The Trainer: Ary Nuñez
Celebrity Clients: Rihanna, Alicia Keys
The Subject: Lindsay
The Workout Details: Resistance training exercises using sand bells, medicine balls and the treadmill
“I’m so psyched to play with you! Hugs!”
It was the first email I received from Ary Nuñez, the woman who would be whipping me into “celebrity” shape for the next week. Call me a cynical New Yorker, but I began convincing myself that the friendly correspondence was akin to a “rapport-building” reverse psychology tactic. Nuñez is a Nike-sponsored athlete, a martial artist with black-belts in three disciplines and self-proclaimed Modern Day Ninja. “Hugs!” wasn’t exactly the sign-off I expected.
We meet at The Out Hotel, where Nuñez trains private clients when she’s in New York. I sit down on a mat and she straps my ankles together with a band, then instructs me to straddle my legs on either side of the mat, fighting the resistance. She puts a heavy sand bell in each of my hands and demonstrates: lay back with the sand bells reaching overhead, crunch to an upright seated position while holding the sand bells in the air the entire time, then back down. 32 reps of a sit-up on steroids.
Over the next hour we did 32 reps of several other exercises, sand bells in hand—squats, one-handed push-ups, planks, leg lifts. The best part about her method? She encourages me take short breaks whenever I can’t muster the strength for another rep. “When your body tells you it needs to stop, then you have to listen,” she explains.
A few hours later the fatigue from the first session wears off, I emailed Ary to tell her that I’ve never felt more energized at 2 p.m. “Ninja Lindsay!” she responds. “You are a real pleasure! I love our work! I’m psyched for tomorrow!” I no longer question the sincerity of her email.
The second day of training starts out similar to the first—ankles tied, sand bells in hand, 32 reps. It’s easier now that I know the drill. We then shift to squats with a medicine ball. Ary distracts me by asking about my job, my family, my boyfriend, my diet, my current fitness regime.
“On a good week, I’ll make it to the gym four times—on a bad week I won’t work out at all,” I confess. She talks about the importance of having balance in life. Ordinarily I’d roll my eyes at this sort of thing, but my arms and legs are quivering in pain, I’m feeling extremely vulnerable, and her delivery is so genuine that I actually take what she says to heart.
We finished on the treadmill, where, at an intense incline, she flipped around and walked backward, taking wide deep lunges. I followed her lead, less gracefully.
My body is sore to the point of being numb, and today I’m working with Ary twice. She trained me in the morning and then invited me to a pop-up class she was teaching for three weeks at PedalNYC, a studio on the Upper West Side. The class, called NinjaKnights, was described to me as “a fusion of Ary’s signature Martial Arts fitness moves, football-inspired sports-specific training drills, functional and explosive movement.” I didn’t feel remotely capable of any movement, let alone “explosive movement.” For the first 25 minutes, we performed exercises using the sand bells. For the second half, the playlist shifted to upbeat remixes—music by both Rihanna and Alicia Keys were prominently featured—and the routine took on a dance-meets-kickboxing hybrid.
Rest. Carbs. Wine. Balance, right?
Nuñez started the session by having me lay flat on the mat, with a medicine ball between my knees. She wanted 32 leg raises, but I got to 10 and my back started twitching in pain. “Take a break! Take a break! It’s OK!” she assured me. I put the ball down and tell her that before we met, I assumed all “celebrity trainers” were harsh drill-sergeant types who whipped their clients into shape through intimidation and barking orders and ask why she doesn’t operate that way. “I personally don’t respond well to that, so I just don’t do it. I’d rather engage with my client than yell at them.”
After I completed a treacherous series of 32 counts, we transition to the treadmill. Bent down in a plank position with hands secured on either side of the treadmill’s belt, she places her feet onto the moving belt for a “treadmill mountain climber”—or “torture” as I came to call it. When we settle onto the floor to stretch, she tells me she can already see more defined muscle tone in my arms.
I should have relished the chance to unwind after a harrowing week, but I woke up with an urge to get to my gym and test out Ary’s moves on my own. I headed straight for the treadmill—a machine I would ordinarily avoid like the plague—and warmed up for a few minutes before bending down, planked over the machine in preparation for “treadmill mountain climbers.” Obviously, I looked like a complete idiot. But I couldn’t be bothered by bemused onlookers. I was too busy working toward Rihanna’s signature booty.
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