10 things I learned from working out with Jillian Michaels

The Biggest Loser coach shares the most common mistake people make at the gym and the secret to dropping pounds in a half hour a day!

Jillian Michaels

Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

It’s not everyday you get to meet your ultimate fitness girl crush – and then participate in an exhilarating circuit-training class led by her. Celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels (of The Biggest Loser fame) was in Toronto yesterday to launch her latest fitness class, BodyShred, a 30-minute high-intensity workout designed to maximize caloric burn and total-body toning. She’s partnered with GoodLife Fitness gyms across Canada to introduce her full-throttle 3-2-1 interval training method.

Jillian’s 3-2-1 style consists of three minutes of strength exercises (think compound moves like squats with bicep curls and lunges with tricep kickbacks), two minutes of cardio (skater jumps, high knees and butt kicks) and one minute of abs (scissor kicks, rope climbers and tricep dips with leg ups). The sequence is performed three or four times for a killer workout. There are no water breaks. That one minute of core work is considered a recovery period, but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel the burn for those 60 seconds.

Before we got the butt kicking of a lifetime (literally – Jillian loves butt-kick exercises as well as jumping squats with butt kicks), I sat down with Jillian to learn a few of her secrets for lasting health.

Here are 10 things I learned from Jillian Michaels and her new BodyShred workout:

1. Change happens with specific goals. Jillian uses different motivational techniques. “But the most important is getting people to ‘identify their why,’” she says. Setting a meaningful goal helps amp up a workout. “It might mean you want to wear a bikini years from now at your 20th wedding anniversary in Hawaii, have sex with the lights on, fit into those skinny jeans, or meet your grandchildren’s children one day,” she says. “Whatever it is, find what you’re fighting for and go for it.”

2. Proper form is essential. It prevents injury and helps you see results faster. It’s better to do fewer reps and execute each one perfectly, than to carelessly rush through the set.

3. Resist rest time. It’s overrated if you’re doing a 30-minute workout. Jillian says wasting time between sets is the most common mistake people commit at the gym. Instead she recommends treating downtime as active recovery time. Catch your breath by doing other exercises that challenge muscles you haven’t worked yet.

4. Adopt a positive mantra to keep moving. Jillian chanted powerful words to help us push through some tough moves. My new fave? “Practise being your best self.”

5. Exercise like your life depends on it. Jillian likes to play mind games to stay motivated (especially when it comes to those last few reps). “It’s going to sound ridiculous, but whenever I’m trying to get that extra edge, I always say to myself, ‘If this were a life or death situation, could you do it?’ The answer is always yes,” says Jillian. “Then I just do it.”

6. Stay on track with little rewards. Jillian is disciplined, without being a total drill sergeant. “Eighty percent of the time I eat well.” she says, “Twenty percent of the time I have treat foods. I never feel deprived, and I still find a healthy balance.”

7. Prioritize sleep. It was surprising to find that Jillian prizes sleep as one of her top three ways to stay fit on a daily basis. “It’s so important, on every level,” she says. “Whether it’s for immunity, anti-aging or metabolic function, I do my best to get enough sleep every night.”

8. Find gym-free ways to stay fit. When she can’t get to the gym, Jillian tries to keep from sitting for too long. “Although it won’t substitute a workout, I stay on my feet as much as I can,” she says. That means lots of fidgeting, pacing while on the phone, talking with her hands and walking at a fast pace. “Be as physical as you can be every day,” she says.

9. Exercise is empowering. A commitment to fitness changed Jillian’s life. “It’s not a secret that I was an overweight kid,” she says. “For me, fitness became a tool I utilized in my own life to transform my self-image.” Practising until you can do a flawless push-up or run a mile helps you realize your potential, she says. “When you see that change in yourself physically, it transcends into every other facet of your life.”

10. End every workout stronger than when you started. Yes, your muscles are shaking. You’re thirsty. And sweaty. And your heart is pumping out of your chest. Keep going. “Make it count,” Jillian repeated throughout the class, helping us all feel stronger each time she said it. You’ll never regret giving it your all for 30 minutes.

Jillian Michaels BodyShred is launching in GoodLife Fitness gyms across Canada over the next year. Find out more at In the meantime, you can get your fix with Jillian’s latest book, Slim for Life: My Insider Secrets to Simple, Fast, and Lasting Weight Loss, out this month.