This morning, I spoke with fitness expert Denise Austin, who has been motivating audiences to get fit for over 30 years through her workout videos and books. This year, Denise is bringing her expertise to the 360 Plan, an integrated online experience serving up 10 weeks of videos, meal plans, and community support.
When I got on the phone with Denise, one of the first things she said was, “I went on your site, MomStart, I love it!” As a mom herself, Denise was excited to share her tips for the everyday woman trying to get in shape – as we talked, I was struck by just how down-to-Earth, realistic, and feasible all her advice was. It was just the encouragement I needed today as I slowly but surely chip away at my fitness goals! Read on, and you’ll probably feel inspired too:
Beeb Ashcroft: Since it’s the New Year, let’s talk about New Year’s resolutions. I think this is about the time of the month when people are starting to give up on their resolutions, and I want to know: What’s your advice for people staying on track beyond January?
Denise Austin: Well, the key is to find something that’s effective and that’s easy and doable for them, that is the #1. So many people pick things that are so not them or very inconvenient, maybe to go to a gym and they have to drive somewhere…you have to make it convenient or you won’t stick with it. It has to become a part of your life that’s doable for your lifestyle, and especially for moms, my 10-week plan would be perfect for them because it’s all online. It’s right there for you to stay in shape, so you can be on track at ALL times of the day no matter what. Because it’s easy to squeeze it in, even if it’s 10 minutes here or 10 minutes there, which is very doable for most every mom.
Beeb Ashcroft: It’s so easy to get discouraged because you look at people who are fit, and you think, “But they spend hours working out, they have time to cook a bunch of healthy food…” Do you think that’s a myth?
Denise Austin: Yes, because I only work out 30 minutes a day. But I do it most every single day, and consistency pays off and it doesn’t take that much. When you think about your 16 waking hours – because you sleep 8, or we hope to – 30 minutes isn’t that much away from the rest of your day. So I’m a true believer in 30 minutes a day: That’s what I’ve done my entire career, when my kids were babies, all through their school life, every single day I still worked just 30 minutes a day. Honestly, it’s a matter of just waking up 30 minutes earlier, and get it done even before the kids get up. That’s what I have personally done my entire life. So I’m a true believer in the 30 minutes a day and that’s what all of my different routines are on the plan, 30 minutes. But, if you don’t have time, you can actually use 10 minutes at a time, so on the plan they could just hit 10 minutes at a time if they want, because a lot of people could do maybe 10 minutes in the morning, 10 more minutes later in the day and 10 minutes in the evening. As long as it accumulates 30 minutes, you’re on the right track.
Beeb Ashcroft: How did you develop the 360 Plan?
Denise Austin: I wanted to be more in touch with all of the people who have loved my television show that was on for 24 years – people are begging for it back. I’ve got all of my TV shows back so they have access to every show they’ve ever seen of me on TV, and then I said, OK, I really wanna give them a chance to see who see who I really am. I film [360 Plan videos] from my own home, I cook with them in my own home, I sit and motivate them every Sunday. So truly, it’s like I’m holding their hand in a sense of what’s it’s like to live in a fitness lifestyle, in a healthy lifestyle in my own world, and bring it to them for 10 weeks, to see what to do to stay in shape, how to get fit, and also to eat right, to really find the foods that you love, so I [included] the shopping list and meal plan and then also motivation.
All three are what encompasses my 360. Because you can’t just do it with exercise, you can’t just do it with eating, it has to also include motivation. And that’s what you’re talking about, about sticking to it? You gotta stay motivated and I’m there, on the screen to you, every Sunday I say, “OK, big week coming up!” Every week I have a different [theme] – one week’s about attitude, one week’s about maintaining enthusiasm, one week’s about being positive; and then every Wednesday, I come back to them – Hump Day! How’s your week going? You gotta keep it up! So, it’s really an experience in the 10 weeks.
Beeb Ashcroft: Now, you’re talking about motivation – I’m curious to know, what do you personally find motivating when you’re working out?
Denise Austin: Well, I’m motivated knowing it makes me feel better after I’m done. That first 5 minutes, I still – and I’ve done this for years – I still hate the first 5 minutes. Once you get past that 5 minutes, I feel as if, OK, I’m gonna do this. It’s that great feeling of self accomplishment and that’s what keeps me motivated. To know that good feeling of energy when I’m done, and also, I know all the benefits of fitness – just endless benefits, if you just want to feel good.
Beeb Ashcroft: I actually find that kind of inspiring – I think we look at people who are fitness experts and they’re like, “I love exercise! This is awesome, this is great!” and I think that kinda puts a lot of people off because they think, “Well, I don’t love exercise, so I’ll never be like that.”
Denise Austin: Right, and you don’t have to love exercise. You just have to make it a part of your life, to feel better and be healthy. That’s why I give so many different routines, so someone finds what they like. I even have a very easy “Walk With Me” plan for 30 minutes. Then I have barres – so many women love my new barre routine, we’re getting lots of lovers of that barre workout. 30 minutes of really lifting the booty! And then some people love my “Mother Daughter Dance”, I do a mother-daughter workout with my daughter, Katie Austin, and we do a 10-minute dance workout. It’s really fun and energetic with your daughter, so that’s also a great one for you guys because it kinda shows – it’s fun to do with somebody, a partner, a family member, a friend, and that’s really the common feeling of support on the plan, is find a friend, find someone to do it with; it really keeps you motivated.
Beeb Ashcroft: It sounds to me like the plan you’ve developed really includes everybody, because if you’ve got, say, the walking exercises, you’ve got something that people can start with if they don’t do any exercise and they’re intimidated – most people can start with walking, right?
Denise Austin: Yes, and I have 3 levels of fitness on there, so if you’re level 1, then you’re gonna do some beginner workouts, in toning, in cardio, and in stretching. Then level 2 is another step up, and then level 3 are all challenge workouts – you know, Tabata, burpees, the whole 9 yards. If you are fit and just wanna take it to a new level, you can do my level 3 challenge workouts. But what’s nice about the plan is through the 10 weeks, I progress you, so by the end of the 10 weeks you have slowly been progressed to do a little tougher. Each workout during the week builds you, so at the end of the 10 weeks, you are doing some more challenging workouts, even if you’re level 1. So it’s a really nice plan – I mean, I’ve taken 2 years of my life just to do the workouts, to do the eating plan, to do the photographs of all the food, to work with top nutritionists to make sure every single day has something in the variety of proteins and veggies – it’s so well thought out, but also, you’re eating foods that are tasty too. It’s not just diet food.
Beeb Ashcroft: Did you take inspiration for that from what you eat?
Denise Austin: It’s what I eat! (laughs) You know, I have friends come over, I make food for everyone and they’re like, “Oh my God, this lentil salad is so good Denise, you made it in 2 seconds! Are you kidding me!” And they’re like, you gotta tell people this! It’s easy to eat healthy, to cook at home, and not be running to buy food at a fast food place. And I tell moms to organize their meal prep on Sundays, that I have done all when my kids were little – I always did meal preps on Sundays, I grilled a bunch of chicken, chopped it up, had it in different glass containers to prepare all week long – I’d throw ’em in burritos, or salads, or part of pastas – so people have been really loving the meal preps too.
Beeb Ashcroft: For sure, and I think that’s another big hurdle for people: I don’t have time to do the food prep, I don’t have time to do the nutrition aspect of it. So if it’s outlined, that makes it so much easier.
Denise Austin: And we have found through the meal preps on Sundays, it saves moms 7 hours during the work week. So they’re working, and they’re trying to feed their kids the second they arrive home, which happens to so many of us – if you’ve got the meal prep all done, you’ll eat healthier, more importantly, but also you know what you put in your foods. And that’s what’s so key. I really wanna bring the fact that people need to make their own food. I think a lot of women are scared in the kitchen – my things are so easy, I even cook it with them [On the 360 Plan]. I’m in my kitchen, saying These are flatbread pizzas! So easy! All you do is get a wrap – make sure it’s a whole grain one – you toast it in the oven, then you’re ready to put on all your fresh veggies – that all took me 7 minutes. And you’ve got these amazing flatbread pizzas, then a pizza party on Friday nights. It’s just a very thin crust pizza! (laughs) But it’s really good, I toast it with a little olive oil so it tastes crunchy.
Beeb Ashcroft: What was it that inspired you to make fitness your career?
Denise Austin: I was a gymnast my whole life – I got a full athletic scholarship to University of Arizona, and got my degree in exercise physiology. I started when aerobics was just beginning in the early ’80s. My whole life since I was a little girl was gymnastics and performing – I had to compete – and I practiced 4 hours a day since I was 11 years old, so the discipline and the ability to compete and understand the body, I got at a very young age. So my foundation really started as a athlete and then moved into getting my degree in it, and then I met Jack Lalanne and I was on his television show in 1981, so he gave me the inspiration that I could do this. I could be on TV and teach aerobics!
Beeb Ashcroft: He was an inspirational guy.
Denise Austin: Oh, he was my best friend and I learned from him, my mentor, and when he passed away I spoke at his funeral – he was a huge inspiration, for 30 years I talked to him almost every month.
Beeb Ashcroft: And that brings me to something else as well, because I have one of your books and I’d seen you on TV and I had just always kind of assumed you were around my age – I’m 31 – and when I pulled up your bio before this interview I was like, wait, what?
Denise Austin: (laughs) I’m 57!
Beeb Ashcroft: I know, and my jaw dropped!
Denise Austin: Aww! And guess what Beeb, I’m 100% natural! I haven’t had a boob job, I haven’t done Botox, I haven’t done anything.
Beeb Ashcroft: That’s so awesome! Is fitness part of the secret to staying so young looking?
Denise Austin: Well, I truly believe what I talk about, I truly believe that fitness and eating right and my attitude has really kept me young. And it works! I’m living proof!
Beeb Ashcroft: Do you think it’s ever too late for somebody to get into shape?
Denise Austin: Oh no! Never too later. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what age you are, how out of shape you are: Your body can improve, and your body’s beautiful. It can change, and you can improve it, and that’s what’s so great about our bodies. We can always get healthier, and change it up. And you are who you are by your genes, 50/50, but you change the other 50% of how you live and what you do for your attitude and how you move and truly how you eat.
Beeb Ashcroft: And I think that’s so important for people to hear.
Denise Austin: I have re-transformed – you can’t believe the before and after pictures I’ve seen. People have flattened their bellies after having big, huge, tummies, I have helped so many women re-transform their bodies just by truly sticking to it. 30 minutes a day, eating the right foods – it’s a possibility for everyone. And it really doesn’t take that much.
Beeb Ashcroft: Right, because what you’re saying is doable.
Denise Austin: The average woman has been losing around 25 pounds in the 10 weeks if they stick with it. And they’re toning up, they’re losing inches around the bellies, they’re losing inches around their thighs, so it really does work if you do it.
Beeb Ashcroft: It must be exciting for you to see it helping people and seeing them change.
Denise Austin: Oh, I love it! And you know I have had this throughout my career because my television show was on every day. But now it’s instant, which is so much more fun – [I’ll] hear, “Oh, I loved today’s lunch! It was delicious Denise, thanks!” So it’s so exciting the changes of the the mediums, and the chance of my forum [which is] part of the 10 week plan, the community is so active and it’s so much fun – now they’re talking to each other, they’re finding out who lives near each other, and there’s so much support. I go in there and talk to them and it’s been really exciting for me because it’s really hands-on.
Beeb Ashcroft: And that seems like, in a way, it would be a more effective tool, because if you’re bringing them into your life, and they’re sort of with you there in real time, instead of there being this disconnect.
Denise Austin: Yes, and it’s like I’m there because I’m kinda cheering ’em on even through the workouts, through the eating, through the motivation and even now in the forums. And it’s instant. I just feel so excited because it’s so much more – live, it’s real. This [Plan] is so encompassing, I’m giving them exactly what to do every single day during the 10 weeks, so for 70 days I’ve mapped it out for them. And it’s going great.
Beeb Ashcroft: Do you have any final words of encouragement or tips for all our moms out there who are slogging away, trying to get healthy?
Denise Austin: The biggest thing for moms is to just to carve out a little time for you, and it goes a long way for the family. And I really believe even if it takes just 10 minutes of your own time, make it for you and it will come back to you, I promise.
To get more information on Denise Austin’s 10-Week 360 Plan, visit DeniseAustin.com. Through January 19th, new members will also receive a 25% discount on the plan when they sign up. And if you’d like to try a few sample recipes for yourself, don’t forget to check out Denise’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps With Sesame Green Beans and Cilantro-Lime Shrimp With Avocado-Tomato-Hearts of Palm Salad recipes that we shared with you last week!