Ramona Braganza, a Hollywood celebrity trainer who counts Anne Hathaway and Ryan Reynolds among her clients, says her job is not always as exciting as it sounds. When an assignment is not on location, “you do an hour here and there with them and then they go off to the movie set and you don’t necessarily get to go.” Braganza, who is of Indian origin, prefers assignments that allows her to travel more. This is probably why the trainer, who divides her time between Vancouver and Los Angeles, is leveraging her Hollywood experience to sell her brand in various countries, including India.
Braganza is slender, athletic and generous with smiles. At 52, she still looks youthful. The former National Football League (NFL) cheerleader has tied up with Sanghvi Brands, which runs global wellness brands including Warren Tricomi salons and L’Occitane spas, to open gyms in the country. An existing deal with Fortis makes her post-partum fitness programme available at the hospital chain’s Mamma Mia maternity clinics in Delhi. Braganza is known to have helped Halle Berry and Jessica Alba regain their pre-baby body shape.
But rather than building an enviable figure, Braganza says she focuses on making movement easy for women when they are in a tired and fragile state two or three weeks after childbirth. “At that time, it doesn’t matter if you are a celebrity, you’re just a new mom.” The routine is broken down to three months: getting used to moving and tightening the belly in the first month; in the second month, she gets them to lose weight and by the third month, the women are presumed ready to grow muscle and return to a routine workout plan. For women who have a C-section, the recommended workout starts later and is gentler on the core.
The signature routine she came up with, called 321, includes three segments of cardio, two circuits of strength training and one element of core training. It developed during a shoot with Alba in Borneo. There was no equipment on location so Braganza improvised with the surroundings, creating workouts around the pools and staircases. Since Alba did not prefer only cardio, they mixed it with strength and core exercises. The trainer recommends breaking food patterns similarly — three meals, two snacks and at least one litre of water.
Instead of cutting out certain foods, she says it is better to moderate portions. Rice, for instance, is a staple for locals so rather than avoiding it completely, one can eat smaller quantities and go with brown rice for a few meals. Her clients are allowed to stick to a nutrition plan for 80 per cent of the week, and the rest, that is three or four meals, can consist of whatever they like.
Fitness in Hollywood is a business of vanity though and the pressure is high on actors and trainers. Stars often lose and gain weight in quick succession for different roles but “that’s not very healthy long-term.” When casting directors brief trainers about how an actor needs to look, they have to tweak workout programmes accordingly. Braganza’s clients however, she claims, focus on working out for reasons that go beyond the camera’s glare. Halle Berry suffers from diabetes and Alba’s family has a history of osteoporosis.
Between ages four and 18, Braganza trained to be a gymnast. A desire to be an actress brought her to Los Angeles from a “too small” town in Canada. While that did not work out, she landed a spot as a cheerleader for the then NFL’s LA Raiders. She had been dabbling in competitive fitness when the break as a physical trainer in Hollywood came her way after a casting director suggested she help a 17-year-old Alba to get in shape for a role. From “the Arnold years” when body building was big, she has seen the space evolving into one where more people take it seriously.
It is an age of information overload too with fad diets and workout tips being doled out on social media and video streaming sites. To avoid the confusion, Braganza says what most people with experience say — try different routines but stick to what you are good at. “What did we do a 100 years ago? We lifted things, we carried things, we jumped over things,” she observes. “What gets you moving through your own work is exercise, not necessarily having to go to a gym.” Her workouts can typically be done at home but require some equipment like weights and a sit-up bench.
Braganza’s source of inspiration is her mother who is 79 years old but recently began taking zumba classes for seniors. This, after she bounced back within two months from a surgery to fix three blocked arteries. It got the instructor to increase her attention to building a lifestyle rather than just fabulous bodies. “It is about what quality of life you want later on the road. The idea is to avoid aches and pains and do it without medication.”
She has encouraging things to say about fitness in India, where “people that are older are still moving fast.” Indians consume healthy amounts of plain water owing to the heat, she observes. Another motive to be in the country, says Braganza, is to pick up hints from yoga and spirituality to add to her workouts. Next on her plate are retreats around the world, where she plans to give participants a sense of the Hollywood workout.
THE HOLLYWOOD WORKOUT