From the Hunger Games’ Katniss and Black Widow in The Avengers to Black Canary on Arrow – strong female role models are taking over Hollywood - and celebrity trainer Avital Zeisler can take some of the credit for that.
The Toronto-raised, New York-based personal trainer and Krav Maga instructor (Krav Maga is the self-defence system used by the Israeli army) has trained stars on screen and off with her empowering Soteria method – part fitness program, part self-defence system, made just for women.
Her clients include Keri Russell, who plays undercover KGB spy in The Americans, Megan Boone as FBI Agent Elizabeth Keene on The Blacklist and actress Amanda Seyfried, who has called the workout “life-changing.”
As Avital’s new book, Weapons of Fitness – for which Amanda wrote the intro, calling Avital a “genuine badass” – hits stores, she shared with Hello!five commandments tobeing your strongest self inside and out.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Avital lives by the rule that you are your own line of defence. “I want women to really see that they can transform into their own weapons of survival,” she says. One of her must-know moves is the push kick to the groin. To master this, stand with your knees slightly bent and drive the ball of your foot into the target, thrusting forward with your hips for power.
CAN BE STRONG, BUT FEMININE
When she was tapping in to her inner warrior, Avital noticed she was losing some of her femininity. “I actually found that physically, I was not getting the body that I wanted. I was losing my curves; I was filling out areas that I didn’t want to fill out. As a woman I was like, ‘there has to be a way that I can sculpt my ultimate feminine figure while still having the physical ability to defend myself.’” Two of her favourite moves to do that include the ground push kick, which is essentially a pelvic raise where you kick out the foot towards the knee, groin or face of your attacker. Striking sit-ups are basically a full sit-up with a strike at the end – whether a punch, elbow block or open-palmed strike. Intermediates should repeat 12 times.
COMES FROM WITHIN
“I went through so many things to try and find my place in life,” says Avital, who was dubbed too tall for dance, too muscly for modelling and not ripped enough for fitness modelling. “I realized, I need to create my own roles and I need to fill them myself. When I accepted that, life opened up. After that I realized, never again am I going to lose a moment of sleep in my life over not feeling good about my body.” The bottom line: You don’t have to accept anything in your life if it’s going to cause a negative reaction or negative impact.
STRENGTH IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS PHYSICAL STRENGTH
“When you develop a survival mindset, you actually tap into that stronger, more confident side of your personality,” says Avital. Client Amanda Seyfried agrees: “In addition to learning how to physically defend myself, I was surprised by my gains in mental acuity and my reduction of anxiety,” she writes in the forward to Weapons of Fitness. Avital is also a fan of visualization as a transformative technique: “It’s my biggest secret to personal success and to finding happiness, purpose and a new form of strength to apply in every aspect of my life. I used this ability to visualize the world that I wanted to live in, the moments that I would dedicate myself to living, and the possibility of getting everything I want out of life,” she writes.
A ROLE MODEL
Avital has too many to count, but admits she’d love to work with Taylor Swift. “She’s such a positive role model,” she says, noting you don’t have to be famous to inspire others. “I really look at a role model and the impact they have on girls’ lives. It’s many women together and it’s also the support of men, of male celebrities or people of influence.”