Q&A: Adriana Lima’s trainer tells us how she got back into pre-baby shape

From left: Adriana Lima at the Louis Vuitton Fall 2010 show; NYC's Aerospace gym; and Michael Olajide Jr. Runway image by Peter Stigter

By Valeria Nekhim

When one of the planet’s most famous Angels, Adriana Lima, had two weeks to get her body looking otherworldly for the Victoria’s Secret 2008 fashion show, she turned to Michael Olajide Jr., a former boxing champion and the co-founder of Aerospace, Manhattan’s sleek, machine-free boxing fitness centre. Fast-forward one year to November 2009, and Olajide had an even bigger challenge: Lima, a new mom, needed to return to her Brazilian bombshell form—fast. FASHION got a hold of the man himself on a break from training his A-list clientele (Hugh Jackman and Mickey Rourke anyone?) to get the scoop on how Lima got her Angel wings back in only five months.

When Adriana came to you two weeks before the Victoria’s Secret show in 2008, what physical goals was she hoping to achieve?
“She achieved the look that she wanted, which was really lean, defined muscle. It was very important that she didn’t bulk up and she wanted to maintain femininity. She had about two weeks to make weight, kind of like a fighter needs for the title, because she’s going out there in the barest of things in front of millions of people on TV.  She came in at the last second and had never boxed before, and she really came up.”

Can you describe Lima’s typical pre-pregnancy workout routine?
“We start off with a warm-up and then we do some shadow boxing. Shadow boxing is throwing punches in the air. It helps you execute the punches properly so you look like a fighter. Then we’ll do some jump rope. The jump rope wasn’t her favourite thing at first, but she got so amazing at it. The rope is moving, like, 70 miles an hour, and she’s doing crossovers and double turns and squats while she’s jumping. Then we wrap the hands and put gloves on and she punches these mitts that I hold up, kind of like sparring. And there are certain maneuvers that we use to tone and strengthen the core, because you want that really lean core. You look at her and you’re like, Wow; this is a girl that really works—she doesn’t starve herself.”

What was her workout schedule like?
“Going into the shows, pretty much every day, and sometimes [between five and six times per week] twice a day. She’ll come in the morning and do an hour-long jump rope class, then come in the late afternoon and do an hour of shadow boxing and sculpting exercises with me. Sometimes she’ll do back-to-back classes if she doesn’t get an hour in during the morning.”

How did you adjust her fitness routine when she found out she was pregnant?
“Adriana had a few concerns with the baby so she couldn’t work out as regularly and intensely as before. It was the first time she was having a baby and the doctor wasn’t so sure about things so we had to slow down. The first trimester, I don’t think we worked together at all. Then the second trimester, maybe twice a week, and in the last quarter I don’t think we saw each other at all. But once she had the baby, it was like turbo charge. She did an hour in the morning when the baby was taking a nap, then she would be back with the baby until the evening. Then the baby went to sleep, and she would run back to the gym, and be back home before the baby had any idea what Mom was doing. It was incredible, what she did.”

This was five to six times a week?

So she came back with the same force that she had before she became pregnant?
“She came back with the same intense determination. I think there was a little bit of frustration because she couldn’t do it the way she used to. It’s impossible when you take that kind of time off. But that’s the kind of fighter you want as a trainer. I call her my fighter. You want the person to be hungry and say: ‘I’m not going to stop until I get back into this.’ The mental part is very important.”

Did anything surprise you about training her?
“What always surprises me is how intense she is. She’s 100-per-cent passionate about whatever she’s doing, and as a former professional fighter, I really admire that. A lot of people, when the going gets tough they tend to quit, but she just keeps on going.”

What role do you think diet played in helping her get back to her pre-baby body?
“I think it played a major role. Nutrition is so important whenever you want to accomplish anything, especially if you want to lose weight or if you just want to tone. She was really good with it. You’re supposed to gain weight when you’re pregnant—25 to 30 pounds is considered healthy and safe, and obviously to a working model that can be a death sentence.”

You mentioned that when Adriana came to you, she didn’t want to lose her feminine curves. One would think that with boxing, people get a little beefy. How do you ensure that doesn’t happen?
“What you’re doing in boxing is you’re taking your body and moving it the way it’s meant to, but at a hyper speed. So really what you’re building is the most natural, perfect body. Where it becomes unnatural is when you start lifting heavy weights and using machines. Nobody can bulk on our program because it’s so intensely cardiovascular that what it does is just annihilate the calories.”

READ MORE: My Style with Adriana Lima