamina. Fail, major fail! I started off very easy. I would run from my front door to the mailbox, then I would run to the neighbor’s mailbox. I started with small increases and then before I knew it, I was able to do a half-mile without wanting to hyperventilate. I love working with people who are just starting off because it’s just about trying. We were not born walking. Give yourself time to impress yourself!
What’s the best fitness lesson that you’ve ever learned?
The best fitness lesson I have learned is to let your body rest! Mentally it was a tough challenge. So much of working out for me is the mental release but the results from letting my body rest like I do has only been positive with results. My mind now appreciates it, too.