How many of you have Madonna on your iPod? It's OK, no one is judging you. Is it because her beats are always aggressive, exciting and at a speed that just seems to set the tone for an awesome workout?
Or is it because deep down inside, we hope that if we listen to her songs enough, by some super-human power of virtual osmosis, we'll get shoulders and arms like her? The woman is about to turn 50, and at a ripe 20 years of age, I would kill to have a body like hers.
How Does She Do It?
How does she have the time with constant touring, 3 children, and charity work? Much of her fitness is done in the form of cardio, and more specifically, dancing. If you've ever been to one of her concerts, you'll see that she's more limber, suave and flexible, than most of the dancers half her age.
Madonna is very holistic in her approach to health and wellness. You'll understand what I mean when you read about her diet and training regimens. By the time you finish this article, you will hopefully have developed a newfound respect for her.
Madonna follows something known as "The Macrobiotic Diet." Macrobiotics means "the way of longevity." Long-lived traditional cultures drew from Oriental and Japanese folk medicine to create a version of their traditional philosophy of health.
Whole foods, such as brown rice, are central to a Macrobiotic diet. In the 20th century, a few creative and brilliant teachers emerged, such as the Kushis (who immigrated to the United States from Japan), who distilled the wide-ranging ideas and interpreted them for modern, urban, and industrialized life.
According to Michio Kushi's book, "Macrobiotics emphasizes locally grown whole grain cereals, legumes, vegetables, seaweed, fermented soy products and fruit, combined into meals according to the principle of balance (known as yin and yang).
Dietary recommendations include whole grains, such as brown rice, and other whole-grain products, such as buckwheat pasta (soba); a variety of cooked and raw vegetables, beans and bean products, such as tofu, tempeh and miso; mild natural seasonings, fish, nuts and seeds, mild (non-stimulating) beverages, such as bancha twig tea and fruit."
In an interview with CNN's Larry King she described her typical dinner as "fish, some kind of grains, some kind of cooked vegetable, [and] salad. Simple, but tasty." For dessert, "When I'm sneaking and I'm having a moment of decadence, I eat toast with strawberry jam," she told King. Madonna picked up on the Macrobiotic lifestyle, and clearly, it's working for her.
The Daily Mail in Britain reports that Madonna works out two hours a day, six days a week. Her first two sessions are Yoga/Pilates (discussed later in the article), and for her third session, after lunch, she chooses from a variety of options including karate, swimming, weightlifting, running, cycling, and occasionally horse riding (except several years ago, she broke some ribs horseback riding).
The Daily Mail claims she also uses a StairMaster in her office as she takes calls. She supposedly maintained a 45-minute-a-day StairMaster regime until the day before giving birth to her first child, Lourdes. Now if that's not dedication, I don't know what is.
Everyone needs some days off though; to avoid fatigue. 1-2 days of the week of doing nothing but low intensity walking, playing with children in the park and activities like that would be excellent "Off day" activities.
When someone has such limited time, as Madonna does, especially when she's on the road, it would be advisable to condense one's workouts. I say, pick 8-12 of your favorite exercises (1-2 per major body part: Chest, Back, Legs, Arms, Shoulders), and perform a circuit with them.
A circuit session consists of a series of exercises or stations performed in succession with minimal rest intervals in between; this cuts down considerably on time, which is probably important to someone with a schedule as busy as Madonna's.
It works well for developing strength, endurance (both aerobic and anaerobic), flexibility and coordination. So the guidelines of circuit training are: 8-12 exercises, 12-15 reps per station, 50-70% of your one rep max, rest only as long as it takes to get from one station to the next, and 2-3 minutes rest between each circuit.
You can do a total of 1-3 full circuits depending on how much time you have. This full-body routine can be done 2-4x per week. Here's an example of a circuit workout if you're in a gym:
- Warm-up (5-10 minutes of cardio)
- Dumbbell lunges
- Dumbbell Rows
- Dumbbell Flyes
- Dumbbell Overhead press
- Dumbbell Curls
She is credited with popularizing the vigorous Ashtanga style of yoga. This method of Yoga involves synchronizing the breath with progressive series of postures-a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind. And her devotion to Pilates is also well known.
As I mentioned before, Madonna works out about three times a day: She starts with yoga at her home gym and then she moves on to a Pilates studio. Her third workout is either a hardcore cardio session or a resistance training workout.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a form of yoga that has had considerable influence on many of the modern forms of yoga taught today. This style of yoga is characterized by a focus on a dynamic connecting posture, that creates a flow between the more static traditional yoga postures. The 'flow' is a variant of the Sun Salutation, which is another yoga posture.
The whole practice is defined by six specific series of postures, always done in the same order, combined with specific breathing patterns.
The purpose of Vinyasa is to create heat in the body, which leads to purification of the body through increased circulation and sweating. It also improves flexibility, as well as tendon and hard tissue strength, allowing the student to practice advanced postures with reduced risk of injury.
According to Wikipedia, Pilates is a physical fitness system developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. Pilates called his method Contrology, because he believed his method uses the mind to control the muscles. The program focuses on the core postural muscles which help keep the body balanced and which are essential to providing support for the spine.
In particular, Pilates exercises teach awareness of breath and alignment of the spine, and aim to strengthen the deep torso muscles. No wonder Madonna's abs are rock solid!
If you don't have a gym membership, or your gym doesn't cater these classes, there is an assortment of DVDs out there so that you can do Yoga and Pilates in the comfort of your own home.
So as you can see, Madonna takes great pride in her appearance, and much of her day is devoted to taking care of her mind and body.
I'm not suggesting you workout for 2 hours a day, everyday if you want to look like her, but every little bit helps; so as long as you're getting out there, and getting active, you will reap similar rewards and benefits. Your own mind and body will thank you.