By: Sarah McWilliams
It’s a little confusing walking into celebrity trainer Valerie Waters’ gym. Unlike what you would expect, it’s not cluttered with machine after machine. It’s a simple space, lined with posters of her celebrity clients, an elliptical, a few dumbbells and not much else. That’s because all Valerie Waters needs to tone the bodies of Hollywood’s elite stars is her product, ValSlide, and few other pieces of equipment.
How it all started
Waters has come a long way from her $12 an hour training job at her first gym and even further from her awkward and insecure high school days. Waters first fell in love with training and fitness when her freshman track coach instilled in her the confidence that she could be an athlete despite her self-doubt. The confidence boost was all it took for Waters to find herself and develop the love that spearheaded her way to becoming one of the top celebrity trainers out there.
“He went and said, ‘You can be good at this,’ and I hadn’t heard that before and had never believed that I had this athletic self in me,” Waters told ATLX. “Because of that, I didn’t miss a practice. They took us into the weight room, and I still remember that first day picking up a barbell and doing a bicep curl. The connection, I loved it, and I got really into weightlifting.”
After high school, Waters moved from Orange County up to Los Angeles, and began working in sales commission only at a trendy gym so she could get a free membership- with little money to her name, the membership would have otherwise been unaffordable.
“I wasn’t making any money, but I just loved the environment and I would work out three hours a day,” Waters said. Waters couldn’t afford to continue working without steady pay, and asked her manager what she could do. Personal training had started slowly becoming more mainstream, and her gym offered to teach her how to become a personal trainer. Within 30 days, her knowledge and love of fitness coupled with her genuine personality resulted in a completely booked schedule of clients.
Her career takes off
At this point, very few trainers really made much money, and Waters was no exception. On a whim, she took off to New York, where a mutual friend introduced her to a big-time celebrity trainer. She worked for him for a couple months and eventually headed back to California.
“A month or two after I moved back, he refers Cindy Crawford to me. Not only was she my first celebrity client, she was kind of my first real client,” Waters said. “She was the biggest supermodel in the world at the time.”
Crawford, who trained with Waters for 15 years, also referred other models to Waters and eventually the word got out fast and furiously about Waters’ talent. Her resume expanded to include Jim Carrey, Courtney Love and Jennifer Lopez, to name a few, but it was actually a different Jennifer that truly changed her life.
“Thirteen years ago, I got the call that took it to another level. Basically, I got a call that was ‘Hi, my name is Jennifer [Garner], and I’m going to be a spy [on the TV show “Alias”] and I need to get in shape,’” Waters said. “People think she just had a naturally good body, but we really had to make that over…it was so fun to create what a spy would look like, and she did a lot of her own stunts so she had to be believable.”
Waters’ Training Philosophies
The big trend in strength training has been the broken record of trainers saying, “Women can’t get too muscular,” a major pet peeve for Waters. The fact of the matter is that too muscular is a subjective term, and it’s not up to a trainer to decide what too muscular means to each individual.
“Trainers hate me for it, but I do believe that women can get too muscular and not every woman wants that look. Not everyone wants a CrossFit body,” Waters said. “I want to be very clear that I’m not saying, ‘Don’t try for that look.’ I’m just saying not everyone wants it.”
Waters takes the time to listen to her clients to ensure they’re getting the exact body they want. With Crawford, she changed her style dramatically when models went from athletic to more slender-looking. “At one point, we did change her program because she was known as the more athletic super model. And when she stepped away for a little bit and then went back to the European shows, it was when heroin chic was in,” Waters said. “Cindy felt big at that time. When you go to put on the sample size and they don’t fit, that’s when we tweaked the training to give her a smaller look.”
Waters has continued that philosophy throughout her career to listen to her clients instead of giving them the body that she thinks they should have. For many actors and actresses, the wrong type of body can prevent them from getting specific roles, and Waters must take that into consideration.
Waters listens well and she’s an incredibly nice and genuine person, but if you think that’s why she’s had such a successful career, then you don’t know this business. “The clients don’t stay with you because you’re nice; they stay with you because you give them results, and they will leave you if you’re not producing results anymore,” Waters said. “I happen to be really good at producing results, so people stay with me, and also I am willing to change tactics if somebody wants to do something different. I’m not so attached to one workout. If somebody wants to change their look, no problem.”
Check back next week to learn more about Waters’ secret to success, The Valslide. For more information on Valerie Waters, visit her website here.