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Interview with Celebrity Trainer Ramona Braganza

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A few of Ramona Braganza’s celebrity clients

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Ramona Braganza, Hollywood personal trainer. She developed the fabulous 321 training method. while working with clients on movie sets, where time and equipment were limited. Her unique method, skillfully incorporates three cardio sections, two circuits, and one final attack of the core muscles, the 321 method is interval training that works the whole body in one session. Ramona’s client list includes several  a-listers;  Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, Kate Beckinsale, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper and Ryan Reynolds are just some of the bodies she has helped to sculpt.

Interview with our featured trainer: Ramona Braganza

FG: Hi, Ramona. Thank you so much for taking the time to interview with us. I really appreciate it. I just have some questions that are related to Fitness Galore as well as some reader-informed questions. So thanks again for taking the time to chat with me.RB: I’m happy to do that. I’m always happy to spread the word about fitness. So anything you wanna know, I’m here for that. 

FG: Appreciate it. Let’s just start by saying, you’re fabulous, or better yet,  you’re fit-tab-ulous. You look great! You’re the epitome of fit.  You’re obviously a well known celebrity trainer. We want to find out about the amazing things you do with your clients and tips you have for us. So let’s start with the first question. When and why did you become a personal trainer?

RB: Well, I’ve had kind of a unique journey to my job as a personal trainer, but really what started that was a love for moving around and being active. So I was a gymnast… My first… From the age of four to 18, competitive gymnast, so I really didn’t focus on trying to lose weight or any of that. In fact, it was really just about my athletics. And then from there, I went on to become a Raiders cheerleader with the NFL for 10 years. And during that time, I was also a choreographer and doing some work with the NFL Europe League. And then from there, I was into this contest during that whole time. I had a much harder time kinda staying in shape because I have my gymnastics background, so I had a lot more muscles and a lot of the girls on the team were… I mean they were thin naturally, and I was always trying to get to look similar to them, so I had more of a struggle because of my build. But what it really ended up doing was allowing me to be in fitness contests and doing… Well, there you could do gymnastics and there… it was more about being strong and not being thin. And so I really found that my niche was fitness.

RB: But I didn’t set out to be a trainer. The first job I got was in a health club, Sports Club/LA, and there were a lot of producers and directors that were going in there. I ended up becoming friends with one and that guy actually gave me the chance to work with Jessica Alba in Dark Angel. So… As a gymnastics coach of all things but… [laughter] So what started out as kind of, well, I’ll just use what I naturally do and love, it wasn’t really my goal to be a trainer, but it turned into that more because I was just living what I naturally love to do. And that’s kind of what I preach when other trainers come to me to say, “How do you become a celebrity trainer?” Well, I think they’ll… That job will naturally find you if you love what you’re doing because people recognize that. And then they’re like, “Well, if you can do this with yourself, maybe you’re good to do this with somebody else.” So Jessica was my first client, and it really went from there. I just ended up, I guess word of mouth, getting more clients that I love what I do and I’m glad I can actually have a career in fitness, so…

FG: Well, it’s evident that you love it. I mean your passion comes through with everything, your accomplishments and, obviously, how amazing you look, and just all of the other endeavors that we’re going to touch on, and things that are a work in progress. So, thank you, you look fabulous and we wanna emulate that. Your passion and energy exude in what you do. Do you have a special training style? What methods do you use?

RB: Well, I have… So let’s look at my background which is the gymnastics, and it is the dance with the football and then it’s also the fitness contest which is strength training. And I sort of combined all those elements. The core comes from the gymnastics side of it. Of course, back in those days, you can’t even think of the word “core”. You just did… You walked on the balance beam, you flew through the air, you didn’t go, “Oh, I’m using my core right now.”

RB: The connection with the core, with the mind, is very intrinsic, but now, we have a word for it and we have a way to train it. But it is very important because all movement comes from the core. So that’s a part of my philosophy, but it’s not only that. There’s a cardio element which is, in my world, the dance side or kickboxing. I like both of those, or running or… Just something to burn calories. And then there’s, of course, the strength training which is my fitness competition days, which I’m a firm believer that women should be strong, they should feel strong, they should look strong because as you get older, all that goes away.

RB: So when you’re 60, 70, 80, you better be able to lift your grocery bag or… And as that atrophies, why not have a good base in your 20, 30, 40s, so you don’t have to work so hard later. And that’s a big part of my philosophy. So I call it the 3-2-1: Three cardio, two circuit, one core, that’s my workout. It’s a way to include all of that in an hour workout. It’s the way that I work out my clients. In fact, Jessica Alba and I sort of… The elements of it fell into place in the seven years I was working with Jess on location films. So you don’t need a lot of equipment. You really can get a full-rounded workout wherever you are, if you have 20 minutes or an hour, my work out is the thing that I use so…

FG: I love it. I love your philosophy. Sounds like an amazing workout. Would you recommend something like that for a stay-at-home mom, that’s working… It’s great how you mentioned that you don’t necessarily need a gym to do your specialized workout.

RB: Oh, definitely. Most of the time, I’m working out with clients on the road and we’re in their hotel room or we’re outside or whatever. You do require probably hand weights or something similar. So the fact that you have resistance is important. Because, yes, as much I believe in body weight, there’s a certain amount you can do with muscle fiber tissue without adding resistance, you will see more gain. And then as far as the cardio, there are so many ways to get cardio in without an elliptical or a treadmill. You can jog, dance, jump rope, so many things. So that I include as well in my philosophy, that we can all be creative and find ways to get our heart rate up.

FG: I love that. One quick question, would you recommend… hand weights over resistance bands or use them simultaneously or verses? What are your preferred methods for at home strength training?

RB: Well, yeah, I love the weights idea, the dumbbells. However, if I’m traveling, I’m not gonna bring around a bunch of dumbbells. I’m probably gonna bring something more portable. So I will change my workout depending on the circumstances, but I definitely, if you have a home gym, if I could choose one or the other, I would choose the dumbbells.

FG: Okay. But as far as the effects, do you think the effects are basically the same?

RB: The effects, the same to a point where if I had a client and she’s getting ready for a movie and I only have a month, I’m not gonna use resistance bands. I mean, I’m gonna use dumbbells. So I guess the speed of how quickly you’re gonna get in shape. It also depends where you’re starting from. If you’ve never worked out… I mean there are so many factors that come into play when you talk about equipment. But for me, bare bones and getting results quicker, I use dumbbells.

FG: You’ll use a dumbbell. And any take or any word on the kettlebell, how do you feel about the use of the kettlebell in lieu of dumbbells and/or as a supplemental method of strength training?

RB: Yeah. It’s about the exact thing as a dumbbell. To me, the dumbbell is a shape of something you can hold conveniently for a number of exercises. The kettlebell, a hanging tool, you can still do a lot. You can do probably more full body things with the kettlebell; however, form is really important. And whereas with… They are similar and yet there’s… Other than the swinging that you get from the kettlebell, which you can easily swing a dumbbell.So really, it’s not a whole another world that’s a different workout. It’s just a different style of weight.

FG: And I’m imagining it would probably have to do with your preference too, I guess, what people prefer as well.

RB: Exactly.

FG:  Who are some other celebrity clients that you’ve had the pleasure of working with?

RB: Well, I worked with Halle Berry for quite a while. And I actually worked with Jessica and Halle after they had their first baby. I worked with them before they had the babies, during their pregnancies, and then after their babies. And I adopted the 3-2-1 Training Method workout to accommodate the postpartum new mom, and that’s now the 3-2-1 Baby Bulge Be Gone which is 12-week…

FG: That’s wonderful.

RB:  I’ve also worked with Anne Hathaway, Kate Beckinsale, Eva Mendez, Scarlett Johansson, Amanda Seyfried and then a few men. I worked with Zack Efron. I worked with Ryan Reynolds. I worked with the cast of The A-Team. So as much as I’ve worked with men, women really are my favorite. I love shaping a woman’s body. I love giving them shoulders. The upper body is the weakest part of the female body, and when I start to see their strength improving in the upper body, I’m really happy.

FG: Well, all of your celebrity clients look great. Halle and Jessica resonate obviously. I mean, they’ve had babies and they still look phenomenal. So whatever you do or have done with them is still making an impact. That’s great.

FG: What were their diet program… Were the programs that you set up for the training and diet programs with Halle and Jessica very similar or were they different? I know you have the 3-2-1, was that kind of what you used for both of them? Did you adapt it with their lifestyle?

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RB: Well, with the 3-2-1 Nutrition Plan, it’s my philosophy, my take on eating. It’s not a diet plan. It’s really an idea. It’s obviously understanding the role food plays in our body and then really defining your goal and making sure that… It’s a numbers thing at the end of the day with the calories in, calories out. Sure the quality and quantity, or the quality actually of what you’re eating makes a difference, the times you’re eating it. So it’s all sort of a plan that I have that I hope that my clients are following a similar pattern. They’re not necessarily coming to me and saying, “I’m gonna follow your eating program as far as what the foods are,” because, organically, many of my clients are really aware of food. Like they really know about what to eat, what’s healthy, what’s gonna… They’re not going and buying a croissant and spreading more butter on it and eating it and thinking that they’re gonna lose weight.
RB: …So they know about the salmon and that they know about the fiber and the rice, and they know about the vegetables and fruits. They know about all that. It’s really making sure, most of the time, that when they’re working on a movie or on a set, that they’re getting what they need at the right time, three meals, two snacks, one liter of water a day. And I say one liter of water, but that’s a minimum amount of pure water. They… Most of them drink 2 or 3 liters of water a day. They’re really on top of the eating plan, and if they do ask my opinion on eating, I give them guidelines. Because everybody has favorite foods.. So you can’t really make somebody go, “Make sure you have oatmeal at 7 AM,” because that interrupts their lifestyle.RB: It has to be catered to what you’re comfortable doing, what you’re gonna stick to, and then just make some adjustments.

FG: That’s great. What are some of the most common mistakes that you see clients making?

RB: Well, when the New Year comes around and everybody goes on this crash. Yeah, and we’re all gonna do it all the first week of New Year. And so then what happens is you have this expectation of yourself and of what you’re gonna achieve, and it all comes crashing down by the second week in January.

FG: That’s so true!

RB: So my whole thing is, you can’t go 100% at everything. You almost have to start at what you can manage-ably do. And if it’s two or three times a week and it’s gonna be for half an hour because that’s all you can do as a beginner and fit in time-wise, that’s okay… Because, over time, your body will actually get into the habit of doing it. And when you’re in the habit of something, you’re gonna want more. You’re gonna start craving more. And then suddenly you’ll be on a five days a week, one hour a day at the gym because that’s pretty much what my clients do but not like they do it year-round either. There are times they take time off, but they don’t feel bad about it because they know they need a break as well.

FG: So on an average, for a beginner to intermediate person training or working out, how much time should they spend in the gym, your recommendation? Because sometimes people can go into overkill or over-mode and they’re in there for four or five hours because they wanna see quick, fast results. They’re looking and they’re like, “Wait. I’ve been in this gym like all week and I’ve been here for two or three, four hours at a time and I’m not seeing anything.” What would you recommend for those type of people?

RB: Well, as I said, usually it’s an hour. An hour is probably not for a beginner. Okay, so for a beginner, somebody who is an absolute beginner who hasn’t done any activity, if you even get them to do 20, 25 minutes of a walking program, four days a week, you’re gonna start seeing changes because your body’s not even used to that. Now, for somebody who’s the next level up and they wanna go to a gym and they wanna add three days at the gym, don’t do more than maybe 45 minutes each time. And then for somebody who’s more of an intermediate, then they can add four days at the gym and maybe an hour each time. It should go up incrementally.

FG: So a beginner and an intermediate would not have the same time frame, as far as going into the gym. You’d basically say, “Take some baby steps?”

RB: Yes. ‘Cause everything in life is really about progression and it’s about…You have to give your body time to adjust or you’re gonna push it, it’s gonna get injured. Or maybe you’re gonna run out of energy or maybe you’re just gonna get… you’ve gotta keep a positive attitude. And if you start having a negative experience or feeling anything bad at not making it for an hour, all this pressure, then you’re not gonna wanna go at all. You’re just gonna give it up. So I say, just try to make it easy for yourself. And if you’re spending four hours at the gym and you’re not seeing results, there’s a reason for that, so.

RB: Maybe just go for one hour and give it all you got. With Halle, she likes a half hour workout, but make it hard. So that’s what she does. And we don’t stop for a half hour, your heart rate’s up and you still burn 300 or 400 calories, but you’re not there for four hours, doing nothing.

FG: So it’s about maximizing your time too? You can go in there and have the same results, feel the same after 30 minutes, as you would being there for two or three hours or maybe even better, from what I’m hearing from you, if you maximize that time. I love that motto.

RB: Yes, yes.

FG: What are the most common mistakes you believe a trainer makes?

RB: Well, there’s all kinds of trainers and… there’s all different types of… I’m not the boot camp trainer. I’m definitely a trainer that takes a different approach, trying to be a little kinder, but I can be really firm as well. So even though I get the message across in a different way, I get results. And you really have to find the trainer that is… Fits your personality ’cause not everybody likes that. Some people just wanna be like, “Kill me in the gym,” and…

RB: And they should get that trainer for sure because me, personally, I even sometimes have a trainer.

FG: That’s so interesting. That never really occurred to me that trainers have trainers, but it makes perfectly good sense. What do you personally look for in a trainer?

RB: Well, definitely the personality has to match.

FG: Absolutely.

RB: And then the level of knowledge obviously, but I’m not… When I step in with a trainer and then we’re doing like a cross type session, pretty much I’m just like, “Okay, I just want you to lead the whole thing. Just give me the exercise and I’m gonna do it.” And you know what? Most of the time, I’m getting a really good workout with these people. So I guess the thing is I want a good workout and I do wanna be pushed. I have a competitive nature. So if you have that in you, then you are gonna want it to be a bit harder than what you could do on your own. And I like variety of stuff because pretty much with most people, if I have a client, I know they want variety. I know they wanna be pushed. And I know that the personality has to match. And some days, you have a bad day and so I’ll try to say something to a trainer. I’d say, “You know what? Honestly, today’s not a good day to be doing the overhead squat because my knee’s bothering me.

FG: Right.

RB: I hope that they would respect that and not say, “Well, that’s too bad. We’re gonna push through it.” I mean, that’s not what you want in a trainer.

FG: You’re right. Well, obviously, that’s what’s took you to the top. I mean, you obviously have those special and endearing qualities and your clients are attracted to that. Clients are attracted to that. Do you have any suggestions for people who have difficulty being consistent? I mean, I know that kind of ties in to what we’ve been discussing, but do you have any specific suggestions on how to stay consistent? You can start off.. motivated, like the individuals we mentioned with that getting fit or staying fit New Year’s resolution like we discussed and then they lose steam. What motivators or what suggestions do you have for people trying to stay consistent?

RB: Well, I guess, by having… And everybody should have a goal, but the goals can be really wishy washy or the goals can be very definite where there’s a lot of pressure. So if you think of these actors that I work with, there’s a lot of pressure all the time on them. There’s the paparazzi. Then there’s the magazines. Then there’s the roles they’re playing. So they have almost every three months, they have some kind of deadline. So if you think of your year and you make it like that, into four three months, so three months ’til spring break, three months ’til summer, three months ’til September, and you kind of look and you make those milestones where there’s actually like a bathing suit at the end or there’s something like that, or there’s the holiday, or whatever, a wedding, then you really have something very tangible to work towards. And setting up all kinds of reminders, whether it’s a reminder that you write a journal, or whether it’s clothes that you’re trying on once a week, call it your cat-suit moment ’cause you actually made it from the beginning until the summer. Put it on…

RB: And I don’t really love the scale, but I think it’s more about the size of clothing and, you know, maybe you really have a reason why you’re doing this and you see it in front of you. And then if you have a support system, family, friends, anything to keep you going, and give yourself rewards, whether it’s a massage a week or whatever. I mean, the training time is to get a habit and when you’re in the habit, consistency isn’t a problem.

FG: Right, right. And what do you recommend for people that wanna be consistent? They’ve become hungry for a fit lifestyle, they wanna keep working out, but then their lifestyles are so hectic that you know… Like for instance, I have little ones, and I have good intentions. I’m ready to go to the gym and I’m on my way, and then of my little one gets sick, and I’m not able to go. Do you have recommendations for people who want to stay consistent but their lifestyles don’t necessarily make that the easiest thing to accomplish. Like the actors for instance. I’m sure they might have good intentions, but they may have a busy schedule, what recommendations do you have to accommodate staying fit with a hectic lifestyle?

RB: Well, if you have a seven-day week and an emergency happens on one of the days, you have the next day to do what you were gonna do the day before. So I guess the thing is if you have seven days and you’re not booked to go to the gym for seven days, you’re booked for four days, you have three days to play with. So it doesn’t matter… The consistency is the days per week over a week. And I think if you’re trying to just be, “Okay, every Tuesday, Thursday, whatever, I’m gonna go,” but something happens on Tuesday and then Wednesday comes and you’re, “Well, it’s not Tuesday, so I’m not gonna go ’til next Tuesday.” I mean, you’ve gotta think in your head it doesn’t matter what day. You just have to fit in three days a week or four days a week. You planned on something, some things changed, so the flexibility idea has to be there. And if you can’t do it in the morning, maybe you can do it at night. So there’s a bit of willpower. There’s a bit of sticking to it. There’s a bit of flexibility. But if you really want a goal, you will make it happen.

FG: That’s so true! That’s so true. And these are some of the last questions. These came directly from our readers. So thank you so much for being patient with us. You’re awesome. If you had… what do you recommend eating after a late night workout? Do you have any recommendations if people have to workout in the evening and then they’re like, “I’m hungry. I’m starving. I just worked out, but I’m going to bed and I know I’m not supposed to eat after 7.” Do you have recommendations for that?

RB: Sure. Well, after you workout, it’s really important to get some food in to you. And protein is a way to avoid putting in like a bowl of pasta. A bowl of pasta has a lot of energy, like kilocals energy, and what happens is that energy may not be used up before the time you go to bed and then it just finds a place to deposit on your body. Whereas, protein immediately, along with a little bit of carbs like vegetables, so what happens is that works together to go right into the muscle store that you’ve actually trained and you need to grow that muscle, so this is needed. So you should eat after you work out whether it’s late or not. But what should you eat…

FG: That’s good to know.

RB: Less of the starchy carbs so even though you maybe craving, a bowl of pasta looks way more tasty than a piece of chicken breast or a tuna… You could do a tuna wrapped in lettuce, a tuna wrap or a chicken wrap. And that’s pretty tasty if you put some salsa on it. Yeah, it’s fine to eat and that’ll satisfy the process that’s gonna happen in your body and also make you feel better to go to bed ’cause you don’t wanna go to bed where you’re starving. That doesn’t make sense. So…

FG: I love that you’re saying it’s okay to eat, just eat in moderation, eat something that’s gonna be worthwhile to your body and not defeat the purpose of your workout. That’s the worst thing. It’s like, “I worked out, I feel great, I’m healthy, I’ve detoxed, and now I’m gonna go and eat at McDonalds.” That just seems like an oxymoron. So it’s great that you’re saying, “It’s okay to eat but just make sure you’re consuming the right things.” That’s wonderful.

FG: Any advice on how an individual can boost their energy for a morning workout? They might enjoy working out in the morning or that might be the only time during the day that’s slotted for their workout… From my experience, I love working out in the morning and the mornings work best for me. It just gives me that boost for the day. What do you recommend to get yourself going, if you’re having a slow morning, however?

RB: Well, you could maybe make a small little shake or something, really something that has… So what happens is when you sleep at night, you basically drop your glucose stores, all the sugar stores in your body, they’re gone. So when you wake up, you’re really dragging. So the first thing I would do is drink a big glass of water before you have any coffee or anything. If you can, before you get out of bed, have a glass of water because what that does is starts that… Get all your systems moving around and active and hydrated in your brain and everything so now you’re gonna have a little more energy. And then what I would do is either have something to eat, whether… Even if you’re one of those people that doesn’t like to eat a lot before you go to the gym, even half a banana or just a small shake or piece of a bar or something, just something in your stomach. You shouldn’t eat a ton unless you’ve got an hour and a half to wait for it to be digested. Then you could have oatmeal or something like that. But really the idea is to put something in there and by the time you get to the gym, you’ll have more energy. I’m not against coffee so… But I don’t say have that without the water because you’re just doing the opposite of what you’re supposed to do in the morning, which is hydrate.

FG: Yeah, you’re so right..The caffeine in coffee can be extremely dehydrating. So that’s wonderful that you piggyback that with having the balance, make sure you drink water if you’re drinking caffeinated beverages. What are your thoughts on energy drinks and energy boosts and so forth? Do you recommend them?

RB: I’m not too familiar with them, so I can’t really comment on it. I just really… A lot of the things that come out that are like that, they have a place in many trainers’ work prescriptions. But for me, I just stick with what I know. So there maybe something new out there that’s… But personally, energy drinks aren’t for… There’s a lot of ones that are good and maybe some that are not so good, so I wouldn’t wanna recommend something that I’m not really 100% of…

FG: I appreciate that. Yeah, I’m not into the energy drinks. The caffeine really, honestly for me, and I guess it’s kind of works to my favor, it just doesn’t do anything for me other than make me skittish. So I don’t do the caffeine. I prefer natural energy. I like to try wholesome foods that have more energy and research those kind of things to share with readers.

FG: What is the best way to quickly and safely put on muscle mass?

RB: Well, quickly there’s really… I mean, it’s just really training in a way that… It’s called hypertrophy. Hypertrophy tears the muscle tissue and then rebuilds, and to do that you have to put stress on the muscle. So you actually have to do heavier weights if you’re trying to build muscle mass. And heavier for women can be anything from doing 20 reps with a 5-pound dumbbell, 20 reps with a 20-pound dumbbell. It really depends on you and where you’re starting from. So when I look at my actresses, and they’ve been training with me for over several years, they’re doing 20-pound chest press, but they don’t look big and strong and massive. So having more weight, if you get used to it, you might need to up the weight to really build muscle to shoot… Then you might have to do less reps and more weight if you’re trying to build muscle tissue. And quickly, you could probably do it within a month, see some changes.

FG: Wow, that’s awesome. [chuckle] I like that you said less reps and more weight.

RB: Yeah. ‘Cause then I was trying to build muscle for like fitness competitions, my program is a lot different than the program I used with my actresses where they aren’t necessarily wanting to be bigger muscles, but they do want to look great and be curvy. And so I used more reps with them, 20 reps, but I used slightly less weight than what I would be pressing and lifting and… ‘Cause I’m used to having muscle tone, bigger muscles.

FG: Right. That’s great advice. I mean, I’m thinking of my own strength training when I start to feeling like , this is way too easy now. Then I move up to a significantly heavier weight” And I’m like..”oh, oh” But thinking about doing more reps at a less weight and then still seeing effects is awesome. I love that. Thank you so much for that wonderful option.

RB: Well, that’s all part of my 3-2-1 Training Method Workout which is right now on DVD and on my website, that it’s gonna be out as another app.

FG: That’s a great segue to our last question. What’s next for you? And do you have any new ventures on the horizon? Please tell us more about your new mobile app and other products. How can we get them?

RB: Okay. It’s pretty easy to get my products. They’re all on my website which is ramonabraganza.com. There you’ll find a page for my mobile app and it will have the Apple icon, and you can connect to Apple and pretty much buy it or download it or whatever you wanna do. But it also has the page for the DVDs. I have a nutrition eBook that I plan to offer, put in the nutrition eBook for the new moms program, my Baby Bulge Be Gone. So that’s something that I’ve gotta work on, as well as I got a book coming out currently in India that will be here in North America next year. And it’s just really the idea of being healthy… Looking great, but also being healthy for the long run, and that’s really important as I’m 51 now and I realize the importance of… If you have to start a program at some point and it might as well be before you turn 51.

FG: Wow, you look amazing for 50! So anything that you do and you make available, obviously, people are going to navigate towards it. So I’m so glad to know that this information and these apps are accessible to the public. I will be providing your information to our readers. And I wanna thank you so much, Ramona, for taking the time to talk to me and share wonderful fitness information and tips with our readers. I look forward to speaking with you again soon.

Interview by: Kim Anthony