A-list trainer Tracy Anderson on staying motivated, Gwyneth Paltrow and why it's OK to eat cake

by Ally Dean

After nearly 15 years honing her dance-inspired fitness routine, Tracy Anderson is at the top of her game. Not only is she on speed-dial for some of Hollywood’s most inspiring bodies – including Gwyneth Paltrow’s and Jessica Alba’s – but her video series and classes are sending her brand of feel-good fitness to women around the world. “Making people feel their best and teaching them to connect to their bodies is really what drives me,” Tracy tells Hello! when we catch up with her at her New York City studio. Here, she shares advice on reaching your fitness goals and achieving your best body.

Photo: © Getty Images

Do a lot of people come to you this time of year with new year resolutions about fitness? I’m hesitant about new year resolutions and the term “fresh start.” We should all embrace our bodies and not stand at the mirror hating our thighs. Fitness and health are a journey. Change how you talk to yourself and say, “I really love myself. This is who I am, this is where I’m at and here is where I want to continue to grow.”

So focus on having a positive inner dialogue? Exactly. Be kind to yourself and stop comparing where you are in your journey to other people. I don’t care what Kim Kardashian drinks – it does not mean you should drink it. I think it’s important to let go of the glitter. Celebrities work really hard to fit into their dresses and have that red-carpet moment, but that’s their job. And they don’t do it alone. There are teams of nutritionists, trainers, stylists, hair and makeup artists, all experts, working to create that image.

Yet you’re known as a celebrity trainer. I trained and studied my field for nine years before I worked with a celebrity. Gwyneth Paltrow has been my business partner and friend for many years, but when I first trained her over a decade ago we did not set out to be entrepreneurs. She literally was like: “You lifted my butt off the ground, put it somewhere that I never thought it could be and every woman needs this.” So Gwyneth directed my first two DVDs and talked about me to Oprah. It’s a genuine relationship, but we’re very different. She’s five-foot-10 with a metabolism that doesn’t quit and I’m barely five feet tall and I will gain a pound a day if I don’t exercise. I would never win if I measured my progress or goals against hers; we come to fitness from two different places.

What’s the secret to developing a program that works for everyone? Gone are the days of working on biceps one day and on glutes another. That’s a bodybuilding mentality and it creates imbalance. You want to work your entire body, focus on proportion and moving as a whole.

Alessandra Ambrosio, Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lea Michele Photo: © Instagram

What if you want to target a specific area or concern? If you have 30 seconds to paint your nails, are you going to do one nail really well or paint them all like crap? You’ll probably walk out with a crazy-looking manicure. The same goes for your body. You should never leave anything out. The only reason we do targeted training boot camp DVDs is for days when you’re slammed and something is better than nothing. But I tell clients to carve out time to work out properly and make it a priority.

Do you believe in rest days? Every single day that you do not exercise you’re gaining weight or staying the same. Period. It’s important to not live in a place of self-sabotage with a lack of self-worth. Exercise shouldn’t be what you need relief from. You want to get to the point where a day of not moving your body feels worse than binge-watching something on Netflix. But here’s the thing: that doesn’t mean you have to aggressively kill it seven days a week. The last two days, I did very light exercise, like under 30 minutes, and chilled out with my son and ate ice cream. I don’t think of it as “cheating” or go overboard and plan not to eat the next day. Your body wants to know you’re going to rest it, move it and feed it.

It’s OK to have days where all you want to do is eat cake? Absolutely. We all have those days when you wake up and want cake. I’ve got a three-year-old little girl and if she wants a Fruit Roll-Up, I’ll give her one – but not the entire box. There’s a conversation with the toddler inside of us. Being an adult who eats four pieces of cake is like being an adult who needs diapers.

So staying motivated is about balance and overall maturity? And music! We are emotionally programmed to love music. There are all kinds of reasons we start to not want to move our bodies, so for me music is the antidote. A good song forces you to connect more to yourself. It’s about constantly being connected to your body and working with intention.

HELLO! Canada magazine is available for your tablet and smartphone. Get HELLO! Canada, PEOPLE, Vanity Fair and over 100 more of the world’s best magazines for one low monthly price at Texture by Next Issue. CLICK HERE to sign up for a free trial.