Some celebrity trainers have their own fitness DVDs, clothing collections and have reached a level of fame almost equivalent to their clients. Then there are the ones who are cherished because they are still Hollywood's best-kept secret.
One of these hidden gems is Nonna Gleyzer. Although the self-described "body stylist" has been working with A-listers for over two decades, she rarely gives interviews and never name drops.
So we'll do it for her: Madonna, Gisele Bundchen, Natalie Portman and Stacy Keibler are just a few of the bodies she has helped sculpt.
When we met up with the former Ukrainian rhythmic gymnastic at her unlisted private Pilates studio in West Hollywood, we couldn't wait to get the scoop on her highly sought-after method. Plus, we shamelessly wanted a breakdown of Gisele's ab routine!
First off, can you share a little bit about your background? How did you get into Pilates training?
I got into rhythmic gymnastics when I was 6, so I was doing it for 16 years in the Ukraine and then at age 18 I immigrated to the U.S. Being gymnast required me to have a lot of flexibility, a lot of repetitive motion. The first time I got injured, I was 10 years old I got a herniated disc. At age 16, I remember I was in a competition and my back went into spasm and I pretty much had to end my professional career.
At the time it was kind of like a wakeup call that I needed to find a profession that would help me to keep my body healthy and strong. It was very important for me to stay in shape, yet stop injuring myself, even rehabilitate myself. A friend of mine recommended that I do Pilates.
The second I saw the equipment and the moves I fell in love. I enrolled in a program with Romana Kryzanowska. She was the No. 1 protégé of Joe Pilates. I got certified as a fitness instructor yet I learned a lot of physical therapy and rehab and preventive injury kind of work.
How did you start working with celebrities?
I was honored to work with Madonna while she was getting ready for her world tour back in 2006—she was my first major client. Working with her was pretty inspiring because she was a dancer, so while I was doing the classic Pilates moves, she was in front of me creating different moves. She was the one who inspired me to actually add a little flavor to the moves. You know, do little pulses, hold the position a little longer. She added more into the workout, and she was basically my inspiration, my muse to do something different. I never really saw myself in Hollywood, but you know somehow that energy came into my life and I'm very grateful it did.
After that you added a lot more celebs via word of mouth including Gisele Bündchen, right?
I started training Gisele while she was pregnant and then we got back to training about a month weeks after she had her second baby. She works very hard, she's very focused, she's an athlete. She's incredible; we create a lot of abdominal moves and a lot of oblique moves.
Gisele was also your first brush with the media, right?
Yes, basically at the time some magazine ran photos of her on vacation in a bikini with the false story that she had a tummy tuck. Which is obviously not true she has absolutely no plastic surgery, she just trains hard. So I saw it and I just started laughing because no one knew that I had been working with her the whole time!
That's almost a compliment to you though, right? Your method is so good it's almost unbelievable!
It's my method and also what a hard worker she is.
Speaking of your method, how is it different from other fitness routines?
My work is about getting you in shape and making you look good yet providing rehab for the injuries. If I see somebody out of alignment—because I've had a lot of chiropractic work, through all these adjustments I've learned a lot about alignment and shape and why alignment is important. So I actually make sure my clients are perfectly aligned. I love to create a balance in the body. They do a lot of training, they'll work over-train a certain group of muscles but they'll ignore another group of muscles and for that reason people get a lot of aches and pains. You know they throw the knees out, the back, the neck for me my workouts are very balanced. I believe in harmony. And I believe in dynamics so everything works evenly in the body. I work pretty much every group of muscles from the top of your neck all the way to your toes.
You usually only recommend only two of your 50-minute sessions a week for clients, what do you suggests they do the other days?
I'm a huge fan of swimming. A) It has no impact on the joints B) It's a major cardio and C) you're involving the whole body. Swimming is like Pilates. It's a whole body workout and I like that. When you do one move you use the whole body nothing gets ignored and nothing gets overworked. I also love jump roping.
What's a jump rump routine that you'd recommend?
I like to jump rope between the moves, for example, I do like footwork in Pilates, but before that I do 100 jumps then I go back to my abdominals then I do another 100 jumps. And then I do another move like chest expansion then I do another 100 jumps.
Can you share your diet philosophy?
Yes, I don't believe in any specific diet. I don't believe in processed food and I don't like packaged food. I tell my clients not to drink soda and to try to cut sugar as much as you can, and if you have sugar try to have it in the morning because that's when you need energy that's when you have all day to burn it. I do tell my clients to try to cut your carbs at the end of the day. Basically if you're trying to lose the weight, I encourage my clients to have protein and vegetables for dinner and no sugar, no carbs because No. 1 it turns into fat and you don't need energy before you go to bed. It's going to actually give you a better deeper sleep because you don't have sugar in your body.
I also love greens, when I look at the plate I like to see different colors on the plate: red, orange, green. I love vegetables and I eat lots of them. I love to have cooked vegetables because it's a lot easier on the digestive system. I like proteins, fish and meat—I do eat red meat usually twice a week.
Lastly, I really like maple water because it's incredibly hydrating for the body, it has really good probiotics and it's healthy for you digestive system. It has as much electrolytes as coconut water but half the sugar.
What diet trends do you think are dangerous?
I think all of them are sort of dangerous. With the Atkins diet people would not have any carbs in the diet, but you need sugar for your brain. That's why so many people get depressed and have no energy. Your brain actually gets stimulated and works because of the sugar, but again, the question is: what kind of sugar? I'm not encouraging having a cupcake a day. I'm talking about having beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams; that's the kind of sugar. If you have a little bread, maybe try to have gluten-free bread.
What are your top four moves for clients?
1. Chest Expansion on the Reformer: This is like bye-bye to the batwings! It's incredible for your triceps also it's a fantastic move for your abdominal because in order to hold this position and do it against a spring you really have to use your abs. It also gives you a beautiful stretch for your quads. We usually do three to five repetitions.
2. The Teaser: You sit on the edge of the box and you have to roll up and hold the position and lower your arms up and down three times and then you roll down. This move is fantastic for your lower abs and is great for the upper body.
3. Leg Springs on a Cadillac: This move is fanatics to lift your glutes and keep your booty in shape. It gives you a great hamstring stretch, and also is great for toning your hamstrings—your hamstrings is the muscle that keeps you up. Also the leg circles are great for putting up your hip flexors and also toning your inner thighs.
4. Arms Springs on the Cadillac: this move is for your stomach and for your triceps. Again it's a great triceps exercise. I'm a big believer in toning women's triceps because if you have toned triceps your arms look thin, toned and very natural. I do a little bit of biceps but building up the biceps actually makes the arm look fatter and bigger and the triceps actually when they're toned just make the arm look thinner.