Fitness Legend Denise Austin on her 10 Week 360° Plan, Her Daughter, and How It All Started
By Brianne Nemiroff | September 14, 2015
If you consider yourself to be a fitness enthusiast, then you’ve come across the name Denise Austin at least once in your life. Maybe you own a dozen or two of her 100-plus videos and DVDs as she’s sold over 24 million copies over the last 30 years. Maybe you’ve come across one of her 12 fitness books. No matter how you found her, be happy you did as Denise Austin is the epitome of class and the best workout buddy you could ever hope to have.
After hosting fitness shows on ESPN and Lifetime for 24 years, Austin has made the move to digital by creating her 10 Week, 360° Plan, now offered on her website. With this plan, Austin will provide you with a curated meal plan as well as workout options for every day of the week. The best part is that you can do this program at any level of fitness from beginner to professional. She offers three different levels and allows you to switch between workout styles such as barre or yoga. The plan is really flexible while still being regimented. So far, I love it. Yes, I’m trying it out for you all!
Before I started my journey on her 10 Week, 360° Plan, I got to talk with the energetic and bubbly fitness legend about the plan, how fitness has changed over the years, working with her daughter Katie, and how to counteract the damage for all of us who are chronic sitters.
Q&A with Denise Austin
Before you started your fitness empire, what drew you to fitness in the beginning?
When I was young, I traveled all over as a gymnast. I got a full athletic scholarship to college. When I was at the University of Arizona competing in gymnastics, they did body fat testing on all of our gymnasts. I thought Oh my God, this is so interesting. I got into exercise physiology and [figured out] that’s what I wanted to do: find out more information about the body. I got my degree specializing in Exercise Physiology. When I graduated college, I started teaching aerobics in the early 80s and that’s when it was all just starting. It was really great! I got to meet Jack Lalanne, who had his own show; he gave me my first start on TV and he was my mentor. I stayed great friends with him until the day he passed away at 96[-years-old]. I gave a speech at his funeral and I was so honored.
As body preferences change with pop culture, how do you adapt to what America sees as the perfect body?
Through the years, fitness was just getting started. It’s really picked up now. Now with Instagram and social media, things have changed a lot. Everybody is photoshopped. Everybody looks like they’re having a great time. I feel so sorry for the young people. Not everybody truly looks like that. Let’s just be the best that we can be.
One of my daughters is following in my footsteps, [which] is really cool. My daughter keeps me relevant in the social media world and [helps] me understand all of the different avenues so it’s been really fun this summer to work with her. We’ve had a great time teaching each other things.
There are now more ways than ever to workout: working out to DVDs, going to the gym, streaming or watching later due to DVR, etc. Do you think by having more options we end up creating more excuses or is the flexibility helping us no longer have excuses?
I think the more we have the better! This is the opportunity for everybody to find their niche, find what they enjoy, and find a friend to do it with. There are truly no excuses. For me, I have my website. I’ve had every video workout that I’ve done. I’ve done all new ones, too. People are loving the barre workout, the yoga on the beach. We want to give them a variety. It gives them a chance to mix it up during the week. That’s how I work out. But these are just a lot of different ways to help people say, ‘Oh I like that! I could do that’. The more the merrier, the more ideas, we can get America in shape! That’s been my mission in life.
Now that your daughter is following in your footsteps, what advice did you give her before she started her own brand? Is she taking your advice?
I had a TV show for 24 years so she was born and raised into it. When I filmed my TV show, both of my daughters would come with me when I filmed. It comes very naturally to Katie. It’s almost second-nature to enjoy it and she’s great at it. I don’t give her a lot of advice but I give her tidbits to get her on the right track.
She has really good ideas for her market, young teenagers and college girls. She knows what they need and what they want because she’s more their peer. I love it. She’s 21 and a senior at USC. She [created] a College Girl’s Guide to Fitness and takes pictures for my Instagram, too. She came to USC on a scholarship for Women’s Lacrosse and then she got her own fitness show. She knows what it’s like to be an athlete but also knows what to do on her own. She also knows how to help girls who used to be athletes in high school but have to [transition] to college life.
What made you want to create the 10 Week, 360° Plan? How long has this been in the making?
It took me two years to put this together because I wanted to make them all new workouts and have them progress throughout the 10 weeks. I did three different levels of fitness and you can go in and out from one to three. The average woman loses [around] 22 pounds in the 10-week period. I also give motivational videos every Sunday. Every week I give you a different task, a different attitude. Changing habits is what it’s all about. 30 minutes [of exercise] mostly every day. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday is cardio. Tuesday and Thursday you’re getting cardio, toning, and stretching. You also have a lot to choose from [in the meal plan whether you have] to eat gluten-free, vegetarian, heart-healthy, or [want to eat] just the food that I eat! People really wanted to know what I eat and how I exercise. This was the opportunity and the beautiful part about the website. I take them through what I do on a daily basis.
One of the best parts about your program is that it comes with a community, with a motivational section. Why did you feel that was an essential part of the 10 Week, 360° Plan?
The community part is so wonderful. I get a chance to talk to people. Everyone starts on a Monday but you might be on week four or week eight. It’s a matter of encouraging each other. It’s been really great. A lot of people have made friendships, share their favorite recipes. Being on TV all of those years, I would get letters. [If they] asked for new workouts, it wouldn’t happen for another few months. This is instant, which I love. If someone says they want more ab workouts, I have more [options now].
People are now saying “sitting is the new smoking” as America is sitting more than ever. What advice do you have for women who have no choice but to sit all day at their day jobs?
The number one thing all of us need to do is get up throughout the day, take breaks [because] that gets oxygen through the body. When your muscles are moving, it gets the blood circulating. Every hour on the hour, just stand up for a minute or two so you feel better and you’re not tired from slouching.
You need to do three things everyday to almost counterbalance the sitting situation. The first thing to do is open up the chest, lifting your arms over your head, almost like a slight arch. Anytime you open up the chest area, it really helps you breathe better, the better capacity to get deeper breaths, the more oxygen and energy you’ll have, the more your muscles feel better.
Next, stretch out the hip flexors. When you sit, they get really tight and you get lower back pain. [Try a] lunge or runner’s stretch, a crescent pose, a warrior pose to open up the hip flexors. And anything for the back. Twist side to side and always keep good posture. Tighten your abs for five seconds. One “tighten” equals one sit-up. They really work!
I just bought my oldest daughter a stand-up desk. I think that will really help people if they know they can stand for a few hours working on their computer; it would really make a difference.
When you are even too busy to get in a 30-minute-plus workout, what are your go-to moves get you moving in only a few minutes?
I always try to do ab exercises. I do three minutes every single day. Everyone feels my tummy because in the beginning of my career, I would always say ‘Feel my tummy!’ Even if I get on a plane, I do it every morning because it keeps my core strong. It makes you think twice about good posture. Tighten up your abs, [do] planks, or bicycle. I try to get in steps if I’m walking. I walk with my luggage on a pushcart instead of sitting at the gate.
You have 640 muscles in your body and your muscles don’t know if you’re at a fancy gym or in your kitchen so use your time wisely. It’s all about toning muscles throughout the day. You can add up to a 10-minute workout just by toning up here and there. Anytime anywhere fitness. I tone my triceps with my three-pound dumbbells when I talk on the phone.
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Brianne is the Online Managing Editor for Viva Glam Magazine. She loves to interview musicians, actors, and comedians. She also plays four instruments, loves hip-hop dance, and is an avid softball player.