The 4 Best Things I Learned From Working With Jillian Michaels

When you hear the name Jillian Michaels, your body automatically starts to sweat. The fitness expert is known for her tough AF workouts and zero-excuses persona, but trainer Kenta Seki gets to see another side of her. To him, she’s a business partner, a friend, and a mentor in the fitness industry (and in life, too).

Seki met Michaels after being cast in her Body Revolution DVD fitness program in 2011, and he’s been involved with her many ventures ever since, including working out on stage with her at events, helping with choreography, appearing on her reality show, Just Jillian, becoming a senior master trainer for her group fitness program, BODYSHRED, and working with her on a new workout video series for her online fitness streaming platform, FitFusion. “She affectionately began calling me one of her protégés,” he tells SELF.

After years working (and working out) alongside Michaels, he’s learned a few of her secrets to success with clients—and you can use them to see results in your fitness routine. Here are four of his biggest takeaways.

1. Always be on the lookout for new ways to train, from classes to equipment.

“Jillian gets bored very quickly. She likes to change things up and is always interested in learning about what’s new and different,” says Seki. “Whenever she hears about a new class, product, or piece of equipment, she asks about it. When she sees something new she likes, I always see this fiery, crazed look in her eyes,” he adds.

“This is a great quality that I’ve learned from Jillian that I think is a good lesson for anyone: Always be curious and learn about new things to stay on top of your industry,” says Seki. “It can also be a great way to stay fit. It’s really common for people to get stuck in the same fitness routine, which can lead to boredom,” says Seki.

Constantly doing the same workout over and over can potentially lead to muscle imbalances and plateaus, he adds, so mixing things up is vital to seeing continued progress. “If you stay open to trying new things, you ensure your body always stays challenged,” he says.

2. Words matter, so use them to motivate yourself.

“There was a moment when Jillian really inspired me: I was being considered to be cast in a major TV show, and I didn’t know if I should continue with the audition process. She sent me this email that just said, ‘I think you should go for it. Head up. You’re the best.’ It was such a short, simple message, but it really stuck with me. I had been working with Jillian for years and always saw her motivate her fans, but this was the first moment where I felt personally inspired by her words,” says Seki. “It made me realize that words really are powerful…sometimes the simplest message can affect people in a big way.”

This is an important message to remember when it comes to self talk. “Our thoughts are conversations we have with ourselves—keeping them positive can have a direct influence on our actions and our results,” says Seki. “Consider this: If you were to write down the thoughts you have about yourself every day, would you say they are being productive and helpful, or negative and doubtful?”

Do your best to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, says Seki. Maybe that means being proud that you woke up and got to the gym even if it wasn’t your best workout, or feeling confident that you can crush a new fitness class instead of dreading it. “I promise you’ll start to feel better about yourself, and your body and health will improve as well,” says Seki.

Courtesy of Kenta Seki

3. Being authentic is a major key to being a good trainer (and keeping yourself accountable in the gym).

Michaels is known for her tough-as-nails training style, and it’s not an act. “The reason Jillian has dominated the fitness industry for so long is that she takes people further than they are comfortable with. She keeps pushing their limits. Some people like that type of approach, others don’t. But Jillian pushes anyway because she cares enough about people that she doesn’t want their insecurities or self-doubt to slow their progress,” Seki explains. “I have learned to be a tougher trainer because of Jillian, but nobody can ever do it like her.”

Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is important if you want to see results. Your body will adapt to training and by constantly progressing the intensity (whether by adding reps, weight, or speed), you’ll help prevent plateaus, so hold yourself accountable. Think about how you’d train yourself if you were someone else: Tough love? Great. Getting competitive by beating your last rep count or time? Awesome. Straight-up encouragement and kindness? It’s all about using what motivates you.

4. Most importantly, when it comes to chasing fitness goals, finding your “why” is critical.

“The most important training lesson I’ve learned from Jillian is to not just focus on the physical aspect of working out, but the mental as well,” says Seki. “She constantly reminds people that if they keep their focus on their motivation, and the reasons why they’re working out, the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ will come easier.”

Michaels explained this philosophy to SELF earlier this year, too, adding that you want to be as specific as possible when finding your motivation. “Maybe it’s, ‘I want to keep up with my two toddlers.’ ‘I want to run the New York City Marathon.’ Those kinds of things. Post it everywhere and emotionally connect to it.”

SELF – Fitness