Trainer to the stars Erin Oprea is known for sculpting some famous physiques. The muscle behind some of the fittest celebrities on the red carpet, Oprea has worked with Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Nettles, Kelsea Ballerini, and others. With beach season right around the corner, we caught up with Oprea to learn more about her California roots and her best tricks to get in fighting shape.
Oprea explains that “all [her] fitness started” in Southern California. At age 5, Oprea’s family moved from Sacramento to Carlsbad, a seaside town just north of San Diego. As a kid, she remembers being constantly on the go—shuttling from soccer games to ocean-side bonfires to all-day family bike rides.
Oprea earned her personal training certification at 18 but initially opted for a different career. She enlisted in the Marine Corps and served for nine years, deploying three times. A sucker for challenges—“I liked to get in trouble in boot camp so I could do more push-ups!”—Oprea later earned the distinction of leading the first-ever all-female platoon in a war zone following the capture of Fallujah.
Today, Oprea has married her two loves—the great outdoors and military discipline—to build a star-studded career. Not a fan of indoor gyms, she prefers to work with her clients in the fresh air: “The whole world is your gym!” she says with trademark enthusiasm and confidence. Oprea credits the Marine Corps with inspiring her: “My drive to never give up, no matter how many ‘nos’ I get along my journey.”
Oprea explains you don’t need her deep affinity for working out—or even her unstoppable motivation—to get in incredible shape. Try the same tricks Oprea uses to get her clients red carpet-ready before your next beach vacation.
Tip #1—Cut out starches after sunset.
Oprea’s No. 1 diet tip is to enjoy grains only in the morning and afternoon when you still have time to burn it off. “Wow. What a big difference you will see in your body,” she says. Oprea recommends replacing starchy foods with vegetable replacements at dinner. Swaps include zucchini noodles instead of pasta, cauliflower pizza instead of dough, and a salad bowl instead of rice.
Tip #2—Watch alcohol consumption.
“Cutting it out completely is not realistic,” says Oprea. Instead she recommends scheduling when you’ll drink over the course of a week (“maybe two events”) and stick to your program. Alternating a glass of wine with a glass of water prevents overindulgence.
Tip #3—Reduce sodium and sugar.
“Not worth it, guys!” says Oprea. She explains that added salt will leave you “feeling puffy and yucky,” while sugar “actually makes you sick.” Read your labels carefully as packaged and prepared foods often contain surprisingly high levels.
Tip #4—Practice balance.
Oprea understands that nixing the “fun stuff” from our diet can feel overly restrictive. Don’t feel pressured to adhere perfectly to these guidelines. “I don’t want anyone to be miserable. I’m not like: ‘Eat broccoli 24/7! Enjoy your new life!’” she says. And never beat yourself up if you fall off track.
Tip #5—Step it up.
Oprea is a fan of prioritizing staying active over working out. She advises her clients set a goal of 10,000 steps per day. (You can track this with a special device or simply with your smartphone.)
Tip #6—Make workouts fun.
Whether it’s spinning, running, walking, yoga, Pilates, you name it, find an exercise regimen you enjoy. “If you find something you hate, you’re not going to do it,” says Oprea, who also loves working out with friends and blasting her favorite music.
Tip #7—Try Tabata.
Oprea uses Tabata training religiously. Short but intense, this type of interval workout follows the formula: 20 seconds on and 10 seconds rest, repeated for four minutes. “If you’re not tired at the end of the four minutes, you did it wrong,” she says. Even busy schedules can make four minutes work. “You don’t have to block out two hours,” she says. “Do a set after you put the laundry in, when your kid’s in his high chair eating. There’s always time; it’s just making it a priority.” (Challenge yourself with a workout straight from Oprea below.)
Follow these healthy commandments, and you are nearly guaranteed to see results. But even if you don’t, that’s no reason to skip out on a beach day. Oprea says fitness is important—but self-acceptance is critical. “Rock what your mamma gave you! Get out and have some fun,” she says. “Who cares if you have any extra roll on your belly? What matters is that you’re enjoying life. Imperfections are what make us unique.”
When should you try these Tabata-style workouts? Any time you have a few minutes to spare! Perform the exercise in “round 1” for 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds; perform the exercise in “round 2” for 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds; and repeat for eight rounds.
Round 1: Bodyweight squats (no resting at the top)
Round 2: Squat and jump (hop in the air at the top of the squat)
Round 1: Pushups (perform on your toes or knees)
Round 2: Floor dips (feet on the ground in a tabletop position)
Round 1: High plank hold (engage your core, arms straight)
Round 2: Low plank hip dip (lower to your elbows and dip your hips from side to side)