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
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.