Training gets personal

Who to see when you want to get serious about getting in shape and push past your comfort level — safely!

Emily Samuel

once went to a popular boutique fitness class where the instructor spent about five minutes showing us what to do with different weightlifting machines around the room — and the rest of the time checking his phone. Occasionally, he would look up and tell us to go to the next circuit. I realized about halfway through the class that I had no idea how to do anything properly, and rather than hurt myself picking up a weight that was too heavy, I left, never to return.

Though boutique fitness classes are all the rage nowadays (according to a report by the website Well+Good, over two dozen boutique fitness studios opened in the city in 2016 alone), they are often crowded and ill equipped to handle classes with individuals at different fitness levels. Instructors — even dedicated ones — can sometimes struggle to adjust the form of everyone in the room, which can lead to people doing a move incorrectly and seriously injuring themselves.

For anyone who wants a bit more attention — or at least instructions on how to do basic moves properly — a personal trainer can provide customized workouts that are safe and effective. 

Of course, finding a good trainer can be a challenge, so this month we asked our fittest friends, including “Million Dollar Listing New York” star and fitness enthusiast Emilia Bechrakis-Serhant and socialite Erica Rivera, for the names of some of the top personal trainers in Manhattan who help them stay looking good and feeling strong. 

While most clients seek out fitness experts to get in better shape, the journey often involves more than just exercise. Typically, trainers do not give advice on what foods to eat, but they all can refer you to a dietitian who can. They do say that many of their clients treat them like substitute therapists, and they often help people work through whatever issues are weighing on their minds. 

“It’s not only that physical release they get, but that psychological release as well,” said trainer Kacy Duke.

So it’s no surprise clients build up long relationships with their trainers, and many of the ones on our list say they’ve had clients come to them for 15 or even 20 years.

Working with a trainer will not only lead to a better body, it will also make you a happier and more grounded person. “Let’s be honest, we’re all slightly vain, we want to look good,” said trainer Kira Stokes. “But we also want to make sure you’re feeling the best that you can possibly feel.”

Emily Samuel

You see her if: You’re a Victoria’s Secret model, athlete, training for “American Ninja Warrior” or just a regular person who wants to be fitter.
Training philosophy: Push yourself to go harder, and don’t be afraid of being uncomfortable. “You can’t move forward and progress in life if you’re just staying at the same comfort level.”
Favorite exercise: High-intensity interval training, strength conditioning, using resistance bands and jumping rope
Most common mistakes clients are making: Overdoing their workouts and not being healthy. This is a lesson Samuel learned personally as she struggled with an eating disorder a few years ago. “I know what it’s like to hate your body, and I really don’t want
any other female or male to ever feel like that.”
Where to see her: The Dogpound at 1 Renwick Street, though she is also available for private training
Celebrity clients: Romee Strijd, Lais Oliveira, Jared Homan, Gwen Van Meir, Chantal Monaghan, Luis Borges, Ruby Aldridge, Ming Xi
Price: $300 per session to train exclusively with her at Dogpound

Kacy Duke

You see her if: You’re a celebrity — or you want to feel like one.
Specialty: Making you “sinewy, sculpted and chiseled.” No Arnold Schwarzeneggers here.
Training philosophy: Everything starts with having the proper mindset and motivation. “Some people diet to death or they work out mindlessly,” which Duke says makes them unhappy and obsessed. Instead, Duke reminds her clients that they should be grateful they can move at all, and encourages them to be present and mindful during their workouts. “You can’t keep your eye on the Emerald City if you don’t enjoy the Yellow Brick Road!”
Favorite exercise: A combo lunge and weightlifting move she calls the New York Booty Lift. “It lifts the booty, and I’m a native New Yorker!”
Most common misconception clients have: That she can make their bodies resemble particular celebrities. “I have to tell them, ‘Well, you can’t stretch your bones, so let’s see what your body can do.’”
Where to see her: Her gym, Kacy Duke Fitness, at 500 West 30th Street
Celebrity clients: Lenny Kravitz, Maxwell, Denzel Washington, Kiefer Sutherland, Bebe Rexha, Rita Ora, Julianne Moore, Kate Beckinsale, James Brolin, P. Diddy, Gwen Stefani, Dakota Johnson
Price: $300 per session

Mary Ann Browning

Mary Ann Browning

You see her if: You are a high-powered businessman or woman (or even their children). “I’ve never been someone who is focused on celebrities and fame. I really care about people and want to change their lives.”
Specialty: Creating bodies that will age gracefully and healthily. “A lot of women see
what I’ve done with my own body as I’ve aged, and so I attract them,” she says. She believes her method can help stave off the symptoms of menopause like weight gain, bloating and irritability. “I didn’t have any of that; none of that happened to me.”
Training rules: Walk as much as possible, and don’t be afraid of lifting weights — building muscle is essential for keeping your body fit and healthy for life.
Favorite area to exercise: The back! “If all else fails and you’ve only got time to do one muscle group, you need to do that.” And don’t ignore rehab exercises you can do with rubber bands during odd hours.
Most common mistake clients are making: People eat too much protein and not enough carbohydrates. And they don’t move enough. “New Yorkers tend to put on weight when they come to the Hamptons, because they take their car to go literally a block. Nobody walks anywhere, and then they don’t understand why they put on weight.”
Where to see her: Her gyms, Brownings Fitness, at 980 Madison Avenue and 60 Windmill Lane in Southampton
Celebrity clients: “To me, everyone is famous,” but also Trish McEvoy and Rosanna Scotto
Price: $200-$400 per session

Norman Baratta

You see him if: You are “very high-end, type A.” He is the resident trainer at a major financial firm in Midtown for execs looking to improve their bodies or work off some steam between meetings. He also pays house calls to clients outside of the firm.
Training credo: Be consistent. “You’re not crushing it every single day you train, but you want to keep training consistently four to five days a week. Days you see me, we train hard, but on other days you don’t have to kill yourself. Just get in there.” And do everything in moderation: “I eat everything, I drink everything. I just don’t go overboard.”
Favorite exercise: The Bulgarian split squat (put one leg on a bench behind you and the
other leg forward as if you’re doing a lunge. The back leg is being stretched as you go
down.) Strengthens the buttocks, the hamstrings and the quads. Also pull-ups and push-ups.
Most common mistake clients are making: Thinking they don’t have time to exercise. “If you have 10 minutes before your next meeting at work, come in and walk on a treadmill.”
Where to see him: If you’re not a member of the firm, he also will go to private clients’ apartments.
Price: $150-$200 per session

Kira Stokes

Kira Stokes

You see her if: You’re serious about getting in shape. Emilia Bechrakis-Serhant of “Million Dollar Listing New York” tells LLNYC that “every New York City trainer should learn from [Stokes],” and Stokes certainly takes her role as a trainer seriously. She turns away potential clients she suspects aren’t that committed or who only want to come in occasionally. “I’m looking to really make an impact on someone’s overall fitness and lifestyle,” she says, “They have to have some sort of motivation to want to make a change.”
Training philosophy: Master the basics before you attempt harder or more complicated exercises. “If you don’t have that foundation in fitness and understand and know the basics, you can’t progress safely.”
Favorite exercise: Compound movements, because they’re time savers and you “get more bang for your buck”; unilateral movements that emphasize using one side of your body at a time; anything that engages your core.
Most common mistakes clients make: Their form is totally wrong and they push themselves too hard. She attributes a lot of that to the rise and popularity of boutique fitness classes, some of which “push people to the point where they can’t function the next day. That really should never be the goal.”
Where to see her: She trains at NYSC Lab at BFX Studio at 555 Sixth Avenue and also teaches classes there and at Studio B at Bandier at 164 Fifth Avenue.
Celebrity clients: Norah O’Donnell, Sunny Hostin, Candace Cameron Bure, Hannah Bronfman, Brendan Fallis
Price: Starts at $250 per session

LaShonna Holloway

You see her if: You are “driven and focused.”
Training philosophy: Stick to the principles and guidelines that Tracy Anderson developed — because they work. “Some clients have gone through some of the toughest times in their lives using the method as a means of emotional support.” Also, know that you are capable of doing more and working harder than you think you can. “We invite people to think outside what they think they are capable of and go beyond what they are comfortable doing.”
Where to see her: Anderson’s gyms in New York (on 59th Street and Church Street) and
Anderson’s two studios in the Hamptons (Water Mill and East Hampton). Occasionally, she will go to client’s homes.
Celebrity clients: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, Bobby Flay, Tracee Ellis Ross and Lena Dunham, though “no matter who comes to do the workout, they are all viewed as a VIP client in my eyes.”
Price: $200 per hour for members, $250 per hour for nonmembers

Edward Jackowski

Edward Jackowski

You see him if: You’re a professional who is “successful in every facet of their life except working out properly and consistently.” Women mostly come to fix their problem areas; men come for strengthening muscles to perform sports better.
Specialty: Teaching clients how to work out based on their body type. “It’s the determining factor from an aesthetic perspective.”
Most common mistakes clients are making: Doing exercises that come easy for them based on their body types (naturally slender people enjoy running, for instance) — instead of harder exercises that will really help them. “People do what they like to do, not what they need to do.” Also believing that fat can be converted into muscle. “You don’t burn more fat by adding more muscle, you burn more calories when you have a better body ratio.”
Where to see him: Jackowski no longer personally trains clients, but has 20-25 trainers who work in Exude’s locations in New York at 541 Lexington Avenue, New Jersey and Florida. They will also come to your apartments.
Celebrity clients: Sosie Bacon, Tina Fey, Lilian Garcia, Alice Roi, Stacy London, Deborah Twiss, Lauren Pritchard (Lolo), Albert Nipon, Laurence Fishburne, Darius Rucker and Alicia Machado (Jackowski was hired by Donald Trump to help her lose weight when she was Miss Universe)
Price: A package of eight sessions costs $1,000-$1,200