“Simple Fitness, Simple Nutrition, Fast Results.”
Autumn Calabrese is a celebrity trainer, best-selling author, single mom, NPC competitor, and still one of the most down-to-earth and inspiring women I’ve had the chance to interview. Autumn is certified by both NASM and AFPA and is working on her nutrition certification currently. Her breakthrough hit workout 21 Day Fix®, and follow-up 21 Day Fix EXTREME®, have been Beachbody’s top-selling franchise for the past two years, while her cookbook FIXATE™ has sold more than 400,000 copies. Her newest workout program, Country Heat, is already a top-selling workout on Beachbody on Demand as people are having a blast dancing their way to weight loss.
This past week I had the chance to chat with Autumn to find out how she stays in incredible shape herself (her personal diet & training routine), balances her busy life, and what types of foods she feeds her son.
FitRX: Hi Autumn! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview! I’m a huge fan of your 21-day fix EXTREME workouts. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Autumn: Of course! I am a Midwest girl – I grew up in Cleveland and St. Louis – and came to California when I was 24 to try to make it as an actress/dancer. My path let me into fitness and personal training and eventually to Beachbody. I’m now (age 36) one of the top trainers on Beachbody and also have a cookbook, cooking show, and clothing line. I’m a single mom; my son, Dominic is my pride and joy.
FitRX: One of the things I learned about you in researching for this interview is that you also used to compete in the NPC! Your stage photos look amazing, and you still look just as incredible now. Did you use the same training program for your shows as you do now? If not, how is it different?
Autumn: Thank you! In a lot of ways, my training is similar. I still do a leg day, shoulder day, back/bi day, etc. – for me, hardcore lifting works best. For a show, though, I do a lot more cardio than I would typically do. I workout now for about a 1-1.5 hours a day versus 2-2.5 hours when I was training for NPC.
As a trainer, though, I really like functional training with compound movements – like my hammer/chisel program. So, I do a rotation now: 6 weeks of heavy lifting phase, and then 6 weeks of compound movements. This helps me change it up and keep me from plateauing.
FitRX: It’s always nice to figure out a nice balance that works for your body, and it sounds like you keep a good mix of training. I am actually a subscriber to the “Beachbody On Demand” app myself and am using your 21 Day Fix Extreme workouts in my NPC show prep and half marathon training – your extreme workouts are no joke! They are really challenging and seem to be designed for someone wanting to build muscle and get lean, and are great for variety in my routine. Your first series that vaulted you to being one of the Superstar trainers was called “21 Day Fix”. What was your initial goal in designing the 21 Day Fix Programs?
Autumn: Beachbody brought me in, and, at the time, it was known for its more intense workout programs, so the goal was ‘how do we bring in people who are new to fitness?’ I had my portion control system already created at that time, so we were going to use that.* So, the target was to create workouts to go along with the nutrition for people who didn’t have a ton of time and were new to working out. Our slogan is “simple fitness, simple nutrition, fast results”.
*The 21 Day Fix nutrition system is a simple approach to food. You use the calculation given in the Nutrition program to figure out how many calories per day you should be eating. With that number, Autumn has broken down for each Calorie range how many portions of each type of food (vegetables, fats, fruits, other carbs, proteins, etc) that you can have – each different colored container is an easy way to measure each type of food. Then, you just use the nutrition tracking sheets to tally up your ‘containers’/portions each day to match the amount in your Calorie-range. The Calories/Portions allotted use a breakdown of 40% carb, 30%fat, 30% protein.
FitRX: Twenty-one days is also a good amount of time for new people to really commit and see results that will make them want to continue. You recently just launched a new program called “Country Heat”! What is the goal behind that program?
Autumn: This is geared toward beginners even more than 21 Day Fix. We saw success in walking programs, and then we saw people having a great time doing the cupid shuffle at a work party. So that got us thinking – what do we give people to just get them up and moving? I’m a huge country fan and so the idea started as a country line dancing program, but I didn’t want it to be cheesy. It took about 7 versions of the full program and a year to design it before launching it. It’s fun and the music is amazing! People love it and are having the best time getting sweaty. [The workouts are] 30 minutes non-stop of calorie-burning and we are seeing amazing results with it when it’s paired with the portion control system.
FitRX: How would you compare/contrast ‘Country Heat’ to your previous workout programs?
Autumn: It’s similar in the fact that it’s 30minutes in length, and it has my motivation, my cues and my coaching. The nutrition is similar, and we do still have a workout modifier. But it’s definitely different in the fact that we workout using dance and zero equipment. And I think it’s more ‘fun’—I’m in my dance element and letting my hair down, literally, and having fun with fitness showing you it doesn’t have to feel like work.
FitRX: Can people (like me) who have zero rhythm still get into it?
Autumn: Absolutely! The one other thing we have in country heat is we have a move breakdown video for each routine where it’s just me, the modifier, and one other person explaining how to do the moves without music, showing you exactly what to do with the count so when the music does come on you know what to expect. Once you get the steps, you can just skip that part and do the music version. The breakdown video is just 15 minutes in length so you can practice it until you get it.
FitRX: Awesome! I may have to try that. I know you have created your own nutrition system, but what do you actually eat? Do you follow your own nutrition plan?
Autumn: The regular 21 day fix system is how I eat. I don’t really have to use the containers because I know it so well, but that’s pretty much how I eat. I do eat pretty much gluten free and dairy free, and I eat whole food… If I have dessert, I’ll plan for it and make it myself so I know what’s in it. I practice what I preach. I’m hoping to be the best example possible.
A typical day would look like:
• Breakfast – scrambled egg whites with green vegetable, Ezekiel toast or steel cut oats, with PB/strawberries. Breakfast is my biggest meal of the day because its right before I workout
• After workout, I have my Beachbody recover with banana
• An hour after my post-workout – salad/chicken/quinoa, or maybe sushi with brown rice
• The rest of the day I eat every 2.5 hours with a protein/carb/vegetable
FitRX: I asked my followers on social media what their questions would be for you. One question that came up a few times was: “How do you manage your time? I know working out is your job per se, but how do you get it all in? Working out, parenting, traveling, meal prepping?”
Autumn: I am strategic about it. I get my workout in first thing in the morning. My son has to be at school by 8:30, so I pack his lunch and my food for the next day the night before. I usually get up an hour before my son, have breakfast, do some computer work for about 45 minutes and he’s up at 7. So then we get ready for school and are out the door at 7:45. I drop him off, then get my workout in. I schedule my meetings based on my workouts. If I have meetings that will cut into my workout time, then I get up earlier to get it in before the day starts. The workout to me is just as important as a meeting with my boss or anyone else. It’s my me-time to get my brain set for the day… and I’m in a much better mood the rest of the day.
I do all my grocery shopping and prepping on Sunday. I do have a nanny who can help when it’s really busy, but I do most of it on my own.
FitRX: Another question from the ‘audience’ was: “What do you feed your son?”
Autumn: My son is a really good eater – he’s not really picky so I’m lucky there. For breakfast, I’ll make eggs and toast, or I’ll make waffles with coconut flour. He loves fruit and likes some vegetables. Getting him to eat protein is tough, but he likes burgers. We make burgers without a bun.
The recipes we (Autumn and her brother Bobby) make on Fixate are the recipes we make at home. We make our food at home so we know what is going in them.
FitRX: You and your brother host a cooking show “Fixate” based on your cookbook Fixate. What is ‘Fixate’ about, and what is one of your favorite ‘family-friendly’ meals that you recommend?
Autumn: The book Fixate is 101 fix-approved recipes (fix-approved means they fit within her 21-day fix system). With the success of the cookbook, we were debating between another book or a show. So we decided on the show and brought my brother Bobby on as the co-host. It just launched in August and is doing well!
Two of my favorite recipes are:
• Chocolate-Peanut Butter balls – I make a batch of these at the beginning of the week for snacks for Dominic and myself to have.
• I love sushi, so my Ahi-Avocado-Quinoa Sushi is one of my favorite meals to prep.
** For recipes, check out Fixate at Beachbody on Demand.
FitRX: Those look delicious! I’ll have to check those out! What is the best piece of advice/wisdom you’ve ever received and can pass on to our FitnessRXwomen readers?
Autumn: “Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” I remember reading it in 6th grade and it still sticks out to me. If you maintain a positive attitude, it will set you up for a much better outcome and success.
FitRX: I love that quote… Do you have an example of when that quote applied to you?
Autumn: Before I was a Beachbody trainer, I was a personal trainer for 10 years, working 14 hour days and my son was just 2 years old. There were a lot of big opportunities that came up during that time, but didn’t seem to pan out. And then one day, one of my clients happened to pass on my nutrition system to Beachbody—they loved the idea and brought me on as a trainer. So I wasn’t an overnight success, but it worked out the way it was supposed to. I just stayed positive.
FitRX: That’s such a great story! And it’s awesome to see that hard work and a positive attitude pay off. I’m sure that is a great example for your son and also helped make you into the trainer and motivator that you are today. Speaking of motivation, I know you love your quotes! My coworker is doing the 21day Fix program and we talk about your quotes on the whiteboard in the workout videos … Do you have a motto or another favorite quote that you live by?
Autumn: “If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” I always say I’m no different than anyone else. I’ve had days that are difficult, but just move forward. I’m blessed that I get to live my dream.
FitRX: Yes, you are! Thank you so much for your time and sharing your fitness tips with us, Autumn. I wish I could keep talking to you longer… I hope you have a great week and best wishes in all your future endeavors!
For more on Autumn: