I Worked Out With Tracy Anderson — & Lived To Interview Her

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tracy-2Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images for POM
I did not want to work out with Tracy Anderson. When I was invited to attend a workout with her last Friday morning, I frantically checked my calendar for some crucial crack-of-dawn meeting that would prevent me from saying yes. I want to be the kind of person who wants to go to an early morning, hard-core, fancy-lady workout. But, really I'm the kind of person who can barely handle NPR before 8 a.m., let alone a sports bra. When I called over my computer to announce the invite to fellow editors, I expected full support of my decision to turn down the invite and eat a bagel instead. Next time, I'll know to keep my mouth shut. Two days later, thanks to the enduring power of peer pressure, I was headed to Midtown at 7:30 a.m. in my fanciest workout pants.

It's not so much that I'm scared of a hard workout. I do Vinyasa yoga three to four times a week (okay, one to four), and that's not for wimps. No, I was officially scared of Tracy. Not only is she the woman who whipped Gwyneth Paltrow's butt into shape; she's the woman who thought Gwyneth Paltrow's butt needed shaping in the first place. We all remember this infamous quote from Tracy's first meeting with GP: "Her butt was long and lifeless, and she held on to the weight in her outer thighs." Suffice it to say that my outer thighs could obscure Gwyneth Paltrow's with the might of a solar eclipse.

Thank God for flight delays. Upon arriving at Le Parker Meridian's Gravity Gym, bright and (very) early, the POM Wonderful team hosting this event informed me that Tracy hadn't yet landed and was sending a deputy to lead us through the workout before her arrival. I attempted a sad face and skipped off to the gym. I might blunder through this ass-kicking workout, but at least Tracy wouldn't be meeting up for macrobiotic cocktails with Gwyn to talk about the Worst, Most Horrible Outer Thighs later.

The Tracy Anderson Method is challenging, to be sure. It involves constant movement, pushes your muscles to the burning brink, and leaves you wrung out and dripping with sweat. And, I kind of really dug it. While the sequences are tough, there's nothing complicated about the moves. There's no instruction-shouting over the thumping music, so it's up to you to pay attention to the leader and follow their moves. That adds an extra element of difficulty, which I found tricky at first — but, in the end, it kept me more engaged. I didn't have the chance to watch the clock, let alone take a moment to fantasize about all the sleep and bagels I could be having. Additionally, this is a prop-free workout. A lot of it involves reaching your arms and legs out at different angles. That means it's pretty much up to you how hard you're going to make this workout. Are you going to reach, or are you going to reach?

An hour after her workout kicked my butt, I finally met the woman herself. (Please note, I had showered and safely hidden my Most Horrible Outer Thighs in a full-skirted dress.) The R29 ladies and I had discussed this Q&A well in advance, as we all had questions for Tracy. Mine were something along the lines of "Can I see your butt?" But, thankfully, I work with grown-ups who were able to help me expand on this list. I took a few deep breaths before sitting down with Tracy, steeled myself for some brutal remarks — had her deputy told her about my thighs?! — and then immediately felt like an idiot. Tracy Anderson, as it turns out, is not an evil, butt-sculpting Nazi. She's a pretty nice lady, and she wants us all to take a chill pill. Check out our Q&A here, and give the Method a shot. And then, have a bagel.

tracy-3Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images for POM

What’s the waste-of-time exercise everyone needs to stop?
“I really wish that women would stop spinning. I say that with such conviction because almost every day in my office, I see women crying and unhappy because they can't fit into their jeans, because of the thigh bulking. There are some women who don’t have the genetic capability to build muscle, and they can do something like that without being affected. That’s a very small percentage of the female population, though. Ninety-eight percent of women will bulk completely. The problem with it is that it doesn’t show right away. You may lose a little bit of weight at first because it’s an easy calorie burn, but it’s not worth what happens to your muscles.”

Do you think SoulCycle is a cult?
“Well, apart from the fact that they ripped off my bands, I think they make it easy, and they make it look fun. It’s a total play on emotions. But, the women who come to my office after doing SoulCycle for six months aren't thrilled. Not only are they wearing down their joints, but also they’re sitting in a position that’s not getting to the deep abdominal muscles they need to get in to get the stomachs they want. They don’t know what the repercussions of the workout are. It’s tough meeting women who want to look feminine, toned, together, and connected to their bodies — but go and do something that’s the opposite of that."

Is there one exercise or fitness habit you wish everybody would do every day?
“I wish people would be consistent. I wish people would understand what they want to achieve so they’re proud of themselves when they do accomplish it. I wish people would look in the mirror after setting a goal, accomplishing said goal, and feel good. If they want to bulk up, great; go do the things to bulk up, and then proudly look at yourself in the mirror. We’re all individuals, and we all deserve to look the way we want to look.

We have a lot more power in ourselves to change our musculature structure. To say you’re genetically like this or that doesn’t fly. Yes, we are given certain genetics, but we have so much ability to achieve our best selves. If women want to look feminine or feel like they’re their most proportioned self, they need to follow a personal program to get there. They need to be wary of the fitness trends that have limited content, because your muscles get stupid fast and smart fast. People trend hop because they see results fast; their bodies react, and then suddenly, they plateau. They blame themselves rather than the fitness program, and then go to the next thing. All of those different trends yield different results. It really takes sticking to the same end goal and using enough content so your body doesn’t plateau.”

What’s a good first step for somebody who has never really tackled their fitness before?
“I think it’s really important for people to be aware of their long-term goal, but detaching from vanity is really important. I don’t think anybody should be emulating someone, or trying to get ‘bikini ready in five days.’ It should come from the inside; it should come from the body and the urge to balance it. I think it should come from a desire to be proud of yourself every day and getting a workout in while trying to achieve all these other things in life. I think it should be that simple.

Choose the expert you want to listen to. If Tracy says to work out for at least 30 minutes, five days a week, then be proud of those 30 minutes you spend on each of those days. If you just focus on the pride of doing something you believe is going to support the outcome you want day-by-day, you’ll see a transformation a year out. You won't cut yourself off at the knees. If people don’t see things as quickly as they want to see them, they bolt and think it’s not working. People get so hard on themselves, and that’s not okay.

I just wrapped filming a digital series with Gwyneth Paltrow for AOL about this very question. We focus on women who have overcome their bodies; women who have gone through really tragic situations in their life with self-medication (over-eating, over-drinking, etc.). Some weren’t supposed to survive, some lost children, but they all learned to connect with their bodies. When you do that, all these things happen. One woman lost her son who loved Kempo karate, so she started to practice it. Her body began to transform, but the key here is that she wasn’t doing it because she was attached to a vanity-driven goal. She used the grieving energy and put it to something else. You have to understand that you are how you move, but you also have to understand that you have to move in the first place.”

So, it’s truly a lifestyle change?
“It’s exactly that! That word is so overused, and it’s broad — but it’s so important.”

Is that something you try to instill in your clients?
“Absolutely. It’s actually why I don’t do one-on-ones anymore. The message is so important to get out to people at every price point, to make accessible at every level. It’s really important if we’re going to change. I’m a mother of two kids. I don’t want my son looking at women in an objectifying way. I don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking that she’s going to exercise to fit into her skinny jeans. That thinking is creating completely underdeveloped people.

For so many years, I was thrown under by the press as the 'Teeny, Tiny Body-Maker,' and nothing could be further from the truth. When I say that I want to make everyone their most proportioned self, it’s a gift. It’s not me saying that I think everyone should be this, this, or this. It’s the opposite, actually. I have a big issue with the fashion industry because they only showcase women who are 5’10” and weigh close to nothing. Why would we do this to ourselves? Every woman, every shape, and every size is beautiful. Why not show what’s possible for every shape?”

tracy-4Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images for POM
Do you ever have days where you just don’t want to get out of bed and work out?
“I am a working mother of a teenager and a 15-month-old. I promise you — I have those days.”

What gets you out of bed on those days?
“I really believe that actions speak louder than words — it’s that simple. If you lead by example, there’s no confusion. Kids are really in tune with this. They’ll call you out when you don’t do what you said you were going to do. Then they start to disbelieve what you say. They’ll be like: ‘The next time you tell me the sun is yellow, I won’t believe you. When you tell me to do this, I’m going to do the opposite.’

My brother, who’s a very smart guy working at Apple, got lectured by my dad one day about smoking at the age of nine. My brother told my dad, ‘Well, you smoke!’ and my dad just told him to not. He then told my dad that he was going to smoke because he wants to be like his dad. That was the day my dad quit smoking.”

What’s your bored, eating-in-front-of-Netflix snack?
“Oh, a platter of cheeses. I love popcorn whenever I’m watching any kind of movie. Cheese and chocolate, though, are my vices. I eat a Green & Black's chocolate bar (a big one!) every single day. But if I was watching Netflix and I could only have one thing, it’d be French fries.”

And, what’s next on your Netflix queue?
“I never have time to watch anything. I love Girls, and I really love Eastbound & Down. I really love that show. I have a weird crush on that guy. I’ve never done drugs. I mean I drink wine, but I’m totally against that whole scene. The show is perfect, though, because it doesn’t glorify it. I think Danny McBride is hot for some reason! I get so mesmerized.”

Lindsay Lohan is going to be on it this season.
“Oh, well then, I won’t be watching it. We’ll stick with Girls.”