How to keep your fitness simple and an interview with celeb trainer Harley Pasternak

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all of the health and fitness advice out there? Do you ever wish that you knew which was the right plan for you to follow to be your best self? Do you wish that things were just … easier? Me too.

And here’s the deal: there are a lot of fitness, nutrition and overall wellness philosophies out there, and you don’t need to try them all. Some of them are bad. Some of them are good. Some of them are very complicated. And all of them have the best of intentions, but that doesn’t mean they are for you. 

That being said, before I share some of the insight I got from an interview with a fitness expert earlier this week, I want to preface this as a reminder that you don’t have to listen to every expert or social media influencer and take their words as gospel. You don’t have to listen to anyone. You do have to listen to your body and see what works for you and what works for your lifestyle. You do you, people. (But like, keep reading my blog, of course.) 🙂 

Interview with celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak

Earlier this week, I had the awesome opportunity to do a one-on-one interview with celebrity fitness trainer, Harley Pasternak, (while he was eating a Tender Greens salad, by the way). Harley was in San Francisco visiting the Fitbit headquarters, as he’s a long-time Fitbit ambassador. You’ve probably heard his name before and even seen him on The Today Show, Revenge Body, The View, Dr. Oz and many more. Yes, he knows the Kardashians.

Ashley and Harley Pasternak at Fitbit by A Lady Goes West

He’s a big deal in the fitness world, and he helps some of the biggest names in the entertainment world get the perfect bodies. If he can do that, then he must know how to help us regular people, right? (Fun fact: Harley said four of his hardest-working celebrity clients include Adam Levine, Ariana Grande, Common and Jordana Brewster — so cool.)

Harley was definitely a straight shooter with some strong opinions, and I liked that about him. For our interview, I had prepared a set of questions, and I have to thank the ladies of the A Lady Goes West Friends Facebook group for jumping in to come up with some ideas the day of. Here are some of my biggest takeaways …

Invest in dumbbells for your home gym and at-home workouts.

Working out at home is great, and you can do all you need to do at your home, but Harley was adamant that everyone have some way to add resistance to their workouts in order to reach muscles that you can’t really get to with your bodyweight alone. (In fact, he said, unless you’re in prison, you should buy tools for your fitness and invest in yourself.)

He suggests getting some dumbbells that will grow with you. A light set, a heavy set, or maybe some adjustable dumbbells. Craiglist, Ebay, a second-hand store, there should be plenty of ways to get some used dumbbells if you don’t have lot of money to spend. He’s also a big fan of the TRX strap, like this basic set-up, which you can use at your house too. No matter what, invest in your fitness and get some weights for your home.

He also said to get comfy sneakers too, because we all need them to move.

Focus on how to NOT move in your life and improve your sleep.

You guys know how much I love and preach about quality sleep. (And no, with a newborn at home, I’m not getting my high-quality sleep that I need and crave right now, and I miss it dearly.) Well, I was so happy to hear that Harley is totally into sleep and its benefits too. In fact, it wasn’t always on the top of his list for clients to consider, but it is now. He likes to track his sleep cycles on his Fitbit, making sure he gets three quality cycles a night (which can take a different amount of time for everyone, and for him, it takes seven hours), and he wants his clients doing this too.

As a quick reminder: Being able to get restorative sleep each night is a HUGE part of being healthy and fit. Resting well helps your hormones, your brain function, your metabolism, your skin and your physical abilities. Here are some posts I’ve written on how to improve your sleep and sleep environment and why you should improve your sleep.

Harley also suggests that you spend at least ONE hour away from technology each day to unplug and use the dimmer or night-shift on your phone to eliminate harmful blue lights in the evening, which can affect your sleep negatively. Amen to that. These things aren’t about movement at all, yet they will help you to move better throughout the rest of your day.

Harley Pasternak at Fitbit by A Lady Goes West

(Photo credit: Tyler Ford.)

Ladies need to improve their posture and work on their posterior chain.

I asked Harley how he trains his women clients differently than his men, and he said that he actually trains women 90 percent of the time. He avoids a few moves that he doesn’t think help women improve their posture or open up their chest. Posture is a problem for women. A big problem.

He says no crunches (these shorten the torso and pull you forward), no chest presses or chest flyes and no push-ups. Instead of all of these chest-focused pushing moves, he focuses on back work. I love this and tried to do this during my pregnancy actually to counteract the weight in the front. However, I do think there is a place for push-ups for everyone in their routine if they have the right shoulder mobility.

Keep your workouts simple and do resistance training every day.

You don’t always hear advice to do resistance training every day, but Harley suggests focusing on different parts of the body each day, so you aren’t working muscles back to back. And he likes very simple moves. Here are some of his favorite …

  • lunge variations, reverse, side, skater
  • stiff leg deadlift
  • hip thrust/glute bridge
  • lying dumbbell tricep extension
  • dumbbell curl to press
  • TRX strap row
  • spider plank
  • twist plank
  • supermans

He says you can focus on one upper-body move and one lower-body move each day for five minutes each and that’s it. So simple.

Harley taught a workout that day that I participated in and I was amazed at how totally simple it was, yet it was quite effective. Marching in place, jumping jacks, squats, planks, reverse lunges, squat jumps, spider planks and jump roping in place. Nothing fancy there, yet I felt the burn in 20 minutes. Oh and he’s all about moving to the beat of music, which I love too. So he says you should find a great playlist, people, it helps.

Move throughout your life and get at least 12,000 steps a day.

Harley wears a Fitbit and suggests that everyone wear a tracker to know how much you’re moving. He cited studies that people who track their movement lose more weight than those who don’t track. He says you get lean in life and you build muscles in the gym, but the lean part comes from daily movement outside of the gym. So true!

I was gifted a new Fitbit (this one, yay!) after attending the event earlier this week and am already so excited to be tracking my steps again. I’ve had no problem getting 10,000 and so am thinking of upping my goal to 12,000 like Harley suggests. And if you’ve wondered where that 10,000 number comes from, it’s based on the average steps that people in the healthiest countries take a day. The average. Wow!

Moral of the story: When in doubt, move. Get those steps every single day without fail. Every single day.

Harley Pasternak by A Lady Goes West

(Photo credit: Tyler Ford.)

A few other tips that Harley gave …

Eat five healthy meals a day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner with two snacks in between. He says during each main meal, you can eat as many non-starchy vegetables as you want, a thumb-ful of fat, a fist-ful of protein and a palm-ful of grains and fiber, and for your snacks, eat just two of those things. Pretty easy, right? He’s not about intermittent fasting (he would never want to live a life where you can’t eat breakfast or lunch with his family due to skipping meals — me neither), ketosis, low-carb diets or anything too complicated, and I like that. Although I do think you can skip a snack if you’re not feeling like having one that day.

Everyone wants to change things about their body. So just be your best self. Harley’s celeb clients with perfect bodies never seem to think their bodies are perfect. In fact, they often want to have the bodies of other celebs, which goes to show that we’re all our own worst critics. He also said it’s not smart to always compare yourself to other people, when instead you should focus on being your best self. Preach!

Don’t get your health and wellness information from social media influencers with no credentials. I’m SO happy Harley said this. I like this blog to be a positive place, but I definitely have some strong opinions on this as well. There are some super popular influencers out there with huge followings who have ZERO fitness or nutritional background or education or certifications, and that’s just not cool. Before you follow someone’s advice, make sure they are legit. Oftentimes, the greatest practitioners and teachers aren’t on social media all day. Enough said. 

The biggest mistakes women make in their health and fitness routine are spinning and juicing. Amen to that! Although I have fun popping into SoulCycle here and there, I’ve mentioned many times that from a fitness professional perspective, using hand-weights while on a bike (as you do in SoulCycle and even FlyWheel) is not sound movement, and people can definitely injure themselves. Harley went even further to say that strapping your feet into pedals and spinning really fast is bad for the hips and is not a natural movement pattern. This is true. But if you’re a spinning fan, that’s great. Of course, do what you enjoy, but know that you probably shouldn’t be doing spinning every single day and you also need to cross-train to counteract the effects of the bike position, doing functional bodyweight or resistance work standing on your own two feet. And when it comes to juicing, I mean, you’ve heard that here before. Cold-pressed natural juice is great, but it should be an addition to your day, not the only thing you consume. Juice cleanses are extremes and are never the answer to a healthy lifestyle change that will last.

Celebs are super motivated to get in shape, and they have challenges too. Harley stressed a couple of times that his celeb clients are always super motivated. Their jobs depend on their appearance, and they know it. Yet, they are busier than the average person and can’t ever relax when working. They often have 12-hour days on set, are on planes all day or in locations without fresh produce and still have to try to eat clean and fit in their workout. They have so many things working against them, but they get it done. Even though money is not an object, they still have to put in the work to look good and feel good. So we can’t hate them too much. We all have struggles with our wellness.

Overall, Harley keeps things simple, stressing steps, sleep, resistance training, healthy food and tracking it all. Pretty helpful information from a real straight shooter, right?

I have to thank the folks at Fitbit for inviting me to the event and for allowing me to interview Harley. It was definitely a treat. By the way, Harley has a new book out, “5 Pounds: The Breakthrough 5-day Plan to Jump-Start Rapid Weightloss (And Never Gain it Back),” which I brought home a copy of, and I look forward to reading it.

Thanks for stopping by the blog, my friends! Go out and be your healthiest version of you and do it your way! See you soon! 🙂 

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Questions of the day

Where do you get your health and wellness information and inspiration?

Do you track your steps? How many do you get a day?

19 Comments

  1. Such a fun interview, Ashley! I enjoyed the read. Although I’m active and walk my dog twice per day (she sniffs too much to really rack up steps), I struggle to get in 10,000 steps/day. I hope my workouts make up for my lack of steps. Most days I’m closer to 8,000 But something I’m working on. 😉

    1. Hi Diane, Rudy tends to be a bit of a sniffer too, so I just carry him a lot of the time heheh. But you are still doing a lot better than most people with 8000 steps a day, I’m sure. 🙂 Hope all is well, lady!

  2. This is really interesting and informative. Also, my sleep patterns have not been good recently and I definitely feel the difference, good sleep really does impact how you feel. Thanks for sharing and have a good weekend!

  3. My sleep patterns still haven’t regulated, even though Zander has been sleeping through the night since he was 3 months… I just always feel like I am on high alert even so! Have to re read those posts of yours.

    1. Funny you should say that, Alyssa. Harley said he has kids that are 4 and 2 I think, and he also doesn’t feel like he sleeps as deep as he used to before kids! Oh darn hahah!

  4. This was so interesting to read! I had no problem with 10000 steps when I just had my daughter but now with my son I do. They always want to be on the floor, and finding time when they are both awake to go for walks is hard! I try hard to reach the goal but I typically get above 8,000 and that works for me right now. I know the activity will get more when they get a little bigger. Plus I live in a small house, ha! Anyway, I’m really surprised at the spinning comment and the moves he avoids! So crazy!

    1. Hi Heather! Totally! I’m sure you get a lot of movement outside of steps though if you’re trying to corral both kiddos! 🙂 And yes, definitely some surprising info from Harley! Always good to hear new points of view. Happy Friday, lady!

  5. Great interview–thanks for sharing! Love the tips and tricks he gave. I also get super annoyed when people who aren’t qualified put up pictures of themselves doing fitness moves, giving advice, etc. I really feel like it could lead to someone getting majorly hurt!

    1. It’s a real problem out there, Heather. Totally! I’m sure there have been countless injuries and frustrated people. Anyways! Hope you have a great weekend, lady! 🙂

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