The good news about being ‘model fit’ is that it’s a level playing field. Whether you’re naturally thin, or have to put in a couple of hours a week at the gym, everyone needs to do some form of exercise. Even the slimmest models need – and do – exercise, not as weight control, but to keep muscle tone at a premium.
Unworked muscles even on a slim body tend to show up on camera, especially so in sportswear / lingerie shoots. A well-toned body always looks better on camera regardless of its size or shape. Being fit also has the advantage of boosting stamina. Long hours, tough conditions and poses that would challenge a contortionist all take their toll. A good fitness routine, combining muscle toning with cardiovascular work is a win-win for most bodies.
To gym or not to gym
However, if you’re not someone for whom gym is a verb, there are alternatives that really work.
You may consider a pool as somewhere to soak up some sun, but swimming is a perfect means of working out if an hour on the treadmill fills you with horror. Swimming is excellent at building stamina and core strength, and forget the gym posers - the only person you’re competing against is yourself. There’s no excess pressure put on your joints, so injuries are put at a minimum.
However, if you consider yourself a fully-fledged gym bunny, there is still the matter of how much is too much? A lot of models are concerned with crossing the line from muscle tone to muscle definition. It’s a bit of an exercise myth that non-professional weight lifting can build muscles like Popeye. Unless you’re consistently lifting weights that are far too heavy for you (and your back will let you know if they are!), it’s impossible to build huge muscles from just doing a few reps each week.
Body and Mind
If you’re still worried about building bulk, one of the best ways to develop long, lean muscles (especially good for fashion and commercial modelling), is to try Pilates or Yoga.
Pilates often gets left in the shade by its older cousin, but if you’re the restless type and find yoga (even at its most active) a bit too much om and not enough sweat, Pilates could be just right for you.
Developed in the 1920’s, Pilates concentrates on developing the core muscles in your abdomen and back. Pilates works on core strength and realigning your neck, back and shoulders so your posture becomes text-book perfect. If done regularly over a period of time, even after a few weeks, you will notice your newly-worked core muscles will make you stand a little straighter. Your shoulders will be more evenly aligned, and you will find yourself becoming more flexible.
Done in both floor and standing exercises, Pilates can be challenging to start off with, but the benefits of evenly stretched and conditioned muscles will persuade you to carry on.
A much older practice, and beloved by celebrities, yoga has no problems in getting the word out about its numerous benefits. Generally viewed as a holistic form of exercise, yoga is a workout for the body and the mind. If you’re someone who could use some inner calm, this may be the option for you.
There are many different types of practice when it comes to yoga. Hatha, the most popular form in the West, combines a series of gentle breathing and stretching exercises with meditation. Ashtanga is a more active kind of yoga, where you move through a progression of postures. This type of yoga is designed to make you sweat, but if you’ve mastered the basics of yoga and really want a challenge, Bikram yoga is the toughest of all. Performed in a specially heated room, this offers a seriously intense workout. Favoured by Madonna, you won’t be surprised that Bikram is for the super-fit yoga addict only. If you want to start off, there are classes running throughout the country. You may be tempted to wing it with a workout DVD, but when learning the basics, working with a qualified instructor is best to ensure you’re getting the most out of it.
Yoga and Pilates remain a favourite with models simply because nothing else builds long, lean muscle quite like it. There is also the added bonus of building core strength which helps create a flawless posture. No matter what the season, or the designer, good posture is an essential for every model. If you think of yourself as a frame for whatever you’re being asked to wear, if the frame is unevenly supported, the clothes just won’t look their best.
Food and modelling have not always had the best relationship, but times have changed, and there’s no excuse for not being well-informed. Good nutrition (like exercise) is simple: get the basics right, and the rest falls into place.
The old idea that models survive on chewing gum and water is clearly ridiculous when you take a look at their schedules. Going from Milan, Paris and New York to London for Fashion Week and plane-hopping for editorials during the rest of the year isn’t suitable work for someone living on fresh air and little else. Common sense tells you it can’t be done. Like professional athletes, models need their bodies to be in peak condition to be able to perform at their best. Surviving on junk food, or at the other extreme, monitoring every mouthful, is not a suitable foundation to build a career on, and be extremely harmful.
The key to maintaining a model-perfect body isn’t an issue of control, it’s about balance. We all know the basics of a good diet: vegetables, fruit, plenty of fibre and a good mix of carbohydrates and protein. Aiming for 5-a-day is a good start, but considering other countries think 8-a-day is a minimum for your daily intake of fruit and veg, don’t feel bad about stocking up on the fresh stuff. Think creatively – a juice blended from vegetables and fruit still counts and can be an effective way of downing your greens if you’re out and about.
Good nutrition is about making consistent choices to eat well, rather than thinking about what’s lowest in calories. If you eat well 98% of the time, the occasional takeaway does absolutely no harm whatsoever. If you tell yourself that certain foods are off limits, those will be the foods you will end up craving. Enjoying the occasional self-indulgence is nothing to shy away from. Build it into your regular diet – schedule regular treats – once it’s on the menu, you will find that cravings take a nose-dive.
But if you find that eating healthily is a bit hit-and-miss, especially when you’re on the move, adding supplements to your diet may be a good idea. A decent multi-vitamin is a perfect all-rounder, filling any gaps in your diet. But if energy’s a problem, and you’re definitely getting in enough carbohydrates (especially rice and pasta), trying some co-enzyme Q10 is an excellent way of maintaining energy levels during the busy times.
The key to being model-perfect is acknowledging that you won’t be perfect all the time. You will miss work-outs, sometimes that bacon bap will take precedence over a bowl of cereal – it’s all part of being human. Once you’ve accepted that getting it right most of the time is better than striving for perfection, failing and embarking on a cycle of starvation and bingeing, the whole business of nutrition becomes that much easier. Being consistent, but realistic, will keep you happy, healthy and sane.