Anna Kaiser’s approach to wellness is one we can get behind.
Whenever we profile someone whose job is literally sweating (or, more accurately, making others sweat), there's always a slight intimidation factor. 'Will they be able to tell I haven't been to the gym since I signed up?' 'Do they know I ditched barre class for the past three weeks straight?' 'Is it just me, or do they have an actual eight pack?' Which is precisely why we appreciate Anna Kaiser's balanced, sane approach to wellness and maintaining that body, as well as those of her clients, who range from Sofia Vergara and Sarah Jessica Parker to Kelly Ripa. For example, an ardent fan of the 80/20 rule, Kaiser preaches sticking to what you know is good for you 80% of the time and leaving the other 20% to the occasional steak, nightly glass of wine and habitual pizza slice. See? Sane. Oh, and she's also staunchly anti-colonic and values sleep over everything. Her sage advice is pretty much a must-read—you might even come out of it and be inspired to actually make your 5:30 spin class. We were.
Her definition of balance:
“Wellness is about balance. Finding balance in your life with work, family, friends, sleep, working out, diet. It’s the 360 approach to who we are and what makes us who we are. I think it’s a constant struggle, but as I get older, I’ve had a lot of trial and error along the way and ways of integrating different tricks into my life. I find that I’m more and more balanced, which is wonderful, but I think the general idea of wellness is incorporating all of it. Nutrition, your personal life and sleep are really important, but I love that it’s not just about fitness or nutrition anymore. It’s really about what makes us who we are on a daily basis.”
What her morning routine looks like:
“I always have a glass of alkaline water when I wake up, or I’ll put lemon in water and have that, regardless of where I am. If I’m working out first thing in the morning, I’ll grab a green tea and go straight to the workout before eating, and then I’ll have breakfast after the workout. If I’m not, I’ll have a piece of Ezekiel bread with almond butter, or I’ll do Ezekiel toast with avocado, coconut oil, some chia seeds on top and sea salt, or I’ll grab a handful of almonds or cashews.
I usually have either a green tea or half-caf coffee halfway through the morning, with a hard-boiled egg or a green apple. We have really beautiful green juices, so if I haven’t had one in the morning, I’ll do one for my mid-morning snack before lunch. I love working out first thing in the morning. It helps get me focused, get my endorphins going. I’m always more energized and ready for the day and more motivated to get things done when I work out first thing.”
What she eats before and after a workout:
“I try not to eat less than 90 minutes before my workout. Then I’ll have a small cup of coffee about 15 to 20 minutes before the workout to rev up my heart rate and metabolism so that I get a better workout. You can also use green tea, or we have a tea at the gym called Aroona, and it just kind of gets your system revved up for the workout.
Then, after the workout, I always eat something within 45 minutes—one of my favorite things is mixing protein and a protein powder with coconut water so you get a little carb, protein and hydration all at once—something that’s really easy for your body to digest. Or I’ll go right to lunch, or I’ll order lunch in, whether it’s sashimi or a salad with chicken or quinoa with mixed vegetables or scallops and carrots. There’s some amazing food in the city now. Fresh & Co is a place that I’ll go a lot, and Dig Inn and Sweetgreen.”
Her struggle with work-life balance:
“I love what I do, which is both a blessing and curse because I could it for 16 to 17 hours a day. I love the people I work with, and they always say when you love what you do, you don’t work a day in your life, which is really true. But I’m also married to an amazing man and I have a wonderful family and group of friends, so I want to make sure I allow myself time to put aside for me.
This year, I’ve tried to say I’m not going to work more than nine hours a day. I cut it off and leave the things that can be left until tomorrow and then have a second part of my day so I can decompress.”
How starting her own business helped her find balance, too:
“In fitness, AKT is really about finding balance for me, because when I was teaching all over the city and going to one place to teach strength and one place to teach cardio and once place to teach flexibility, I couldn’t find the right balance. One year my body was too bulky, another year I was doing too much cardio and was run-down, another year I was doing too much yoga and I wasn’t balanced with the strength and flexibility. I wanted to find a way to create a balanced workout where you get everything.
There’s a different workout everyday, so for instance, when I’m working with Kelly [Ripa] one day, we’ll do dance-based interval training, the next day we’ll do circuit-based interval training, the next day we’ll do a tone class, the last day we’ll do cardio endurance. I feel like I’m very proportionately strong, long and lean, and I’m constantly being challenged both creatively and physically.”
How she still indulges in steak and wine:
“In nutrition, I eat everything. I feel like 80% of the time, I’m really good and then 20% of the time, I allow myself to be a human being. I love ice cream and having a glass of wine at night or having a beautiful steak on the weekend, going to brunch with friends, having a Bloody Mary. And then the other 80% of the time I’m really clean: I have amazing fresh vegetables, lean proteins, no refined carbohydrates, so that I can physically work and be the best that I can be during the work week when it gets a little crazy.”
The wacky wellness gadget she swears by:
“At the end of the day, I need to take a break and find the time to [use] Thync. It actually stimulates your brainwaves so that you feel as though you’ve just had a glass of wine or you feel like you’ve been through a really amazing meditation session. It sends little waves into your brain and you instantly relax. Just 10-15 minutes. It really works. It helps me transition to night; I’ll have a cup of tea and, you know, breathe deeply and get away from every screen. It allows me to decompress and calm my central nervous system.”
The weirdest thing she’s ever tried in the name of wellness:
“Oh, god. At one point, I did a colonic and it was the worst thing in the world. I don’t know how people do that—it was awful! Awful, awful, awful. I also feel a little bit like if you’re healthy and your system is balanced, it’s already balancing itself, so I don’t really understand why you would opt for a colonic. I feel like maybe if you’ve been through a tough period of illness or your body isn’t necessarily functioning, maybe that’s an answer for something, but it’s horrible! [Laughs] I don’t feel like it’s necessarily healthy because it’s emptying your body at an unhealthy pace. I think that your body is going to eliminate as it deems necessary and eating fibre and drinking a lot of water and making sure you get the proper nutrients is the best thing that you can do for yourself. That was something very uncomfortable that I would never do again [laughs].”
Her favorite healthy spots:
“I just discovered Moon Juice in California, and I love it! They have so many interesting ingredients and supplements that I’ve never seen before, and the girls that are behind the counter are so well educated and informed about what everything does for you. They have everything, from crackers and nuts, and all their food is activated, which means it’s in its purest form. All the water they use in their juices or shakes or supplements is alkaline and oxygenated, which I’ve also not seen in other juice companies.
I also love The Little Beet Table in New York. Really healthy, delicious food. They have a bar—some of these health restaurants in New York don’t necessary have a bar or maybe they just have wine, but this is a full-service restaurant. You can go with your friends and eat healthy and not feel like you took them to a restaurant where they can’t drink or indulge the way that they want to.”
“My husband loves the hot chocolate at City Bakery, or I’ll take friends’ kids there and I’ll have a couple sips of it. Very rich, but it’s delicious. I live right down the block from Magnolia Bakery, so when my sister comes to town, we’ll either split a cupcake or I’ll have a couple spoonfuls of their banana pudding because it’s delicious. I love this pizza place around the corner from us—I think it’s the best pizza in New York City. It’s a tiny little place on 71st and Columbus called Little Italy Pizza, and it’s to die for. I don’t know what they put in their sauce, and I don’t know what language they’re speaking—it’s not Italian [laughs]. It’s delicious pizza!”
How she softens the blow of said pizza:
“It’s great to indulge after an intense workout; it’s the best time to go and have an indulgence. Your metabolism is pumping and your body needs all the extra calories to recover, so that’s generally when I’ll go and have some sort of indulgence. It’s balance, you know, so if I’m indulging I make sure I work out before or right afterwards. If I’m going out with friends to dinner, we will order a dessert and split it instead of ordering one on your own and feeling guilty the next day. It’s a really nice, social thing to do. You can have a couple of bites and not feel like you’ve gone overboard, but you’ve kind of given in to your sweet tooth a little bit, satiated your craving for sugar.”
The wellness products she can’t live without:
“I take magnesium every day, which is really important for muscle recovery when you’re really active. Probiotics, I would recommend them for everyone! I take a foam roller with me almost everywhere I go, or a lacrosse ball. It’s really good when you’ve been sitting or you’ve been on a long flight or pre- or post-workout. They have very portable options these days. And Sisley Cleansing Milk, because it’s really important to keep my skin clean without over-drying. It’s hard to find a good facial cleanser, and it’s just always something I have in my bag.”
The one thing that matters more than fitness or nutrition:
“The one thing that I feel like people don’t pay enough attention to is sleep. It’s not just sleeping 7-8 hours a night; it’s getting good quality sleep so that you don’t wake up in the middle of the night. A lot of that has to do with how you prepare for sleep. Making sure that you’re not revving yourself up or looking at a screen right before you hit the pillow, trying not to eat before bed. It’s equally if not more important than your workout and your nutrition. If you’re not sleeping, it doesn’t matter what you’re eating or how much you’re working out, you’re not going to see the results you want and you’re going to run your body down.”
The biggest mistake people make when they try to get healthy:
“The thing that I find most people do when they want to adopt a healthier lifestyle is to do five things at once. They cut out all sugar and all bread and they’re going to work out four days a week…the list goes on. And then they crash two weeks later. Surrounding yourself with an amazing support system is important, and hanging out with friends who are also leading a healthy a lifestyle and encouraging other people that you’re with to do it with you! I think that, on a day-to-day basis, I’m really lucky to have an incredible support system, and that allows me to do what I can do.”
The one piece of advice she’d give to anyone looking to be healthier:
“Don’t go all in. If you haven’t been working out, don’t all of a sudden decide you’re going to do 5 or 6 days a week. If you haven’t been necessarily leading a healthy lifestyle, choose one thing that you’re going to do differently. Maybe it’s cutting out sugar or maybe it’s only having one glass of wine at night, or maybe it’s putting greens into one meal a day. Again, balance!”