Best Health scored a one-on-one with fitness expert Jillian Michaels while she was on tour promoting her latest book, The 6 Keys: Unlock Your Genetic Potential for Ageless Strength, Health and Beauty (available Jan. 22, 2019). What was on the agenda? Passion, purpose and how age needn’t be a barrier to achieving your goals.
Melissa Greer: In The 6 Keys, you talk about how you’re proud of your age, and aging is not the enemy. How did you shift your perspective? Why do you think we’re so obsessed with age and fighting that process?
Jillian Michaels: I’ve never felt that age was the enemy. It’s everyone around me that’s felt that way, and I’ve never understood it. I think part of it is because society tells us it’s a slow descent into decrepitude — you get less respect, you get tired from your job, you get an injury or you gain weight and people tell you it’s because you’re old. None of that’s true: Twenty-year-olds get injuries, 20-year-olds have weight to lose.
We blame everything on the aging process, maybe in part because we don’t want to take responsibility for the fact that we haven’t been taking care of ourselves.
In other cultures, when you get older you’re revered, and you internalize life’s experiences — good or bad — and it makes you wiser, smarter, stronger and more empathetic. That’s the way that I was raised, and I think it’s always brought me so much more happiness and allowed me — from a psychological standpoint — to embrace getting older. At 44, I’m in potentially the best shape of my life.
MG: Do you think women feel that pressure more than men?
JM: Women absolutely feel it more than men. You see it in the workplace. I do experience ageism on a professional level. It starts to happen to guys in their mid-50s. It happens to women in their late 30s.
MG: Starting a wellness program and making a lifestyle change can seem pretty overwhelming, especially for women given that they’re often putting their needs behind those of their family. Have you encountered that in your own life?
My mom was a great role model. She prioritized her health, and I always respected her for that. She was a very fit, healthy, beautiful woman, and I was proud of that. So, I don’t have the guilt about that. In fact, I struggle to stay healthy to be that role model for my kids because I know, at the early stages of their lives, that I am the primary role model. Now juggling all the balls, yes, that’s hard.
Two things are critical, I think. Number one, you have to abandon the concept of perfection. “You can do it all but not at the same time.”
I say you can do it all — you just have to do it a little bit shittier and be OK with it.
You know what I mean? You’re probably not going to get in that 90-minute yoga class on Saturday. In fact, you may only get a seven-minute circuit in your living room. (Good news: We’ve got a 7-minute workout video with Jillian.) Is it ideal? No, but it’s better than nothing. The idea is to be good enough. Once you abandon that concept of perfection and adopt the concept of good enough, then you move into needing an action plan.
One of the things that I talk about in The 6 Keys is what I call the “12-hour rule.” If you sleep for eight hours a night, you’re left with 112 waking hours in a week. If you put 50 hours into your workweek and 50 hours into shuttling your kids around, laundry, taking the dog to the vet, running your household and running your family, you still have 12 hours. For me, I schedule out my 12 hours. It could be four half-hour workouts in my living room. It’s usually one hygiene or health appointment, like a haircut or going to my OB-GYN for my yearly physical. Then it’s a date night, an event with friends or a couple of hours toward a hobby throughout the week. Twelve hours a week is really what I need to take care of me — my health and my sanity.
MG: What are the most common fitness excuses you hear, and what’s your advice for moving past them?
JM: Money, time and age — 100 percent. Let’s break it down:
MONEY You don’t need a ton of money to work out. For instance, you can download my app (My Fitness by Jillian Michaels) for like $2 a week. If that’s too much you can use my free seven-minute workouts. Or there are other free things out there. There’s no excuse.
TIME I go back to my 12-hour rule. Get an app, get a streaming platform, get whatever you need and work out in your living room. Are you telling me you can’t find 20 minutes at home? Baloney. I bet you spend 20 minutes watching your favourite show. I bet you are on Instagram or Facebook for 20 minutes.
AGE I often hear: “Don’t you have workouts for 50-, 60- and 70-year-olds?” No, but I have workouts for beginners — is that what you need? There’s no such thing as a workout based on age. It does not work that way. You’re either a beginner or you’re advanced. It’s about explaining to people that the reason they feel it’s their age is because they’ve allowed themselves to become deconditioned. My entire book is about how you recondition your body and reverse the effects of aging.
MG: Whether it’s that New Year’s resolution slump or the inevitable weight loss plateau, what’s your advice for staying the course?
JM: Consistency is key. But anything worth having is going to require work. Establishing a “why,” which is a really detailed reason, allows you to tolerate the “how,” which is the work and sacrifice associated with the goal. Is it “I want to walk my daughter down the aisle, meet my great-grandchildren, live to be 100 and see all the amazing technological advances, or have sex with the lights on? It doesn’t matter what your answer is. It can be stupid or it can be deeply profound, as long as it matters to you and it’s going to keep you going. Work with a purpose is passion. Work without a purpose is punishing.
5 Fast Thoughts on Fitness
We asked Michaels for her top-of-mind thoughts on exercising.
Morning or night?
My ideal time, when my body is in its rhythm, is from 11 a.m. to early afternoon.
Group or solo?
Squats or sit-ups?
Squats. (Or planks! See Jillian demonstrate 5 harder-working plank variations for a full-body workout.)
Indoors or out?
In. Need air con!
Cardio or strength?
Strength — 100 percent.
And, you definitely don’t want to miss hearing what Jillian thinks about the latest diet and fitness trends (including collagen, keto, Whole30 and more).