The Fit Set
We spent a day at Propel Co:Labs working out with top celeb fitness trainers.
A day in the life of Team Athleisure Mag can be in the studio for a session, on set for a shoot, and checking out new brands/products coming to market. Earlier this month we spent the day at Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival here in NYC at the Seaport District (the next stop is Chicago on Aug. 11th) for an entire day of workouts, sessions and we took some time to chat with celebrity fitness trainers and personalities in between workouts. ATHLEISURE MAG: We’ve enjoyed seeing you over the past two seasons on E! Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian – how did you get involved in that show?
HARLEY PASTERNAK: I have been good friends with Kanye for about 15 years. So I’m inherited into the family. I’m good friends with Kim and Kanye, and with Kris, Khloe and the whole family. So when they were doing the show, Khloe reached out – I said let’s go!
AM: How long have you been with Propel and what was it that made you want to connect with the brand?
HP: That’s a good question. My background was originally in performance nutrition so I ran the performance lab/ nutrition lab for the military for a number of years and most of the information on performance – a lot of it came from years ago from the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. That was the go to place for us as scientists to get our information to use with the soldiers. So the importance of functional foods and functional beverages has always been a big part of what I do and I really have had an issue with sometimes the sugar content of some of these beverages, and I met the Propel team through some mutual friends and I learned more about what Propel was doing. It remided me so much of what Gatorade did back in the day and establishing itself as the definitive sports performance information source. Propel has really done the same with fitness and it’s not about the beverage, it’s about the lifestyle, the networking, the fitness community sharing with one another and celebrating together. Then they started explaining to me about Propel Co:Labs and it was really about the future and the present. I got so excited that I became a terrible negotiator because I said, “I’m in”.
The Co:Labs have been really great. As a fitness professional, it's often very individual and almost a very lonely experi-
ence. Everyone is so competitive with one another – so competitive but they have created these environments where people are sharing ideas and thoughts and celebrating moving together. They're bringing in pop stars and giving the due and professional attention to the fitness industry that most brands haven’t even come close to. ATHLEISURE MAG: Gunnar, can you tell us about your background?
GUNNAR PETERSON: I’ve been a personal trainer in Beverly Hills for 29 years. I started working with the LA Lakers last year as the Director of Strength and Endurance and am reprising my role this year – should be a new challenge and a lot of fun. And I’ve been working with Propel for a number of years because I think that they do it better than anybody in bringing fitness and sports together by collaborating versus all the people that kind of horde information and don’t share and feel that their way is better. I think that Propel opens it up and makes it the way that it should be.
AM: What’s your method or the way that you like to work and train people?
GP: I do different workouts with people
because everyone is different as they have different goals, perceptions weaknesses, injury histories, likes and dislikes – although that doesn’t play that much of a part. I'm strength based and I do a lot of cardio intervals to it, movecomprement, mobility etc it’s pretty hensive. The one group that we don’t cater to or get asked to do something is body builders or those that are looking to put mass on – that’s not what we do.
AM: A lot of our readers loved seeing you in Khloe Kardashian’s Revenge Body on E! and wanted to know how you got involved in that!
GP: Well I’ve known Kris and the clan – I’ve known those guys for 20 years. I worked with Kris and Kim so when Khloe came to me to make a big change in her life, we got after it. She puts the work in like any athlete that I have worked with and she had her moment. She made huge changes into her body and I wrote the passage on fitness in her book and she created the show and asked me to be on it and there was no way that I was going to miss out on that opportunity to share a small part of what she did with other people and to put it out there for everyone to see. I mean I have had text messages from a lot of people that have had huge takeaways from this.
AM: So how excited are you to be here today for this event?
GP: This is terrific. I have done a number of these with Propel and they have exceeded expectations and they keep going above and beyond. I mean, every venue is great and this one with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background and this giant rooftop with no space constraints – this is going to be a great day today! ATHLEISURE MAG: Rachel aka Yoga Girl, tell us about what you're doing at the Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival.
YOGA GIRL: I just taught a class on a rooftop overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s kind of insane. We have 300-400 people here, and it’s been super, super fun. I taught a class [at Propel Co:Labs Fitness Festival] in L.A. and then taught a class here, and it’s been so community building and so great.
AM: What is the best way to get started in yoga practice?
YG: I always give the recommendation to go find a studio and go take an actual class. There’s so many things you can do online. There’s YouTube and there’s online yoga. But, having a teacher who you can ask questions to, especially if you’re a beginner, is great so you can learn the poses correctly and have someone to align you if you need help. It’s good to start off with a teacher and then transition a little bit more to home.
AM: What are several yoga postures you would recommend for stress relief?
YG: Anything forward folding or forward bending, especially seated, is really nurturing. Legs up the wall pose is a super distressing pose. A forward bend, legs up the wall, child’s pose and reclined bound angle are good poses.
AM: How do you maintain balance with your busy schedule?
YG: I try to find pockets of rest in my day. If I have a really busy day full of meetings and things, I’ll make sure that I have a whole hour to eat lunch and not do multiple things at the same time all day. I’ll take a bath with my baby in the morning, always. I keep that a super serious thing, and I rest in between all the hectic stuff. And then I find it’s easy to keep the energy up all day. ATHLEISURE MAG: Can you tell us what Akin’s Army is? AKIN AKMAN: Well Akin’s Army is a mindset really. I like to say that it’s a higher standard with everyone that trains with me. The mindset is constant process. It’s a workout obviously but intended initially to tap into the athletes that didn’t have kind of training anymore. But then eventually it became more of a mindset.
AM: Can you tell us a little more about your fitness background?
AA: I grew up playing tennis and I went to IMG Academy which was known as Bollettieri when I went there at age 7. It was everyday except for Sundays which I had off haha. But now I train all day everyday – 7 days a week. So I started there and I got hurt around 16/17 and I was already coaching tennis at the time there too and was looking at playing pro and then when I got injured, I was out for a year and then in that time, I decided to go to college instead of trying to play tournaments. I thought that I would just go back to that when I fully healed. And then, it
was tough to heal and when I came back and I was coaching at IMG, at 18, but I got hurt on my right wrist with bruising of the bone – so I moved on from playing tennis as much and started coaching. But it took me awhile before I started making coaching my everything.
I started coaching at Crunch Fitness in South Beach first in 2009. I was already teaching tennis at Flamingo Park in South Beach as well. Then I moved to NYC at the end of 2009/2010 and started teaching at Crunch here and then went onto SoulCycle in 2012 and then I really made it my everything and started teaching 40 classes a week.
AM: We have a number of friends who swear by your SoulCycle classes. How did you get connected with Propel and how did you get connected to Propel Co:Labs?
AA: Now you have to come! For Propel, I did a bootcamp with them awhile back through my sister who had a connection. We did a roofdeck bootcamp around Chelsea – I don’t even remember the building! I met some of the head people that were putting this kind of a thing together – it was amazing and so much fun! Then we didn’t do anything until this year when they asked me to come back and we did LA and this – it’s been incredible!
AM: What are you doing today as we know you’re on the schedule of events?
AA: My class today is again, it’s a full body workout. The way that I teach, it’s tough but you do as much as you can and it’s more about the perspective and the approach that you come to with it. Staying positive and being in that mindset. I try to keep the people hyped up and just full of energy and to do whatever they can and to give everything that they have got! That’s the point of what today is about!
ATHLEISURE MAG: You train a number of celebs and have been on a number of tours! Can you give us a quick rundown on your background?
NICOLE WINHOFFER: I studied Kinesiology, Alexander Technique, collusive body, Eastern Philosophy of well being and after that, I went on tour with Madonna and started training her dancers. She had an audition after I met her at that, she asked me to be her trainer full time and I worked with her for 5 years and I was the head trainer on her MDNA World Tour and her Sticky and Sweet World Tour, and then after those tours, I started teaching underground classes in NY in the basement of my apartment building in 2013 and we moved to the Standard Hotel on the 3rd floor of the Highline and I started to train trainers under me. I signed with Adidas by Stella McCartney as the first Global Brand Ambassador in 2014 and I partnered with Propel for the first time in 2016 when they did their first festival. Now we’re on our 3rd year and it has been such a great partnership!
AM: We saw you on Revenge Body with Khloe Kardashian – what was the process like for you being on that show and what have you gotten from being a part of it?
NW: They found me on Instagram! The casting director told me that my moves were cool and different and how I encompass eastern movement and dance. So I flew to LA for the audition and got the job. I loved that the show took my message (which I train a lot of A-List actors and actresses, fashion designers and wealthy/affluent men and women) to bring my knowledge to people across all demographics across America and to be able to give them results and to instill in them that they have the power in them to achieve what they want. I really liked that process of being able to work with people in that way with those that didn’t really think that it was possible and were never felt to believe that way.
AM: How cool was it to be able to do your session at Propel Co:Labs in LA with Ludacris performing on stage with you?
NW: It was amazing! I call myself a Fitness Artist because I believe in self expression and music and moving your body as there is no correct way. And when Propel told me that the artist that I was going to share the stage with was going to be Ludacris, I thought – wow! It was so exciting and amazing. We worked with the Ludacris team for 6 weeks to figure out the playlist, timing, and they were so great and we had a soundcheck and the Propel team was so supportive. There were a lot of fun moments – there was one moment on stage where I grabbed the Propel bottle and like landed on a split in the floor and Ludacris looked around like, “what is happening” and I was like “yeah that’s right – this is happening right now”. The crowd loved it because they were all sweating and they didn’t feel like a work out because it was so much fun!
AM: So what is the NW method?
NW: The NW Method is a 55 minute experience that I take you through in order to free your spirit and to move deeper into your body and accentuate your curves. It’s a type of somatic training – there’s breath work, kundalini and it’s a bit more physical exertion like physical meditation – 20 songs that I match up the BPMs and I play songs that wake up your internal organs. Then it moves people past their brains to their bodies
so they can feel themselves and move into their personal truth.
AM: Why do you like working with Propel?
NW: They are a collaborative brand, they listen to my ideas, they support my ideas and they are always looking to stand behind myself and the other artists that they have. Their innovation and willingness to try something new is amazing. The first Propel festival was 3 years ago in LA and it was really different because it was the first time that different fitness people came together and they provided this great experience. The last thing is music – they did a song with Jessie J. last year and the first year they did this song that incorporated a music festival and I built my brand around music. They just really support music in general and it makes it really easy for me to work with them.
AM: We love the bodysuits and the cool legwear that you have – what are your favorite fitness items that you love wearing?
NW: Oooo I’m a dancer so I love wearing Capezio and Danskin. I have friends that are seamstresses and they make me personal outfits so that’s always fun. I love my unitards and wearing bathing suits and anything that’s just not too fitnessy.
AM: You had this really cool look on your Instagram that was like chaps and a bikini bottom and embellished but it looked very cool!
NW: Yeah, yeah, yeah – that was from Patricia Field for the Propel festival. My friend who is a stylist came over and he sent them over for me to try, but they were way too heavy for me to dance in them haha!
AM: How do you give of your time?
NW: I am part of Girls Inc. which supports young girls in urban markets that don't have access to dance so I teach with them on tour and locally. I work with this group called Core Energetics which is a type of cognitive therapy and I work with some mental patients that don’t have things that healthy humans have through dance and time. I also volunteer once a week at an elderly hospital jut spending time, delivering food and playing games.
AM: Since music is so important to you and is so integral to your brand. What’s on your playlist right now?
NW: Well J Cole for sure – he’s my favorite he has a song called, Kevin’s Heart, I just downloaded the Carter’s album and I went ape shit! I love Rihanna – Needed Me, Ciara – Overdose, Disclosure's Latch featuring Sam Smith, those are my faves right now! ATHLEISURE MAG: We're fans of Iconapop as it's on a few of our playlists. You guys have a new album that you are working on – is there anything that you can tell us about that would be amazing!
CAROLINE HJELT: We’ve been writing on this album for quite a long time and we were just talking about it the other day saying, “how could it have taken us this long?” It’s just because we’re so bad at saying no to stuff! Like we love what we do and when we get fun things – we’re like, let’s squeeze it in and then we begin to go touring again. So it’s been taking a long time but we’re almost there and it feels amazing. I would say that I’m just as excited about this album as I am on the first one. It feels like when you're born. We've been working
on it for so long and sharing situations and we’re very proud of it.
AM: That’s so exciting and your faces really show how much you’re pumped for this. Is there a drop date.
AINO JAWO: We don’t have a date, but the album will be done at the end of this year. It will be out earlier next year.
AM: So are you guys doing festivals right now?
AJ: Yes we’re doing a lot of festivals in Europe and a couple of shows as well here in the states. I think this is the last one here right?
CH: Yeah and then we move onto Europe.
AM: Did the Coppenhagen festival already happen – Soleima who is also on Big Beat was telling us about it.
CH: Oh yes, you're talking about Roskilde.
AJ: Yes Rosklide, we did that last year it was so AMAZING! We have big shows all over the place.
CH: It’s a lot of traveling but we love that!
AJ: We also just got a house in LA where we will have our studio in there as well.
AM: Do you guys also live together?
ICONA POP: YES!!!
AM: How cute is that?
AJ: It’s a big house so you get your space and we’re going to build everything – from a fitness center to a studio.
CH: So we’ll never have to leave and you’ll never see us again! But we’ll have everything that we’ll need haha.
AM: It’s like a glam compound – love it. So
what workouts do you guys typically do or what are you building into your home to do?
CH: Well we bought our first thing – the Assault Bike, the first one an all retro one! It’s great for us to have all of those things. I think we’re also planning on putting in a mat so we can do different kinds of workouts.
AJ: Yeah like yoga and my boyfriend is our personal trainer – so he is taking care of all the lifting weights stuff there.
CH: We also love working outside so this gym will be outside. We spend so much time in our studios so it’s great to get that fresh air and to hang out with your friends outside. Meanwhile, we’re working out. We also love working out together and like sometimes you have a longer time and other times your schedule is crazy so it’s important to get it in when you can.
AJ: I like circuit training and that’s a good way to get strong with different types. We always say lift weights with cardio as a lot of women don’t lift weights and that’s stupid.
CH: Yeah and also you realize that it’s a thing that you slowly and slowly get better and that’s when you feel your body start to change. Your posture, you have so much more in your muscles.
AM: So how excited are you guys to be here today with Propel Co:Labs – how did that happen?
CH: I think that they reached out to us and we got super excited because we do work out so much and that’s a huge part of who we are and for us it’s important for us to jump on stage for 1.5 – 2 hours and not gasp for breath! We want to deliver to our fans and be in really good shape and that’s why we were so happy to be a part of this.
AJ: I think that a lot of times, we do a lot of parties and people see us do shots on stage, but that's just a portion of what we
do. There is another part!
CH: Yes, it’s just a part as we’re healthy and a lot of our fans say that they work out to our music. It lets them get over the hump and take their workout to the next level.
AJ: When you’re at the gym it just gives you that energy to say – yes! Sometimes I’m at the gym and I’m like “oh my gosh” this is us and I get a little embarrassed and then I sing along haha.
AM: What keeps you guys inspired when you’re making your music?
CH: I think traveling, hanging out with our friends which is so important to us but also what we’re trying to do right now is that every place we go to, we say what can we do here – what can we see? We really want to work on what we can see and to enjoy, experiencing etc. You can travel all over the world and just see a hotel room. But when you can go and taste the food that is special to that place or to meet the people from that region – that is really inspiring.
AJ: Then I feel like sometimes you need to get bored to like let things sink in. So take a little pause, get bored and then say hmm this is what I want to write. It works very well for us.
AM: Love that, it’s kind of like our belief in disconnecting to connect. So when you guys aren’t working, how do you relax and take time for yourself.
AJ: Mmmm Nature
CH: Yeah! It’s one of those things that’s so easy and sometimes you need a couple of days to say ok I can now breath and I’m not thinking about work too much. But when you come to nature, it happens instantly. Because you can look at water for hours and not feel stressed. You can look at the forest and animals and not feel stressed. This way you can connect with your body immediately as opposed to waiting to 5 days
to come down.
AJ: I feel like a lot of times you don’t have that many days off. So we try to do mindfulness – just a couple of minutes a day and that usually helps a lot. It’s also about eating good food.
CH: Yeah just enjoying and appreciating eating really good food with people that you like. That’s also a luxury for me.
AJ: And exercise again. I mean you get so much endorphins from doing that. I don’t even see the workout as work as it’s just part of my routine. When I have a day off, I can do it longer and not be stressed about going someplace else. The worst thing is to be stressed in the gym as it breaks my heart. AM: How do guys prepare before you hit the stage?
AJ: We drink coffee and listen to music.
CH: We usually, put on great music and get ready together as we have to be in sync. We talk about what we are going to focus on during the performance ….
AJ: Andwho we’re going to be on stage.
CH: Yeah like different personalities
AJ: Sometimes it’s David Bowie, sometimes it’s Prince, Michael Jackson – you name it and sometimes it’s just me haha!
PHOTOS COURTESY | Katie June Burton + Stephanie Noritz