David Kirsch wants you to set realistic goals.
If you amass David Kirsch’s client dossier, it reads much like a “best of” list. He’s been at it for longer than most of us could say “squat” and credits fit-as-hell famous faces (and bodies) like Jennifer Lopez, Kate Upton, and Heidi Klum as his longtime friends and workout partners. But if you’re wondering how Kirsch has been able to promise such consistent, no-BS results for almost three decades (and many a fad-diet and tried-and-failed fitness trend) it’s made abundantly clear when you sit down and chat. You see, he’s not one for extremes, and believes in a 360-degree approach to wellness: mind and body. Here we talk to the fitness expert about setting realistic goals, why empowerment is more important than extremes, and the two things he absolutely thinks are stonewalling your progress.
What “wellness” means to him:
“Wellness is more than just physical, it’s both mind and body. It’s also how you live, how you eat, the relationships you have, the movements you take every day. How you take care of your mind, your body, and your soul.”
What he always tries to remind his clients (celeb or otherwise):
“Empowerment. Often training, whether you’re a celebrity or not, can be incredibly daunting, overwhelming, and confusing—there’s just so much information. Some of it is conflicting and some of it is good for the moment and then it’s not so good. It’s about identifying who you are, what your goals are, and how do we go about accomplishing those goals.”
Not believing in a perfect formula:
“People love numbers: how much body fat do I have, how much weight do I need to lose? I don’t like to quantify it in a number. For me, it’s how do you feel inside your body? How do you feel in your clothes? It also changes as we get older. What applies when we’re younger maybe doesn’t so much when we get a little bit older. In our 20s we can do anything! Eat anything, drink cocktails, get no sleep, and then the 30s hit. And then the 40s and the 50s. So it changes depending on our stage of life, depending on our lifestyle.”
Why eating well is important:
“I can say that for myself, personally, and for my clients, as we get older, diet becomes so much a part of overall wellness. Both from an energy, mood, and physical appearance. The cleaner we eat, the healthier and the more energetic we feel. I think getting older, I get wiser, I try to teach my clients more about the relationship of inner body, the things that are really bad [for us]. Sugars, alcohol, and refined carbs are things that we want to try to stay away from. When you connect your mind to your belly, it’s something that’s very basic.”
The two things he thinks you should avoid:
“The typical energy robber is sugar. It’s awful. And I don’t mean sugar that you get in natural food, in fruit and things like that. Processed sugar—there’s nothing good about it. It’s a huge, huge industry and it’s poison. They have done clinical studies on what it does to your brain and it’s highly addictive—terrible. Alcohol: a glass of red wine every now and again may or may not be unhealthy, but excessive drinking is going to affect your body, it’s going to affect the quality of your sleep, it’s going to affect your blood sugar levels and the food you eat, both when you’re drunk and the binging the next day.
How his clients, like J.Lo, work out on the road:
“The workout[s] that we gift are all workouts that are done without machines and can be done anywhere. I don’t have the head for more than 45 minutes of workout, so I’ll do a really compacted express circuit workout, full body—legs, upper body, can be push-ups, can be squats, it can be burpees, it can be boxing, it can be jump rope—any of those things, and it can be for as little as five minutes to 45 minutes depending on [how much time you have].”
The key to success:
“Making [a workout program] doable. You want to make someone feel that they’ve accomplished something. I don’t want to defeat people. I think often trainers come up with things that are unnecessarily difficult. A cross between fitness and cirque de soleil and I don’t know what. There may be some benefit, but to me, there’s a cost/benefit analysis. How much are we making the client feel like a loser because they can’t do this particular thing? [I rather] make them feel good, strong, and healthy, and feeling accomplished is a very, very powerful tool.”
If he could only do one exercise, it would be…:
“A combination of a push-up and a plank. Do a set of push-ups and then hold a plank, and then repeat it, so you’re working your entire body. Maybe not your legs or your butt, but you’re working your core, your arms, your chest, your back, your heart.”
How he finds his balance:
“I meditate—I do my own form of meditation. It’s a quiet room and it’s generally dark and I don’t have any devices in my hand, which is rare, and I collect myself. And movement is very important for me. Whether it’s walking or my bicycle ride from Tribeca to the office in Chelsea every morning, that’s my meditation and I’m ready to tackle the day. Diet has never been an issue for me. It’s never been about losing weight, my weight is the same. But my fruit intake will affect my mood, it will affect my energy level, so if I have a drink or I eat badly, I don’t wake up feeling fat, but I don’t feel as clean and as energetic.”
His advice for living a healthier life:
“It’s like approaching a pool having not gone in for a while. You’re going to put your toe in the water, you’re going to test it and see what it feels like. Be realistic and make a list. Be honest with yourself—what do you need to change? What you put down on paper, a mini contract to yourself [is a great start]. I will start eating healthier by doing xyz, I will start moving my body, taking a walk at lunch time, getting on the bicycle, going to the gym, or doing two or three of the exercises David talks about. And I will find time to take care of my mind, my body, and my soul. Really take care of it. Not in a superficial way, but in a very real way so that you’re most productive and most happy and you’re able to be there for everybody else, you need to take care of yourself.”