Fitness Expert & Celebrity Trainer Michael George Discusses Role & Methods!

In the following interview Michael discusses the ins and outs of being one of the best personal trainers. If you are interested in breaking into the industry, or looking to improve your own training progress, this interview is a must read.

Article Summary:
  • Michael has trained celebs like Tobey Maguire & Reese Witherspoon.
  • He trained Toby for his role in Pleasantville.
  • Lori Loughlin was Michael's first celebrity client.
  • When aiming to get into your best possible shape - be it losing fat, gaining muscle, improving fitness performance or a combination of all three - the first step is to gain sufficient knowledge so you can plan for success. A failure to address your individual fitness requirements based on correct information will usually lead to frustration and a loss of interest in your fitness program.

    When your income depends on the way you look and perform, the stakes are much higher, and the right training advice is imperative. Hollywood actors' and actresses' reputations and subsequent ability to land big roles hinges to a large extent on their appearance and they will do whatever it takes to achieve the perfect look.

    At this point they will usually consult with a personal trainer specializing in training celebrities, or a "celebrity personal trainer" as some of them like to be known as.

    In an industry full of these trainers, one man has worked his way to the top with his vast knowledge base coupled with aggressive attitude to getting results. Michael George has worked with countless celebrities and is known for his no-nonsense, dynamic approach to getting results.

    As a former martial artist, who still practices today, and emerging bodybuilding champion, who remains dedicated to keeping in top shape all year round, Michael learned early on that to be successful there was a right and a wrong way to approach his fitness goals.

    He found the right way - part of which involves cramming as much intensity and variety into his workouts as possible in the shortest period - and he succeeded in rapid fashion.

    The only problem was, others saw his rapid progress and he quickly became known as the man to go to for training advice. One thing led to another and he eventually became one of America's top personal trainers and his personal goals were not as pursued as actively.

    It didn't take long before word spread and he soon found himself training celebrities, among which includes Spiderman's Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon.

    Toby
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    Toby Maguire In Spiderman 2.
    © 2004 Columbia Pictures Corporation.

    With a training system predicated on 'fast results on the client's terms', Michael has become popular among those who live busy lives and need a trainer who can accommodate their individual needs, regardless of the time or place.

    Known also for his ability to improvise, Michael can design a workout from almost nothing, and in some cases, get you into perfect shape using your natural environment - work or otherwise.

    With his vast experience and recognized ability to get fitness results for all his clients, wouldn't it be interesting to sit down and talk with Michael and learn from him as well as learning about the industry in which he works? Well I have saved you the trouble.

    In the following interview Michael discusses the ins and outs of being one of the best personal trainers around. If you are interested in breaking into the industry yourself, or looking to improve your own training progress, this interview is a must read.

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    [ Q ] Hello Michael. You have worked with quite a few celebrities, one of them being Tobey Maguire. When did you begin training Tobey?
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      [ A ] I trained him for around six months, in the lead up to his role in Pleasantville, and a movie prior to that, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I was probably his first trainer; I'm the one that sort of got him started on the fitness kick.

    Toby
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    Toby Maguire In Pleasantville.
    © 1998 - New Line Cinema Productions, Inc.

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    [ Q ] Did you train Tobey for his Spiderman role?
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      [ A ] No. Because you have trained a celebrity, people just assume that you have been training them for 20 years (laughs).

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    [ Q ] What were Tobey's initial fitness goals?
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      [ A ] Well basically his goals were just to get into better general shape. Just to get a little healthier, to learn more about what it takes to get healthier and about what it takes to tone up and get rid of a little body fat. It was not major work.

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    [ Q ] A general fitness program, not a bodybuilding program?
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      [ A ] Yes.

    Michael George
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    Michael George.

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    [ Q ] Did you design a nutrition plan for Tobey?
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      [ A ] Yes, pretty much. I provide nutrition counseling to all of my clients. I keep them accountable by monitoring what they are doing. But I give clients a little bit of leeway in regards to how much they want to follow what I tell them and how much they don't. There is a certain degree of commitment in different areas.

      I preach to them how they should be eating and what the proper way to eat is and why they should do it that way, but it's up to them to make the choice to do it.

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    [ Q ] Do you have a standard approach to training all of your clients or do you base each program on their individual needs?
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      [ A ] I have a standard approach in regards to the initial fitness assessment and consultation with all my clients. That is basically to pull out as much information as I can, to really get a good idea where that person is, where the client is starting from, from both a fitness perspective and where they are to start from nutrition-wise, as well as their lifestyle.

      What is their lifestyle like? What's their background like, their history? Have they been active in sports, have they worked out? So I try to extract as much information as I can out of them in the initial consultation and fitness assessment and initial workout. But after that, it just runs the gamut.

      The programs can be across the board. I have clients that need to pack on five pounds of muscle in three weeks; I have clients that need to lose ten pounds in two to three weeks, I have clients for general fitness, those who have major lifestyle issues, and those who want to learn more martial arts and boxing versus fitness. So it just really runs the gamut after that.

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    [ Q ] Are there any specific considerations or requirements when training a celebrity?
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      [ A ] No, there are really no necessary requirements. Obviously to get those kinds of gigs you first of all need to be really good at what you do, you need to have somewhat of a track record that proves that. It's good to be extremely professional. Those are basically the requirements.

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    [ Q ] How big of a factor is maintaining confidentiality with your celebrity clients?
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      [ A ] Oh yes, it is important, in some cases more than others. In some cases it is just a verbal arrangement. I actually provide all of that documentation in my initial introduction and assessment of clients. I have them sign a confidentiality form that I have already signed that basically tells them that what they discuss with me stays with us.

      Unless it's workout based and then I get a release from them to discuss that with the media. But that is only exercise based; no personal information is ever divulged from me to any other party. So I provide that from the outset. But many times, at the request of their team of PR people, I have to sign anything from one page to ten page confidentiality agreements.

    Michael George
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    I Have To Sign Anything From One Page
    To Ten Page Confidentiality Agreements.

      If you are going to work with high profile people, whether they are celebrities or top-level executives, an extremely high degree of professionalism is needed.

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    [ Q ] All of that being said, do you get people - gossip magazine reporters for example - contacting you to extract information?
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      [ A ] All of the time.

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    [ Q ] And your standard response would be what?
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      [ A ] Sorry but I don't divulge any information, unless it is based upon the workouts we did. I would be happy to tell you about that, but basically anything else I will not discuss.

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    [ Q ] I would like to address some of your training methods. What specific training methods did you employ to get Tobey Maguire into his best possible shape?
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      [ A ] Basically what I do is to work with clients' likes versus dislikes. I don't try to put a round peg in a square hole.

      With Tobey, he was really into basketball at the time. He loved shooting hoops with his buddies and he was very busy as he was basically getting into the stardom arena.

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      So I told him we would work out at a park by the basketball courts so he could play some basketball, get warmed up, and then we could do our workout right there. And I brought all of my equipment with me; bands, balls, dumbbells, you name it.

      Then I improvised: used whatever was in my surrounding area. I used a tree branch to do pull ups on. I had him doing a lot of push-ups; brought a mat to do crunches and we also used bands wrapped around a tree for other work. And I interval-trained him with basketball as well.

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    [ Q ] So you took the workout to him, rather than taking him to the gym.
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      [ A ] Exactly.

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    [ Q ] This is something you would do with all celebrity clients?
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      [ A ] Obviously I do charge more to be on location with clients but I do my best to make sure that where we are training and what we are doing is something they are interested in and something they want to do. I don't try to bring somebody to a gym if they hate being in gyms.

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    [ Q ] Was it ever an issue getting Tobey to train?
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      [ A ] A little bit at times. Tobey was young. And he wasn't really in bad shape but he didn't really take care of himself that well either. So he wasn't too motivated. I'm sure once Spiderman came around and he was told that his paycheck really depended on how he looked, his motivation changed. But I managed to keep him pumped up and motivated.

    Toby
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    Toby Maguire In Spiderman.
    © 2002 Columbia Pictures Corporation.

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    [ Q ] After you had finished your work with Tobey, do you think you sparked an interest in him to pursue physical fitness more actively?
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      [ A ] Yes, I think so. You get different levels of clients. Some clients are pretty exercise savvy and just need someone to take them to a different level or provide them with more knowledge, educate them, and then there are those who have no clue so you are starting at ground zero.

      Then you have other clients who you just plant seeds with and encourage them to think about exercising for the rest of their life, or at least you hope they will do it for the rest of their life.

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    [ Q ] When most people begin training seriously, they often achieve good results over the initial training period. How long did it take for Tobey to begin making progress?
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      [ A ] He started pretty well. But like I said, we weren't doing anything too crazy; it was more of a general fitness plan. It wasn't really about packing on muscle; he didn't want to get real big.

      He just wanted to get toned up; but his body did respond very quickly. Interval training worked with him very well. We pretty much kept things high reps and high intensity. We didn't really use a lot of weight because that isn't really what he wanted to do.

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    [ Q ] How many sets did you prescribe?
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      [ A ] I don't really follow a set protocol; it really depends on the day, my clients' energy levels and what is going on with them. I would say typically two to three; sometimes four would be an average range.

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    [ Q ] Would it be fair to say that your training philosophy is to cram as much intensity into the shortest possible time period?
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      [ A ] 100 percent. It gets great results. What I am known for is working extremely effectively and extremely efficiently. And I'm all about getting more 'bang for your buck'.

      I'm a no-nonsense trainer: you don't come to me if you want a babysitter. You come to me because you really want to get in shape or you really need to get in shape. Or you really want to change your lifestyle. If those are your goals, I can help you do that. If you just want someone to talk to or a psychologist, I'm not the trainer for you and I tell people that from the get go.

    Michael George
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    I'm A No-Nonsense Trainer.

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    [ Q ] Being no-nonsense seems to be a common trait of good personal trainers. Do you find your clients respond well to this approach?
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      [ A ] Yes they do. Every celebrity client is a human being so they all have their different personalities. Some of them I become a little more personal with. I've been a bodyguard for a lot of my clients as well.

      I'm versed in four different martial arts and I used to be a bouncer. So when you are with them that much, when you are their bodyguard and their trainer, you are with them 24/7 to some capacity, you develop a personal friendship as well. But you also have to gain their trust, that whatever you discuss stays between the two of you - which I have done over the years.

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      There are different levels. Sometimes clients want it strictly professional, some want it to be a little bit of both, but the key, as trainer, is to also have their respect.

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    [ Q ] How do you know when you have gained that respect?
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      [ A ] I know based upon what they tell me, and what I am hearing from them. They open up to me and the level of conversation we have is much deeper. Honesty - the truth that comes out, the vulnerability.

      If there is one piece of advice that I can give to other trainers, it is: stop talking and start listening. Too many trainers spend so much time and energy talking and talking, typically about themselves. Or if not about themselves, what they are trying to do with their client.

      The client really doesn't give a sh!t. Now your client is paying for your time, so it's now their time. They have paid you for an hour or an hour and a half. It's now their time.

      It's very selfish and egotistical of any trainer to think they can monopolize that time with their conversation. All I do with my clients is just listen - just listen to them. They tell me exactly what they want, what is going on, what's happening, how they are feeling. I just listen.

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    [ Q ] And when putting across information, you want to keep it as simple and as concise as possible, right?
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      [ A ] Exactly. The client is not interested in how the triceps muscle functions, which striation is what. They don't care about that. Some clients may care about that, but you have to determine what your client is interested in learning and what they are not and just feed them what they want to hear.

      I've seen so many new trainers try to explain to each client why they are doing an exercise and what that exercise is doing and how that is going to help them. Unless that client really wants to know that, you are wasting your time and energy.

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    [ Q ] And you are wasting valuable training time.
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      [ A ] Exactly.

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    [ Q ] Getting back to your training relationship with Tobey McGuire, what exactly did he achieve training with you?
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      [ A ] He probably dropped about three percent body fat and put on about five to six pounds of lean muscle mass. Basically he achieved what he wanted: he got more toned, more sculpted. He improved his diet and was sort of kick-started into more of a healthy lifestyle. With some clients that is the best you can expect.

    Toby
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    Toby Maguire In Spiderman.
    © 2002 Columbia Pictures Corporation.

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    [ Q ] How many times a week did you train Tobey?
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      [ A ] I trained him probably three times a week.

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    [ Q ] What specific approach did you use when training Reese Witherspoon?
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    Toby
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    Reese Witherspoon In Pleasantville.
    © 1998 - New Line Cinema Productions, Inc.

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    [ Q ] And how often would you do this workout?
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      [ A ] We did this workout two to three times a week.

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    [ Q ] And you stuck with the same protocol each time?
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      [ A ] Yes, but you can bring different toys and different tools to mix it up. I never do the same thing twice: if I did biceps curls and shoulder press one day, I would mix it up and change the way I'm doing the shoulder press the next time, or I will make her do biceps curls with the shoulder press (one movement); there will be holding the lunge instead of walking. I am always changing it up.

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    [ Q ] It must have been hard for you to carry all the equipment on your walks with Reese (laughs).
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      [ A ] No, I don't carry any equipment (laughs). I give her five-pound dumbbells; we're not taking big dumbbells with us. I may wear some bands around my neck. I don't carry a lot of equipment with me. I will do a lot of equipment-based stuff at the beginning or end of the workout near the car.

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    [ Q ] Was Reese very motivated to get on with it and achieve her goals?
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      [ A ] Oh yeah, she was a sweetheart.

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    [ Q ] And how long did you train her for?
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      [ A ] About six months, the same time I was training Tobey. In fact, I was training them at the same time. They were both training for the same movie ( Pleasantville).

    Toby & Reese
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    Reese Witherspoon & Toby Maguire In Pleasantville.
    © 1998 - New Line Cinema Productions, Inc.

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    [ Q ] How often do celebrities wanting to improve their bodies for a movie role contact you?
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      [ A ] Actresses, actors, management companies, PR firms, directors, producers, and production companies contact me quite frequently - It runs the gamut.

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    [ Q ] How do you market yourself?
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      [ A ] I let my work speak for me. I don't really promote myself as a celebrity trainer. That is something the media has done. I'm more of a fitness expert/coach. If you happen to be a celebrity, you happen to be a celebrity.

      I treat all of my clients equally. I know there are some celebrity trainers out there who say, "I'm a celebrity trainer and I only train celebrities." That's their choice and that's fine, but I'm just a personal trainer that happens to work with a lot of celebrities and has worked with a lot of celebrities. So that's something that I try to promote. I don't let my talk speak for me; I let my work speak for me.

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    [ Q ] So when you started in the fitness industry as trainer, you were not specifically aiming to train celebrities? This is something that evolved?
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      [ A ] Yes, it evolved through word of mouth. I worked with one celebrity and she told another celebrity and she told somebody else and so on. Before I knew it I was working with Reese, Tobey, Dennis Quaid, Matt Dillon, James Spader, and Liam Schreiber, a ton of people within a matter of probably six months to a year.

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    [ Q ] And who was your initial celebrity client?
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    Lori Loughlin
    Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
    Lori Loughlin.
    © WireImage.com.

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    [ Q ] And what was your approach to training her?
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      [ A ] I approached it like I would a normal client. We sat down and did a consultation and assessment. We figured out where she was fitness-wise, she told me what her goals were and I told her what I thought we could do together. And we just did it.

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    [ Q ] What are some of the common goals you celebrity clients wish to achieve?
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      [ A ] Obviously the common goals are what you would think: body fat reduction, sculpting and toning of the body, building lean muscle mass, and getting in overall better fitness shape. Those would be the main ones. And then I get clients who want to train for movies that require martial arts skills or they may need to do their own stunts. I did a lot of stunt work when I was younger. So I can help them here too.

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    [ Q ] What specific areas do your clients wish to improve on?
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      [ A ] Well for men, they want to be able to take off their shirt in a movie and have a big chest and big biceps. For women they want to have a small, flat stomach and a tight booty.

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    [ Q ] For body fat reduction, do you have celebrity clients who want to get down to the insanely ripped levels achieved by advanced bodybuilders?
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      [ A ] Oh yeah. I get a lot of extreme goals and a lot of unrealistic goals. My job as a fitness expert and a very responsible coach is to impart on my clients the truth of what is realistic and what is not realistic. I leave open a big door for extreme gains and extreme losses. But if a client comes to me and their main goal is to lose three pounds because the modeling agency says they need to and I can't see three pounds to lose, I will tell the client that.

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    [ Q ] So your approach is to be as truthful as possible to also negate any potential training-associated health problems.
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      [ A ] Yes, exactly.

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    [ Q ] Are performance enhancing drugs used by some of the celebrities you train?
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      [ A ] They have been brought up on numerous occasions and I've always told them that I'm not the person to talk to about that. And if you do decide to take anything other than what's legal I don't want to know about it, and if I do know about I don't want to train you anymore.

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    [ Q ] Your policy as a trainer is a drug-free one?
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      [ A ] Yes. If you were to do something on your own, that's fine. I will know it anyways. But don't come out and tell me you are taking some steroids or anything that is really crazy.

      I'm not actually against steroids. I don't think they are as unhealthy or damaging as they have been touted to be if they're used for the right reasons and in moderation for short lengths of time.

      But, I also don't want to be involved with that kind of scandal, because it is a scandal unfortunately. Our government tells us that those are illegal substances and we can't work with them. Unfortunately I have to abide by the law whether I believe in it or not.

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    [ Q ] In Hollywood there is thought to be a bigger, faster, stronger mentality. People want to achieve the most physical progress in the shortest possible period. Obviously performance-enhancing drugs are a fast track to this end. Is there a feeling in the entertainment industry that drugs are used more than it is commonly thought?
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      [ A ] I don't think it is like the professional athletic community. I think it is far and few between. If there are any drugs used, they are very minor drugs. There might be some weight loss supplements from Europe, some Clenbuterol or GHB running around, but nothing too serious.

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    [ Q ] Thanks for your honesty here Michael. Do you have any concluding thoughts before we wrap this interview? Any advice you would like to give to people who would like shape up in the most efficient manner possible?
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      [ A ] I firmly believe, even though I am extremist myself, and in my younger training days - in my 20s - I was extremely extreme, I would just tell people to focus on balance and moderation and remember that they have to live in their body for 40 or 50 years. Don't abuse it.

      Cross train, don't kill yourself with weights. I know with bodybuilders - that's their job - but try to get some kind of recuperation time in and balance it out while exercising moderation. This is really important, especially as you get older.