Empowering through fitness

Jillian Michaels has a simple fitness motto: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Anyone who has followed her workout videos can relate: she’s encouraging, but firm, and you’ll do those last few jumping jacks just so you won’t disappoint her.

The 43-year-old from California who was on a Greatist’s annual list of 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness for 2017, and was called the “tough trainer with a softer side”. She agrees that it’s an apt description, and calls it “an honour” to make it onto the list. In a world where all you need is an Instagram account to be famous, the 43-year-old, who has been in the fitness industry for over two decades, has held her own.

Starting young

“I was always a chubby kid, and my mom got me into martial arts when I was 13. Through this training I lost weight, and found my power — emotionally and physically. I began to appreciate that fitness is transcendent: When we feel empowered physically, we are empowered in all facets of our lives,” she says.

Adding that she has been training in all modalities of fitness for roughly 25 years now, Michaels says that she has been fortunate enough to work with those she believes to be the best in their field, be it a sports medicine doctor, biochemist, yogi, or MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter. “This has provided me with tremendous inspiration. For me, creating a workout is like creating a song for a musician or a painting for an artist. It’s how I express my craft and it’s a blend of science and passion.”

Calling her workout videos “fast, fun, and most importantly, extremely effective”, she explains that the aim is to build mobility, power, speed, strength, flexibility and agility using a variety of techniques, and training styles like HIIT, plyo, yoga, metabolic circuit training, bodyweight and weight training. With hundreds of workout videos freely available online, every person can choose what they want to pursue: losing a few kilos, toning or sculpting. She says that a lot of research and planning goes into the making of each workout, including sessions and consultations with the best in each training style.

Apart from this, Michaels credits passion, persistence, and patience for her rise in the global fitness industry. Did she think she would reach this position when she started out? “Not at all, but I do believe that when you are authentic and you genuinely love what you do, anything is possible,” she says.

Road to fame

She was one of the original trainers on The Biggest Loser when it aired on American TV in 2004. She featured for several seasons till her departure in 2014. “I hated the title of the show when they asked me to be on it. But I was assured the show was meant to be about helping people get healthy on an international platform. That was huge to me. An international platform provides incredible opportunities to reach more people and get out a message of health, happiness and personal growth,” she says.

These three tenets are top priority for Michaels on a personal level too. And so, family comes first — her day starts with breakfast with her partner Heidi Rhoades, and their two kids, Lukensia (7) and Phoenix (5). “Then I’m off to work, which could encompass anything from being at Apple to work on my new app, or recording my audiobook of Yeah Baby!: The Modern Mama’s Guide to Mastering Pregnancy, Having a Healthy Baby, and Bouncing Back Better Than Ever. I’m home for dinner with the kids, read them a bedtime story, shower, finish any pending work and pass out. Totally boring, I know!”

Her most popular video, the 30 Day Shred, has garnered over 42,338,240 views since it was uploaded in 2011. However, all her full-length workout videos, which were available for free on YouTube, have now been removed. In early May, Michaels won a ruling against Lionsgate, who had featured the videos on their BeFit channel. She argued that the company had not consulted her before posting the videos for free, and that it devalued her work, winning a $5.7 million arbitration ruling.

But with ‘Jillian Michaels The App’, you get her as your personal trainer, along with her DVDs and books. “I can customise any workout and meal plan just for you. It literally lets you have me by your side 24/7, guiding you toward success,” she says. Now, who wouldn’t like that?