“It’s never too late to create the best version of you.” – Ashley Borden
Master trainer Ashley Borden is one of the top fitness and lifestyle consultants today. She has more than 35,000 hours (20 years) of experience in personal training with a client list that includes Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Gosling, Kesha, Steelers’ Antonio Brown, NY Yankee Nick Swisher and UFC champion Matt Hughes.
Additionally, 44-year-old Ashley is in phenomenal shape herself. So, what makes her one of the most elite trainers in the world and what does she credit her incredible physique to? Ashley reveals her “secrets” to success in the personal training industry along with her workout and diet regimen in this interview.
RC: Hi, Ashley! Thank you so much for taking the time to interview with FitnessRx for Women. Let’s start with a little bit of your background. How did you get into personal training and get started?
Ashley: “I grew up around health and fitness my entire life. My mom owned a health food store and my dad owned a sporting goods store. I started in dance, but never considered myself an athlete at all, and I never understood why athletic movements were so difficult for me until I started studying biomechanics. A big part of why I was so drawn to training was the whole idea that I wanted to help people understand their bodies and have it not be a mystery to them like it was to me for so many years. I like to help people connect to their bodies so they don’t feel like a victim to it.”
RC: You are so successful and internationally recognized as one of the top experts in the field of training. How did you manage to set yourself apart in such a fast-paced and competitive industry?
Ashley: Work ethic: “I have an incredible work ethic. I am the hardest, most perfectionist boss to me. I work six days a week. I have very high expectations. It’s a business to me. I always tell other trainers that you have to be an asset— you are so replaceable. I am so engaged with my clients for the entire hour that there could be a fire in the gym and I wouldn’t see it.”
Getting to know her clients: “My clients trust me a lot. Trust comes with really listening to your clients. For me, I ask people their sign because it helps me understand how people receive my information. Even if people are not into it, it helps me get a general personality of people. The way that people receive information is the best way that I can teach someone. I have NO turnover with clients and that is because I evolve with them— I really listen and set new goals with them.”
How she treats her clients: “I always put myself in the client’s shoes because I’ve been a client. I tell every trainer: You HAVE to hire somebody— you need to know what it feels like to exchange money and then the expectation you feel for that money. I get the same satisfaction of working with a 53-year-old mom of five as I do with a celebrity. There is no difference in the energy. The cool thing about training is that it equalizes everybody— it doesn’t matter how much money you make or what you do for a living. Body fat doesn’t care how much money you make. I’ve also found that most people want the trainer to take control of the situation and be in charge. That’s why they’re hiring one. They are paying for me to take control of the session in a respectful way and get results.”
What a typical training session looks like: “I am very into visual cues. I have my clients go through every exercise before they start so they aren’t correcting themselves within the workout. How you break up your hour as a trainer is how you get the most out of the hour with your client. I’m very aware of the clock. Managing time helps me get more volume in with a client. So with my clients, I have each session broken up into a foam rolling section, then Parts A, B, C, D, etc., and I know approximately how long each will take. So, while my client is rolling out, that is when we are catching up. After that, the chitchat is done. If you can carry a conversation with me, you’re not working hard enough.”
Teach and be teachable: “I’m a teacher before anything. You need to be in this profession because you want to help people. If you’re in training because you like to work out, that’s not going to last. If you’re in training because you want to train celebrities, people can smell that a million miles away, and you won’t last. To me, you still have biomechanic issues whether you’re a billionaire or a huge famous person. Everyone’s equal.
“Also, if you have an ego that is so huge that you aren’t open to learning, you’ll never last. I am a master trainer and train other trainers, and I’m trained by other trainers because I love to learn. Your client is putting their body in your hands. That’s huge! If I don’t know something, I’ll ask.”
RC: You use a training system that consists of four parts (strength training, interval training, foam rolling, and the SOS Food plan). Which component do you think is the most important, or that most clients seem to have the most difficulty with?
Ashley: “Well, I control their workout… so I would say really understanding how to change the food for a lot of people— women more than men. What I’ve found is really successful is to explain the WHY and how you’ll feel. Example: I have one client who has been with me seven years. She was 15 pounds heavier when she came to me. Her nutrition issue when she came to me was she ate an excessive amount of cheese and loved bourbon. I asked her what she liked about the cheese. She said, ‘I like to stand up with the block of cheese, and I like the softness of cutting into it, and I like putting it on the bread, and I like having it with my bourbon.’ And I was like: ‘OK, well the dairy is giving you a dairy layer and that’s what the cellulite is that you see on your stomach, and the bourbon is giving you a sugar layer. So, I don’t want to change your whole lifestyle, but let’s just lower the fat content of where you’re getting your fat. What if you were doing the same softness thing with hummus and putting it on a cracker? And with the bourbon, why not do red wine or a vodka soda? Then, take a picture of the bourbon and take a picture of the block of cheese, and put it in a Tiffany frame, and put it next to your bed, and look at every single night. But you’re not having it anymore unless you want a layer of cellulite— it’s up to you.’ And that was her change— she dropped a few pounds and never put it back on again.”
Ashley’s SOS food plan that she uses with her clients is a flexible lifestyle plan that stands for Satiation of Senses— each meal includes something cold, hot, crunchy and colorful. You can find two weeks of a simple SOS plan in her book Your Perfect Fit, and she also shared with me that she is coming out with a new e-book this year with SOS recipes designed by a clean-food chef for people who are “foodies.” Video of Ashley Describing SOS plan: https://youtu.be/_GG9PKMnbfs
RC: I’ve followed you via magazines/Facebook/Instagram for the past 10 years and you seem to look better and better each year. What workouts do you do to stay in such great shape?
Ashley: “What changed for me almost four years ago was understanding and lifting heavy. I made a conscious decision four years ago to ONLY focus on my strength and performance, and not what I looked like. For me, psychologically, it’s made a big difference in my training. I decided I WANTED to learn Jiu Jitsu and Olympic lifting— it’s been four years, and I just now feel like I’m getting it. I hired Brian Redfern as my trainer, and Brian just kind of turned me into a little mini-athlete. It’s basically like challenging my body in a different way than it’s ever been challenged before, which is what I feel like— for women, especially as we get older— sparks it to wake up again. When you change your workouts and start including heavier strength training, you get the hormone release of growth hormone and testosterone and your body starts saying, ‘Oh, you want to have a hard body? Here you go!’ Strength training is so wonderful for women: for confidence, bone density, skin elasticity, lean muscle mass, for your function. But, it doesn’t happen if you don’t lift heavy enough.”
RC: So what does your weekly workout schedule usually look like?
Ashley: “I train with Brian Redfern (Olympic lifting) Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and I do Jiu Jitsu Tuesday/Thursday. I also lift on my own Tuesday and Thursday as well— they are always pretty short, but intense. I’m still consistent with foam rolling every day. And I have a body work guy I work with every three weeks.”
Workout tip: Ashley works out in a gym with no mirrors so she can really feel the movement. With a mirror, you are moving by what you see, which is not accurate. One example she gave is while you are squatting, you can have all your weight at the front of your foot and it can still look like you have the weight in your heel if you go by the mirror, but if you are going by feel it eliminates that mistake.
RC: What about your diet? Do you follow any special plan?
Ashley: “I have just enough consciousness on my food and calories, but it doesn’t run my life. I’m an intuitive eater and I eat as whole foods as possible. I don’t eat partially hydrogenated oil or drink soda. If I ever eat something sweet, I always have fat with it to balance out my blood sugar.”
Sample day for Ashley:
• Morning: Gluten-free bread with almond butter and banana, with a cup of coffee— she adds in a little cream and sugar
• Mid-morning: Breakfast from Paleta (meal-service)
• Post-workout: Protein shake
• Afternoon: Snack from Paleta
• Dinner: Paleta or what her boyfriend cooks
• Dessert: Ashley always ends the night with something sweet like dark chocolate with almond butter, or a hot Lactaid with chocolate in it.
RC: We all kind of hit phases in life where we feel “blah” or unmotivated in our workouts. What advice would you give to find that motivation again?
Ashley: “Learn a different sport. Do something different to spark the interest again in movement— it sparks the body and the mind. For me, I hired Brian because I was burnt out and wanted to have a really good trainer. Spending that money on myself to have someone take care of me has helped me earn more money because I feel better and look better, which affects everything else.”
RC: Awesome advice! You recently came out with a workout program called “6 Weeks to Sculpted” that was voted as the No. 1 workout DVD by Fitness Magazine. What inspired you to create this program?
Ashley: “I realized that what most people don’t have is a system. What I wanted to do was create a program for people that had a system they could follow. It’s a comprehensive program that is based on how I train my clients. It’s a really good progressive program, and includes recovery sessions. All you need is a set of dumbbells, a foam roller, and a yoga mat. For women, if you’re a beast, maybe use 10-pound dumbbells, but even eights are very challenging.”
RC: So, could someone do this program longer than six weeks? Could your “900 Calorie Burn” DVD also be mixed in for variety?
Ashley: “Yes! I wanted this to be a program where there was no ceiling, so you can continue to improve your conditioning with it by just upping your dumbbells or adding a weighted vest. Actually, my boyfriend did the program for six weeks with 15-pound dumbbells and had a major change happen with his body. He took two weeks off, and then wanted to do the program again; but this time, he added a 10-pound weighted vest. The ‘900 Calorie Burn DVD’ is four 20-minute HIIT workouts— upper body focus, lower body focus, full body focus, and core focus— and those could be substituted in for the HIIT workouts in ‘6 Weeks to Sculpted.’”
RC: Do you have anything else you’d like to add? Any new ventures?
Ashley: “The next DVD I’m doing is a foundation DVD for beginners— kind of like the prequel to “6 Weeks to Sculpted”— that hones in on all six specific exercises we use. It teaches people how to move who can’t move at all. I’m shooting that one in April. And, I also am in development of a show that will help a lot more people on a bigger platform, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ll be announcing that later this year.”
RC: Awesome! Thank you so much for your time and sharing your master trainer tips with FitnessRx for Women!
For more with Ashley: