Ramona Braganza is a beautiful person inside and out. She’s known for training the likes of Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, and Ashlee Simpson (to name a few), and when you meet her, it’s obvious why anyone (famous or not) would be blessed to have this woman as a fitness coach. She is kind, approachable, and her training method is simple yet effective. I’m convinced it is as much her warm demeanor as it is her fitness program that have attracted Hollywood clients and regular folks alike, through her DVD’s and book.
When Ramona agreed to sit down with me to chat about fitness, I was super excited. A fellow Canadian by birth, her impressive resume includes years of training as a gymnast, dancing for the Oakland Raiders, and competing as a fitness model. This is all in addition to years of training in Hollywood, where she racked up an impressive roster of famous clients. We met in Union Square a few weeks ago when I was New York, where Ramona is living while she trains actor Michael Weatherly (formerly of NCIS) for his role on the CBS TV show Bull, which began airing this month. Read on to learn more about Ramona’s fitness philosophy, her balanced approached to healthy living, and her 3-2-1 Training Method.
Ramona, can you tell me about your background and how this has shaped your fitness and nutrition philosophy?
Ramona Braganza: I was a gymnast throughout my childhood and teens. It gave me an identity, and shaped my personality by teaching me about commitment, focus, and how to deal with rejection. It’s a sport that builds character, and because it’s an individual sport it teaches you to rely on yourself. If you mess up, it’s all you. It was this experience that gave me the courage to leave my small town in Canada and pursue my dreams in the States.
At one point in my career when I was cheering for the Oakland Raiders, I needed to lose some weight. I hired a trainer, and learned all about eating right to compliment exercise. This lead me to compete in fitness contests, where I witnessed the incredible ways that my body reacted to nutrition. This experience taught me that eating right needs to be a way of life, and that having a goal for getting in shape, like a fitness contest, can be a great motivator.
Can you tell me a little more about your 3-2-1 Training Method, and what the “3-2-1” stands for?
RB: While I was working with Jessica Alba, I decided to put together a book on my training routine and that also featured my nutrition advice. It was meant to serve guide for women who wanted to go to the gym, but weren’t sure what to do. I started to think about my fitness philosophy, and and I realized that my workout program had 3 components of cardio, 2 of circuit training and a focus on core at the end…3-2-1. I also like the connotation of 3-2-1, because it’s like saying ‘ready, set, go’! The concept of being ready mentally is a huge piece of the program, similar to the mental preparation for a race. This emotional commitment is essential before you ‘go’.
My program is also about encouraging women to accept the changes in their bodies over time, and to take a healthy approach to aging. I believe it’s about moderation, staying in a healthy weight range, and coaching them to accept themselves.
I love that – it seems approachable, but effective. Can you tell me about your upcoming book and what it will focus on?
RB: The book is about banishing the baby bulge. The concept began during my time working with Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, and Ashlee Simpson to help them shape up after having babies. I started to get a lot of questions from the press about the routine I’d used, because the results were great. I started by filming a DVD, because there was clearly a need for new moms who don’t have a lot of time, but who wanted to get back into shape.
The book will focus on the exact program that I used to help Ashlee Simpson lose 50 pounds post-baby, including a program from the chef who created her meal plan. It’s meant to target new moms who don’t have a lot of time. The program will start slowly and have new mom’s work their way up to longer training times, which is more realistic due to frequent feeding and being up multiple times in the night.
One of the big components of the book is about the importance of having a support system. It’s critical for new moms to have at least one person in their lives to help them through the 12 week program. This person will be there to give them the space they need to workout and eat healthily. For Ashlee, it was either her husband or her best friend. He’d take the baby while she worked out, and even make her a shake afterward. It seems as if we have gotten away from having a community of helpers when raising a child these days. The good thing is that men are stepping into this role more and more now, and it makes a big difference to moms when caring for a baby is a group effort. I wanted to emphasize the importance of that to succeed in shaping up, and that it’s critical to ask for help if you have it available to you.
If I only had a short period of time to shape up, I would probably be worried about falling off the wagon. Are there any tricks you use to motivate your clients?
RB: It’s helpful when you know that you have to be in a tight fitting outfit by a certain date, and to try it on long before the camera starts to roll. This way, there is no denying when you have work to do. Whether it’s skinny jeans or short shorts that you want to fit back into, I recommend hanging that item up in plain sight and trying it on once a week. At first, you might struggle to get it on, but then you will start to see changes over time. I also like wearing a heart rate monitor or step counter. If you know how many steps equates to losing one pound, it’s motivating to see them rack up. I recommend using motivators like these, that you can visually and emotionally relate to.
There are a lot of people who go into personal training but fail to make a living at it. What do you think it takes to become a successful trainer?
RB: I believe that becoming a successful trainer is something that comes with time and experience. You can’t just wake up one day and decide you’re going to become a celebrity trainer. You have to build clientele, know what they want, and help them achieve results. It’s an organic process and you have to prove yourself; you have to have that something people want to pay for.
I love to eat healthy complex carbs, but I read so many studies that tout the benefits of a higher fat, low carb diet. How do you feel about that sort of diet?
RB: I think healthy carbs are great, but I recommend having them earlier in the day. Our society is all about having big dinners out, with burgers, pizzas and heavy meals later in the evening. It’s okay to treat yourself, but I recommend doing that only a few nights a week. The rest of the time, cook at home and eat clean. A healthy eating day might consist of oatmeal for breakfast, but dinner would be on the lower carb side with salmon and a big salad.
If you could give your 30 year old self advice on life, what would it be?
RB: I would give myself a pat on the back for being ahead of the curve when it came to fitness and nutrition, but tell myself to take the pressure off of myself for the things I couldn’t control. I had some hangups when it came to eating and workouts; I was a perfectionist and very competitive. I would tell myself to embrace my differences, and that it was okay that I wasn’t a tall, skinny blond girl. I would also encourage myself to go out into the world and try new things, to seek out more adventure.
That’s great advice. I’ve noticed more of an emphasis on athletic looking models in magazines and advertisements lately. Do you think that society has come to accept more of an “athletic look” in the media, and that this is helpful for women’s body image?
RB: I think the ideal body image has switched some, but there is still an emphasis on beauty rather than strength. The selfie culture is fundamentally narcissistic, and there is a lot of pressure to document your life in photos. I think this can be lonely and isolating for people. We need to remember that everyone has flaws, and that they are beautiful. We need to accept what makes us unique!
Thank you so much for your time Ramona, this was a real treat for me and your advice was fantastic.