This Is What It's Really Like to Work Out with Jennifer Lopez's Personal Trainer, Tracy Anderson

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One of life’s little mysteries seems to be how the megastar Jennifer Lopez hasn't stopped getting older, yet looks better and better with age. What magic dust could she possibly be sprinkling on herself to maintain her youth, we ask ourselves every time she steps out on a red carpet?

Then I had a session with fitness expert Tracy Anderson, who’s been training the star since she went from amazing to ahhhhh-mazing, and I immediately stopped contemplating the issue. How do you get a body like J.Lo (and Gwyneth Paltrow, and, well, every other perfectly toned-client of Anderson’s)? You work hard. Really, really hard. That’s just the bottom line. And so I did.

I stepped inside Anderson’s lofty Tribeca studio to try the workout for myself in an attempt to understand exactly what you have to do to look so phenomenal.

Many weeks (and many Epson salt baths) later, I began to understand why in her 40s J.Lo is hotter than ever—and why The Tracy Anderson Method has such a cult following with women across the globe (just check out Tracy’s Instagram for a dose of her loyal cliental).

VIDEO: How to Get a Body Like Jennifer Lopez

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As a fitness fanatic and total gym rat, I had been watching TA and her body-morphing workout philosophy from afar for years, but had yet to experience it first-hand. Yes, I knew the basics of her method and I damn well knew that Gwyneth Paltrow single-handedly credits her perkily molded derrière to Anderson—but that’s really all I knew.

Upon first meeting, Tracy Anderson herself was just as I had imagined her: small and toned in ways that seem unattainable. Except that in actuality, they really are attainable—if you're willing to do what it takes. The second you take a workout class with Anderson (be it inside her studio or through her DVDs), you realize how ineffectively you've actually been working out all along—or at least that was what happened to me. (I worked muscles I never even knew I had).

The Tracy Anderson Method—a strength training and cardiovascular workout program that changes every few weeks—leaves your muscle groups constantly challenged and therefore constantly improving. It torches a ton of calories, sculpts and tones, and works the entire body from head to heel.

Her New York studio is hidden on the third floor of an unassuming building in Tribeca that I had passed by many times on the way home from work, with light-filled windows that house a bevy of fitness-minded women all bouncing up and down to the beats of the music (and by the way, they’ve got the best playlist of any class I’ve ever taken, hands down)

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I started with a recommended "AtTAin” class my first time, a 60-minute sculpting session that uses mostly body weight and some light hand and ankle weights to sculpt the arms, abs, booty and thighs. The workout takes place mostly on the floor, but don't expect to leave without absolutely dripping in sweat in the whole way through. By the end of class, I could hardly move a muscle in my body and was covered in perspiration. “Now that is a workout,” I thought to myself as a hobbled home with pride. Why spend hours and hours at the gym barely burning calories when you can torch hundreds and work every muscle in your body in one heart-pumping sesh? But that was just day one, there were a lot more challenges to come.

A large portion of the method is contingent on dancing—and although I’ve taken just about every kind of fitness class on the planet, I was never into choreographed dance workouts. Never. So for a few weeks during my time at TA, I avoided the dance classes like the plague—and I could easily do so, because there are plenty other options besides CaTApult (the signature dance class of the method) to choose from. So for weeks, I watched women dance in the studio through the glass windows as I geared up for more aTAin sessions, and expanded my horizon to deTAil classes (which utilize colored rubber bands that hang from the ceiling—another insanely effective workout).

Then one day, I decided for the sake of journalistic integrity, I would make myself take a dance class. Because after all, you’re not really trying out the Tracy Anderson method if you’re not dancing. So I catapulted myself into a session. I hung at the back of the room, tried to pick up as many of the moves as I could, failed miserably, looked insanely out of place, and barely got a single move right … but I couldn’t have loved it more.

It turns out my lack of “liking” dance workout classes was just my inner fear of not succeeding at them. Although the majority of people in the room look like lithe, professional dancers—they’re not. And this is the most important lesson I learned: Despite appearances, perfection is not what Tracy Anderson is actually about at all. Yes, she’s a die-hard fitness guru who helps anyone look their best, but she can also help anyone feel their best inside—just ask Lena Dunham, who raves about the workout for its anti-anxiety benefits).

Anderson is actually about inner and outer strength, self-confidence, and inner beauty. She’s about community, real women, and motherhood. She’s a single mom of two adorable kids who has struggled with weight in her own life (this was the inspiration for starting her method in the first place). While intimidating to some initially, Anderson is really just like the dance classes that she teaches—inspirational, welcoming, and completely life changing.

The Tracy Anderson Method has locations in New York, California, and London (with a new location slated to open this summer in the Hamptons, NY). You can also purchase her DVD’s or try her live streaming classes every Wednesday.

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