We all look at Hollywood or Bollywood stars and wonder how they manage to look so great all year round. We met up with Celebrity Fitness trainer Ramona Braganza, well known for shaping the bodies of stars like Jessica Alba, Ryan Reynolds and Halle Berry and asked her about her revolutionary 3-2-1 fitness regime, and how we can use it in our everyday life. Pavitra Sampath caught up with Ramona when she was in India for a brief chat:
Pavitra: Tell us how stars manage to look so good all the time? Do they have a magic pill to lose and gain weight as they wish?
Ramona: I am often asked this question, and I wish there was, but really there isn’t. It is a lot of hard work. I have been around them when they have had to lose weight post pregnancy, or get in shape for a role, and in between all that they struggle with the same things we all do. So there is hard work and a good plan – a diet plan and an exercise plan, are both crucial to success because to me they are both 50-50. There are a few basic things that we all must remember when we want to lose weight, cut down on sodium (salt), try to include some proteins into your meals to build muscle and drink lots of water. As for exercise I would say do something every day. Whichever form of exercise you choose is fine, but make it a habit. There are tools that you can use like heart rate monitors and calorie counting applications that can help you can measure how hard you are exerting yourself. Include all these things into your daily life, and see it work. I practice all these things with my clients and it helps them get good results. But remember weight loss is gradual and cannot be achieved overnight or in a few days. It may look like its fast with the stars, but they have a plan spread over a couple of months and that’s how we achieve their goals.
Pavitra: So many stars have lost oodles of weight after pregnancy, how did you help them? And when can a new mom start working out?
Ramona: It is important to understand that there are a number of misconceptions about post pregnancy foods and not all are true. I am not here to fight anything, I just want to help people understand that they can be fit with better food choices, we all have our ideas from our parents and wellness magazines etc, but what’s the truth? The truth of the matter is that after being a new mom, you mostly need to have enough calories to support breast milk. Sometimes those calories are way too many and your weight loss suffers. The idea is to have enough calories to support breast milk and not overdoing it so you end up stagnating at the same weight. In order to do this I would say it is important to reduce your food portions.
I have also devised the ‘Mama Mia, Baby bulge be gone‘ programme, where I help new moms lose their post-baby fat. Often I am asked how soon a new mom can start exercise, I would say about 6-8 weeks would be a good time to start. Start out very slowly with just about 20 minutes a day and 5 days a week. As the days go by, just see how you feel and slowly increase the intensity. It is really about seeing how you feel while managing your baby.
Pavitra: What is your 3-2-1 programme about?
Ramona: The 3-2-1 workout was created when I was working with Jessica Alba for a film, and we didn’t have a lot of time to train and not a lot of equipment, so the beauty of the 3-2-1 regime is that you can do it at home, using either body weight or weights. You can easily get your cardio in by doing the stairs in your house, by walking or by dancing in place. It is a very creative programme and you won’t get bored. This has also worked for new moms. New moms often start from scratch, so they haven’t worked out in a long time and it is definitely a great programme for beginners. It’s one of those programmes that you can adapt to, and is very versatile. If you are strapped for time, you just have to change the element of cardio to increase the intensity. The strength training is done using your entire body in different ways. You can divide it into different parts like lower body and upper body. I like to mix it all up, so your heart rate stays high and you burn the maximum calories in your workout.
Pavitra: What challenges do we Indians face when it comes to fitness?
Ramona: When it comes to fitness in India, I actually think you do a lot more walking than people in North America. In fact a lot of the times you have to run across the road, so you are doing sprinting training, lifting of objects and carrying things. The real fitness challenge would be the dieting, and the nutrition plan – how to make a carbohydrate-rich diet into a little bit of a protein factor. For example, you could combine lentils (dal) with rice, have the largest amount of carbs early on in the day and add a few more vegetables to your diet. In addition being Indian, I know that we carry a lot of our weight around the waist, and have a lot of abdominal fat. This is just a genetic trait. For example Jessica Alba is Latin and she carries her weight on the hips. So there are certain genetic traits. But what you have to do is to work in order to enhance those features. Having the right eating plan and pushing yourself twice a week to really sweat, watching your sodium intake, hydrating completely and having a complete fitness plan is essential to reducing those features that are hereditary.
Pavitra: How important is functional training and core conditioning in a person’s workout?
Ramona: So my 3-2-1 workouts include cardio, circuit strength training and core. I devised this method because they all were the elements in my life that helped me stay fit. Gymnastics is something I used to do which helped me with my core; I improved my strength with my fitness contest work and cardio with the dancing. For me it is important to include all three to get all-round fitness. If you are just doing one or two, you are missing out on a big part of the programme. For me it’s really important to get your core in shape not only for lower back problems. Because we are at our computers all day, our core (tummy area) gets weak. It’s really important to think of your posture. Your core is the pillar of your body, if you don’t train that you are likely to get injured down the road. It’s not only about getting a Hollywood body, it is about wellness and health. I am 51 now and for me it’s always been about keeping fit, working on my core and maintaining good heart health.
Pavitra: How can a person plan his/her fitness goals more realistically?
Ramona: Well I work with celebrities but they are really not a good indication for us to follow, I think what’s really important is to remember that it is about our health. As much as they have bodies that we envy, it’s really about making your body the best it can be. I try to focus on health related issues, things like getting cardio and heart health, also about getting stronger, getting your core in shape. Those are the ways I measure my clients. A number of them come to me wanting a body like some actor or actress but really it’s how you feel about yourself. It’s one of those things that is very individual. A realistic way you could plan is to lose about a pound or 2.2 kilos a week. It is also about incorporating very gradual things that you will fit into your lifestyle.
Pavitra: With a mostly vegetarian population in India, what kind of diet would you suggest?
Ramona: I have been trying to adapt a lot of the vegetarian diet into the 3-2-1 programme. Since protein is very important in building muscle tissue, you should at least try to get some protein in like tofu, soya, the simplest would be to combine rice and daal because that creates a complete protein. For me the focus is on the portion sizes of the Indian diet. For example, maybe you could have half the amount of rice some of the times during the day, then you can start cutting down on the calories, which translates to being able to lose weight (2.2 kilos per week) per week. It’s just calorie counting. There are definitely simple ways to modify your diet, but do not try to do something that’s too strict, because that is always difficult to follow. The secret would be to have some kind of protein for breakfast because that’s the best meal of the day, where you can eat as much as you want and gradually reduce your intake. It’s finally just about burning what you eat to maintain your body.