Victoria’s Secret models might be born beautiful but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have to hone and tone their bodies. Getting the girls runway ready falls to Mary Helen Bowers, the former ballerina who trained Natalie Portman for her role in “Black Swan.” After 10 years at New York City Ballet, the 35-year-old Bowers now works from a studio in the city where she puts models like Alessandra Ambrosio, Lily Aldridge and newbie Gigi Hadid through their plies, with her custom-made Ballet Beautiful method. The discipline, which is now available in 80 countries, mixes the elements of ballet with targeted fitness exercises and stretches that sculpt the physique. But don’t let the high-profile clientele scare you, as the American trainer explains, the workout can be tempered to any ability.
Why is ballet a good workout?
The principle of Ballet Beautiful is infusing classical ballet training with fitness. It’s a program that is low impact, strengthens the body and tones the muscles. It elongates the muscles; it’s great for the posture and keeps you really fit and agile. It can be done from home, or any location really, and has an element of grace, beauty and artistry that you can’t find in another workout. Ultimately, it just gives you a beautiful body shape.
Does it require a lot of flexibility?
No, flexibility is something that is specific to an individual, but there is a lot of stretching involved in the workout. There are many benefits to this method: it helps release tension and stress. The more you stretch, the more flexible you will become, but it’s not a requirement. If you struggle with flexibility, it’s actually a great option because it will really improve this area.
Can everyone become a ballerina?
There is no age limit or barrier. There are different ways to enjoy ballet and incorporate it into your life. This world can seem quite rarefied and feel a bit intimidating but this program takes that pressure off. We are trying to make the workout less tedious and more fun.
Why do models love it so much?
The workout is very portable and when I was originally creating it for myself, I was thinking of a program I could do backstage when I was touring with the company around the world. It’s a workout you can do literally any time, anywhere and you don’t need a lot of equipment. You are sculpting, toning and doing cardio work but that doesn’t require a great amount of space.
Why does it appeal to Victoria’s Secret models?
I guess one of the reasons why is because the workout is so targeted and effective. The Victoria’s Secret Angels are training so hard – they workout like athletes to prepare for that show. They really aren’t cutting any corner – they are eating well, working out, and doing anything to get the ultimate strong and sexy physique.
Who are your best students?
They are all incredible athletes in their own way, but Candice Swanepoel and Lindsay Ellingson did dance when they were younger, so they understand the method in a way that maybe somebody who doesn’t have that much dance experience wouldn’t. It’s fun for me as their trainer but it’s certainly not necessary. Karlie Kloss danced quite seriously until her teenage years, and it’s fun sometimes to train with women who have a more serious background.
How long and how often before you see the results?
Most people see a result in about two to three weeks, if they do three hours a week. It’s really motivating. You see the change, and you are inspired to do more. Some take their workout to five hours a week or up to two hours a day – that’s the level what the Angels do on the run-up to the show. During the year, they are on a lighter schedule, but they maintain and keep in shape so we would do three hours a week.
Do you give them nutritional advice?
There is certainly a lifestyle element attached to the method. It’s about finding a diet that is not a diet per se. You are just eating the right food to nourish your body: vegetables, fresh organic produce, healthy fats and making sure that the carbohydrates you are eating are the right ones. You need food to keep your metabolism in working order, so you are getting the ultimate burn out of your workout. This will improve your strength and give you beautiful hair and skin. I cannot support extreme dieting, fasting or cleansing – they can be short-term fixes, but they really are tough on the body; they can wreck your metabolism and they are just not sustainable or healthy. Our approach is much more balanced, steady, and about creating a healthy lifestyle.