BEND IT LIKE BECKS

HE MIGHT BE THE MOST FA­MOUS SOC­CER PLAYER IN THE WORLD, BUT IT TOOK THE EX­PER­TISE OF THIS AUS­TRALIAN TRAINER TO WHIP DAVID BECK­HAM INTO SHAPE

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Words by ELLEN WHINNETT

Aus­tralian gym­nast-turned-yogi Shona Vertue ex­plains how her ex­er­cise method helped whip David Beck­ham into shape.

His tal­ent was so inim­itable it earned him a name check in a fa­mous movie ti­tle. Yet here’s a hard truth: David Beck­ham may have been able to “bend” the path of a soc­cer ball as a star player, but off the field, the sport­ing leg­end was far from flex­i­ble.

Then along came Shona Vertue. Elite ath­letes tend to sniff down their noses at yoga: too minc­ing, not enough sweat, what’s with the chant­ing? But Beck­ham took to the prac­tice from the start, mar­vel­ling as Vertue – a for­mer elite gym­nast and dancer turned yogi and per­sonal trainer – helped his body re­cover from the pum­melling it had taken across years of in­tense matches.

Vertue moved to Lon­don in 2014. It was there that she met Beck­ham through fel­low per­sonal trainer James Duigan – another Aus­tralian – who used to keep Elle Macpher­son’s cap­i­tal-b body in tip-top shape. As the 29-year-old Vertue tells Stel­lar, “David knew James, James in­tro­duced me, we started work­ing through yoga and it just evolved from there.” Be­cause of his phys­i­cal prow­ess, she says, Beck­ham is “great to train. He’s su­per-fo­cused, like all ath­letes, so he gets in and gets it done.”

Vertue’s pro­gram, a mix of yoga, weights and med­i­ta­tion, was such a suc­cess with clients that, as with Beck­ham, her sur­name be­came a kind of short­hand. She started call­ing it The Vertue Method; it stuck so well that it is also the ti­tle of her first book, which out­lines a 28-day plan based on her ap­proach. Beck­ham is a con­vert of such en­thu­si­asm his en­dorse­ment ap­pears on the front cover.

“Shona changed my per­spec­tive on yoga,” he trum­pets. “Work­ing with her made my aches and pains af­ter play­ing dis­ap­pear. She is the best.” ON A CLASSICALLY grey Lon­don day, Vertue is perched cross-legged on a kitchen chair, , ra­di­at­ing g good health ealth and en­ergy like a burst of Aus­tralian sun­shine. She’s al­lll bounc­ing, curly hair, bright eyes and wide smile. The daugh­ter ughter of an Aus­tralian fa­ther and a Fi­jian mother, she grewew up in sub­ur­ban Syd­ney. y. Which prob­a­bly ex­plains ns why, de­spite her nascent scent fame, her girl-next-doorxt-door vibe has hardly dulled.

As a child, Vertue trainedd as an elite gym­nast for many ny years, and com­peted ted reg­u­larly. She dreameded of rep­re­sent­ing Aus­tralia lia at the Olympics, prefer­ablyably in its own back­yard. ard. Un­for­tu­nately, she says, ys, “I was too young for Syd­ney ney 2000.” Af­ter the Games, , her fa­ther sat Vertue down for a talk.

“[He] turned to me and said, ‘Shona, we can go down the path of con­tin­u­ing this in­tense train­ing, which is 20-plus hours a week, which is like more than a part-time job, or you can have a life.’ I chose life.”

But this is Vertue – and sit­ting still does not come easy for her. She took up danc­ing, and flirted with the idea of a ca­reer in mu­si­cal theatre. She at­tended a per­form­ing arts high school, study­ing mu­sic, drama and mod­ern dance. Even­tu­ally, in her late teens, she landed her­self an of­fice job. Vertue looks back on “this very short stint in th the cor­po­rate world” as a turn­ing p point. “I [had] thought, ‘I re­ally woul wouldn’t mind earn­ing some cash.’ Be­caus Be­cause there’s not a lot of money in da dance!” She quickly grew bored. “It re re­ally didn’t take very long fo for me to re­alise that desk w work, nine hours a day day, is not for me.’’

IF S SIT­TING ON her bum for ext ex­tended stretches of time was anath­ema to Vertue, gett get­ting that pos­te­rior perf per­fect be­came some­thing of an ob­ses­sion. By 2008, in the th thick of teach­ing yoga and tra train­ing her clients, Vertue grew con­vinced­con that the key to over­all health was flex­i­bil­ity and streng strength. And this be­gins, she says, w with the back­side. “What T The Vertue Method does – and notn just for David but for ev­ery­one – is get the right mus­cles ac­ti­vated,” she says. “Ev­ery sin­gle body is very dif­fer­ent but, ul­ti­mately, I’m try­ing to get peo­ple’s hips mo­bile and their glutes switched on. This will save money on chi­ro­prac­tors and painkillers. It’s all about the booty.”

Vertue made her mark on home shores and, driven by a clas­sic mix of am­bi­tion and wan­der­lust, she un­der­took a com­mon Aus­tralian rite of pas­sage: the move to Lon­don. “It re­ally did start

“BECK­HAM IS GREAT TO TRAIN. HE’S SU­PER-FO­CUSED, LIKE ALL ATH­LETES, SO HE GETS IN AND GETS IT DONE”

as an ad­ven­ture for me,” says Vertue, who stayed in the spare room of her friend, holis­tic health star Madeleine Shaw.

Upon ar­riv­ing in Lon­don, it wasn’t just the cli­mate con­trast that was jar­ring for Vertue. Aside from a far faster pace of life – “I thought I was busy in Syd­ney, but Lon­don de­fines the word… it’s next-level” – she was sur­prised by how much less her new neigh­bours, with their long work days and of­ten longer com­mutes, pri­ori­tised health and fit­ness.

“I thought, ‘Wow, peo­ple re­ally don’t have time to do an hour of yoga in the morn­ing be­fore work.’” Keen to ex­pand her busi­ness, Vertue zipped around Lon­don on her skate­board as she met with fraz­zled clients to train them in quick bursts. “It was very much like: ‘We have 50 min­utes to get you sweaty, get you serene, get you more flex­i­ble and get your glutes to switch on,’” she re­calls.

EVER THE EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR, Vertue built up her client list with the aid of another hobby. She put her love of pho­tog­ra­phy to good use, cre­at­ing a web­site and amp­ing up her so­cial me­dia pres­ence as a health and fit­ness blog­ger. Her bright, happy in­ter­ac­tions with the pub­lic on her so­cial me­dia ac­counts at­tracted the at­ten­tion of pub­lish­ers at Ha­chette, who came knock­ing with a book of­fer.

“Fun­nily enough,” says Vertue, “I ac­tu­ally re­ally wanted to do it as well. I had [al­ready] half-started one any­way. It just came to­gether.’’ For The Vertue Method, she worked with a di­eti­tian to en­sure science backed up her nu­tri­tion plans, which might come as a pleas­ant sur­prise in this di­etary era of ex­tremes. Sugar, gluten, carbs, caf­feine – none of it is off lim­its as far as Vertue is con­cerned. She sim­ply preaches mod­er­a­tion.

Vertue starts out her day with a cof­fee pro­tein shake ahead of her work­out – “I love cof­fee!” – and then fol­lows it up with a gi­ant omelette that’s burst­ing with veg­eta­bles and salad. (At­ten­tion, cook­book pub­lish­ers: Vertue calls her­self the Omelette Queen of Lon­don.) “I eat ev­ery­thing, I drink ev­ery­thing,” she in­sists. “I sim­ply don’t be­lieve in se­vere re­stric­tion. We need to nour­ish mind, body and soul, and some­times the best way to do that is to just have that hot pain au chocolat! The more you try to re­strict those things, the worse it gets.’’

“I EAT EV­ERY­THING, I DRINK EV­ERY­THING. I DON’T BE­LIEVE IN RE­STRIC­TION. AT TIMES YOU JUST NEED THAT PAIN AU CHOCOLAT!”

HOME STRETCH Years of gym­nas­tic train­ing be­came the foun­da­tion of Shona Vertue’s yoga skills; (op­po­site) David Beck­ham has be­come a con­vert to her method.

BENT INTO SHAPE Vertue zipped around Lon­don on her skate­board to train clients; (top right) show­ing off her im­pres­sive (be­low right) her sport star client David Beck­ham

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