A trainer who has whipped many a Victoria Angel into shape has revealed what it really takes to get ready to walk on one of the world’s most scrutinized catwalks.
Justin Gelband, 42, worked with Sara Sampaio, Alexina Graham, Sanne Vloet, Megan Williams, Grace Elizabeth Harry and Candice Swanepoel ahead of this year’s show, which took place in Shanghai, China and is due to air tonight on television.
The trainer, based in New York City, has had Victoria’s Secret Angels among his clients for 11 years. He is well-versed in getting them to their top fitness level before the big day, and his training sessions even include exercises to walk in heels while sporting the iconic—but nonetheless heavy—Angel wings.
Expert: Trainer Justin Gelband (pictured with model Steph Claire Smith), is used to working with fashion stars, especially those getting ready to walk for Victoria’s Secret
Client: This year, the trainer worked with six Victoria’s Secret Angels, including Alexina Graham, 26 (pictured left working out with Gelband and right on the catwalk)
Gelband, who got his start in the Victoria’s Secret world by working with Angela Lindvall in 2006, after she had her second baby, usually sees his Angel clients four times a week, as he told Cosmopolitan.
Each workout session can last one hour to one hour and 15 minutes, during which Gelband and his clients focus on the entire body, including the butt, hips and thighs.
However, the trainer is careful not to overexert the models. ‘Unlike burpees, squats, and walking lunges, which make you feel like you’ve worked your a** off and can’t walk, the moves we do make you feel good and sexy, and leave you with energy when you’re done,’ he said.
The trainer has learned to adapt to his clients’ busy schedule, and finds that the younger ones need more attention.
‘My newer clients—like Jasmine Tookes, Romee Strijd, and Lais Ribeiro—might take three months to get in shape, compared to Candice Swanepoel, who I’ve been training for nine years and can get into shape in three weeks. Her body bounces back immediately. It’s like a joke, in a good way,’ he added.
Trust: Martha Hunt (pictured during this year’s show), 28, also worked with Gelband ahead of this year’s show in Shanghai, China
Duo: The model (left) at one point completed a boxing workout with Gelband (right) with weights strapped around her ankles for an extra challenge
Working it: Sara Sampaio (pictured during a workout with Gelband), 26, also trusted the trainer with her workout routine ahead of Victoria’s Secret’s show
Big day: Sampaio donned a spectacular outfit, complete with elaborate wings, during this year’s Victoria’s Secret extravaganza
Getting ready for the Victoria’s Secret show isn’t just an exercise in fitness. It also challenges the models’ ability to walk gracefully in vertiginous heels and extravagant costumes, which Gelband accounts for in his program.
While he doesn’t see the famous wings before the show, he knows they typically weigh 20 to 30 pounds. Therefore, he sometimes has his clients exercise with weights in their arms or while wearing a weighted vest, to prepare them to bear the extra load.
The models also work on their balance and stability, two skills that come in handy once the spectacular outfits are on.
‘Sometimes I’ll have them stand on a slant board to simulate standing in heels,’ Gelband said.
‘Other times I’ll have them come to the gym wearing heels and hold different-size weights in each hand while they walk, which challenges their balance almost like walking with the wings.
‘But I try to keep heels to a minimum because it puts too much pressure on the body.’
As far as the models’ diets, the trainer makes sure their clients consult a nutritionist, who can prescribe a customized diet centering around ‘real food’. Above all, Gelband wants his clients to make sure they get enough nutrition.
Shape: Sanne Vloet, 22, followed Gelband’s training program, which includes full-body exercises with a focus on the butt, hips, and thighs, to prepare for the Victoria’s Secret catwalk
Getting stronger: Sampaio (pictured during a workout with Gelband) worked on her leg muscles by strapping weights around her ankles
Bouncing: The model also exercised on a small trampoline as part of one of her sessions
‘My number one rule for clients is this: If you train and exercise with me, you eat. I’m not into quick fixes,’ he said.
The trainer is convinced that there isn’t a single one-size-fits-all workout guaranteed to transform anyone into a Victoria’s Secret Angel. Instead, his approach revolves around helping his clients achieve the best shape they can for their own bodies.
‘Everyone always asks me which exercises will make you look like Candice or Romee or Jasmine. But I don’t answer that because the best exercises are different for every girl,’ he said.
‘You can do the same workout as Karlie Kloss or Candice, and you still won’t look like them. Everyone has their own set of exercises or movements to get in the best shape for their body.’
Victoria’s Secret’s Angels, he said, are not immune to insecurities and while they are blessed genetically, they work hard to get in shape for the job.
‘Yes, these girls are born beautiful, and some have been given the gift of being tall and lean. But while they’re given a gift, it’s a little one,’ he said. ‘They’re not lucky in the way that the public portrays them.
‘For Karlie Kloss, it took 11 years of ballet. Candice grew up doing ballet. Jasmine did gymnastics for 10 years. They all had to learn how their bodies worked and how to get where they need to be.’