Appearing on Good Morning America, E! News, VH1 and CNN among others, and regularly featured in top publications such as Glamour, Vanity Fair, In Style, Fitness, Self, People, US Weekly and Life & Style, Valerie is the ultimate fitness problem solver who has won the reputation for a quick turn-around, and a trademark look that is more tone and trim than bulk and build. For females, she draws from the very physiques that inspire her: athletic, elegant, and toned, while still feminine. For males, she avoids excess mass in favor of a fit, lean appearance.
When Valerie isn’t working with clients, she develops products and programs such as the Valslide and Red Carpet Ready. She also works with various organizations to educate the public on staying fit and the importance of nutrition.
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Diet Detective: My first question is something that we all would like to know: How did you get into the health area — what is your background?
Valerie: I learned to love exercise during high school. I was on the varsity track team and what I learned is greatly responsible for where I am today. I learned that when there is great effort, you get to feel really good about the result and that it feels amazing to power through a challenging workout. I learned that it takes practice to master a new skill. Even now when I try something new, especially if coordination is involved, it takes some time. I don’t get it right away but I know if I just run the pattern 8 – 10 times it will start to click. And finally, at this very young age, I learned that exercise could make me feel better. This single facet of physical exercise, the ability to leave negative thoughts or feelings behind a tough workout, has carried me through life’s inevitable ups and downs and by the time I graduated high school I was addicted to exercise. I started studying everything about it and eventually ended up at Matrix One, a very exclusive Westside gym. Within one month of becoming a trainer I was booked solid 8 hours a day, and knew I’d found my calling. From there I continued to perfect my technique by studying and staying on top of industry news and working with some of the best in the fitness world.
Diet Detective: Ok, we’re dying to know, what’s different when you train a celebrity versus the average “Jane” or “Joe?”
Valerie: Believe it or not it is about the same, with the exception that when I train an actor there is usually a tighter deadline and they are either going to be on the big screen or photographed on the Red Carpet. This greatly increases one’s motivation. In addition to that, it’s fun to work with my celebrity clients because they always have good stories, such as, “At the Oscars last night…” or “last weekend I was at a gala at the MET…”
Diet Detective: What do you do each day? Do you train at a specific gym? What is a “day-in-the life” of a celebrity trainer?
Valerie: I train most of my clients at a small private training facility called Pro Gym, but sometimes I train clients at my home gym. I like to do my own workout first thing in the morning and then have breakfast. From there, I head to Pro Gym for a couple of clients, then back home for lunch, emails, phone calls, etc, and then back to the gym for one or two more clients. Afternoons are more office based, working on my website, my new products and my latest programs.
Diet Detective: Out of all the celebrities you’ve trainedwho is the hardest working? And why? What can we learn?
Valerie: Jennifer Garner, Rachel Nichols, and Poppy Montgomery. These women first made fitness a priority, and then learned to love it. Now they look forward to their time in the gym as well as the results they can both see and feel. I think what people can learn from this is that they didn’t really start to love it until after they had committed to it and started experiencing the benefits.
Diet Detective: You’ve been called the ultimate fitness problem solver — what do you think the biggest issue that people have when it comes to training and getting in shape?
Valerie: Usually the hardest part is the diet and/or someone’s schedule but it starts with really wanting it. You can wish you were in shape all you want but until you are ready to take action it’s not going to happen. Once someone has made the decision to commit, they make it happen. They don’t eat the cookie, they don’t make excuses and they get up early to workout.
Diet Detective: Would you mind telling us about the Muscle Truck — I just think that is amazing. How did you come up with the idea?
Valerie: Basically, the Muscle Truck is a fully outfitted, high-end gym packed neatly into the back of an eighteen-wheel rig that can be booked on any movie set in any location. The Muscle Truck has been used on such feature films as A Beautiful Mind, The Italian Job, and 13 going on 30. The idea came about while I was training a client in a remote location. They had an 18-wheeler with some free weights thrown in it, and I thought, “wouldn’t it be great if this was set up like a gym at your house with great lighting, air conditioning, the best equipment and a rockin’ sound system?” So I hired a contractor to build me one.
Diet Detective: What about the Valslide? How did you come up with that?
Valerie: The Valslide is my secret weapon. I created it to help my clients get the most effective results in the shortest period of time. The unique sliding motion makes the exercises seem easier, but because the Valslide keeps your muscles engaged through the full range of motion it’s actually more effective. It is specifically designed for flowing, controlled range of motion that activates the muscles that lift your butt and slim your thighs. I got the idea when I was training at an athletic performance facility and they were doing all these great exercises with a slide board. I loved the concept of the slide board, but I didn’t like the idea of it taking up 8 ft. The Valslide uses the same principals as the slide board and then some, and will grant you results that no machine can match. The Valslide will improve your balance, shape your body and help you burn a greater amount of calories in less time. What’s not to like about that?
Diet Detective: How do you get a client motivated to stick to a fitness program?
Valerie: I simply remind them of their goals. By doing this, they themselves decide to stick to it. If they are complaining about doing the next set, it often just takes me saying: “Bikini. Hawaii. 3 weeks. You decide.” (or whatever their goal is).
Diet Detective: Tell us the biggest secret that trainers typically don’t tell their clients, but should?
Valerie: I tell my clients this, but I don’t know if other trainers do and that is: When it comes to having the body you want, it is more about the diet than it is about the workout. You still need to workout in order to create shape and build muscle, but in terms of reducing body fat you must pay attention to what you eat.
Diet Detective: In all your years of training what do you consider the best non-weight related exercise (e.g. lunge)?
Valerie: The Valslide Reverse Lunge. This single exercise delivers the most bang for your buck. You work your glutes, quads, and core, you challenge your balance and you burn a ton of calories.
Diet Detective: If you could only do only one strength training exercise (using weights) what would it be?
Valerie: Valslide reverse lunge with one arm pulley row or with a dumbbell shoulder press. By incorporating an upper body exercise with the Valslide reverse lunge you work your entire body.
Diet Detective: What is the worst strength training exercise? Or one that is the most frequently done incorrectly?
Valerie: I see so many exercises being massacred and it’s usually because they are using too much weight. Proper form is always more important than the amount of weight you are lifting.
Diet Detective: If you could eat one forbidden or unhealthy food (candy, cakes, etc.) whenever you wanted without gaining weight, what would it be?
Valerie: Chips and Salsa.
Diet Detective: What is the one food or meal you always eat before training?
Valerie: I don’t eat a lot before I workout, but I do want to have something in my system to give me energy. I always have a combination of protein and carbohydrates before I workout. My favorite snack would be a small handful of almonds and an equal amount of California Raisins.
Diet Detective: What do you consider the world’s most perfect food?
Valerie: My top four in order are: Salmon, Egg whites, Quinoa, Broccoli.
Diet Detective: On those days when you're not motivated to work out, but you should, what's the one thought that gets you going?
Valerie: My motto. Which is: “You are just one workout away from a good mood.” I absolutely believe in the power of exercise to put you in a better mood.
Diet Detective: Do you have a favorite recipe? Can you share it?
Valerie: ½ cup of oatmeal (cooked according to package), with one scoop of chocolate protein powder stirred in, and topped with 1 tablespoon of California Raisins. This is my favorite breakfast!
Diet Detective: What person do you respect most, or who motivates you?
Valerie: Strength and Conditioning Coach, Michael Boyle.
Diet Detective: What do you do to reduce stress/relax/center your mind? Do you participate in an organized relaxation activity such as yoga, meditation or tai chi?
Valerie: I like yoga but I also find a good circuit weight routine does the same thing.
Diet Detective: Do you have a Calorie Bargain?
Valerie: A few strawberries with just a little warm chocolate sauce. Feels and tastes decadent but is still low calorie.
Diet Detective: Define failure.
Valerie: Not trying.
Diet Detective: What was your worst summer job?
Valerie: Selling food at the fair at age 14.
Diet Detective: What did you want to be at the age of 5?
Valerie: I’m not sure I was thinking about a career at 5. I remember wanting to be a fairy princess but I don’t think that held a lot of potential as a career.Created: August 25, 2011 Last Reviewed: August 25, 2011
CHARLES PLATKIN, Ph.D., M.P.H., THE DIET DETECTIVE is one of the country's leading nutrition and public health advocates, whose syndicated health, nutrition and fitness column, the Diet Detective appears in more than 100 daily newspapers nationally. Dr. Platkin is also the founder of DietDetective.com, which offers nutrition, food, and fitness information. Platkin is a health expert and blogger featured on Everydayhealth.com, Active.com and Fitnessmagazine.com. Additionally, Platkin is a Distinguished Lecturer at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College in New York City.
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