Industry Profile: Andrea Orbeck
By Larry LeBlanc
This week In the Hot Seat: Andrea Orbeck, founder/president of Prehab Health and Fitness
This week In the Hot Seat: Andrea Orbeck, founder/president of Prehab Health and Fitness
One of Hollywood's leading trainers, Andrea Orbeck, founder/president of Prehab Health and Fitness, makes her showbiz clients not only sweat but feel healthy.
Among the clients of her fitness and wellness management company have been such music artists as Usher, Seal, Reba McEntire, and Queen Latifah; actresses Alicia Silverstone, Maria Menounos, Melissa Peterman and Joanna García; celebrity news personalities Amanda Bynes, and Guiliani Depandi; and Victoria Secret's supermodels, Heidi Klum, Karolina Kerkova and Doutzen Kroes.
A former member of the Canadian Women’s Bobsled Team, Orbeck studied kinesiology at the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta. In addition, she has earned certifications ranging from Intracellular physiology to postural design and the myofascial release technique.
The body needs a certain amount of carbohydrates to function properly. A deficient intake may cause fatigue, muscle cramps, and poor mental function.
Not so great when sauntering down a runway in 5-inch heels or headlining a punishing global music tour.
Orbeck not only helps her clients to exercise, but she advises them on their diets as well. Muscle tone and shape, skin quality, intestinal function and energy levels, she emphasizes, requires healthier food choices that can then compliment a fitness routine that focuses on fat loss, muscle shape and mental wellness.
Fitness and wellness certainly are not lost on Madonna. The 51-year-old pop icon recently explained to GMTV, ITV's morning television show in the U.K., why she is so dedicated to her rigid exercise routine.
"(I do it) for health reasons, and for aesthetic reasons,” she said. “If I have to go out on stage and, jump around in a pair of hot pants, I better look good. Also when I perform I'm like an athlete and I have to be in good shape. I'm not panicked. I just know what my job is and I know that if I want to be able to wear whatever I want to wear on stage, then my body better look good."
Entertainment is a young person’s game.
I wouldn’t dispute that. That’s very true. As well, the standard of the bar has been raised so high when you have all these talents in this town (Los Angeles) that are being micro-managed by 5 or 6 people. There’s not a lot of room (for not looking your best). Look at Miley Cyrus. She now has a brand. She sings, dances and she’s on TV with a sitcom. There’s not a lot of room for error in her career.
With so many outlets now, the media isn’t very forgiving of destructive habits or weight and health issues with celebrities.
For some people, the national media have been replaced by TMZ. For some people The New York Times is being replaced by OK! Magazine. There’s a certain amount of public interest in the little finite details of the lives of the famous. Once you are spotted on TMZ being out of control outside the Viper Room, you know you are up the creek.
Many older rockers haven’t taken care of themselves.
Look at Steven Tyler and the pickle those (Aerosmith) guys are in right now. They wanted to separate, he wasn’t sure and his health was down. They are now going to Europe. I look at them, and I think, “Wow. You have to have the endurance for that.”
[The 11-show European “Cocked, Locked and Ready to Rock” tour begins in Sweden on June 10th. Steven Tyler, who had reportedly quit the band, and then entered a rehabilitation center to treat an addiction to prescription painkillers late last year, will be fronting the band. “I just auditioned and I got the gig,” Tyler said in a video on the band’s web site, aerosmith.com. “We’re coming your way and rocking your world.” The band’s most recent troubles began after Tyler fell from a stage during a concert in South Dakota in August. It escalated when the band indicated another front man was being brought in.]
The sight of a 62-year-old rocker onstage in spandex doesn’t always cut it.
No. It won’t get the girls to throw their bras onstage anymore, for sure.
Bryan Adams has followed a vegan diet for over two decades. He was the first artist I know to take a personal chef with him on the road.
I think that’s smart. If you are able to eat correctly, and keep your blood levels steady and constant, you are going to have great energy. If you do things like walking on a tread mill or have a modified training regimen, and you are eating well, it is going to complement your effort (onstage).
I met Def Leppard in Las Vegas in September with some friends that are in the industry. I was privy to a meeting that they had. I was waiting to see something crazy. But they are obviously very business-oriented. When they all came in they all ordered organic. Their meal plan was strict vegan. They drank tons of water, and they had organic herbal tea afterwards. Then the meeting commenced.
Madonna is very disciplined about her diet and exercise.
Her work ethic and her exercise ethic are on par with each other which is really helpful for her personality type. I feel that the common denominator of really successful people it (that exercise) is part of their regimen. It is built within their schedule. It is something that they flourish on doing, and they make it a part of their schedule for themselves.
As artists get older, many become more conscious of their health.
Alice Cooper became quite health conscious after a lot of time. He’s really cognitive of his health today. I think there is this phase (with older artists). They take their health for granted when they are young. They disregard it because they are successful. Then, when they start to decrease in popularity and health, that’s when they kind of (try to) regain it. I find people in all of those different phases of their lives. The people in the latter phase are the ones that want to get (their health) back. They think that regaining their health is going to give them a second chance in the industry or they will be able to retain their (current) status.
With entertainers and models, stress levels tend to be unusually high due to demands on their careers; time-constraints and being in the public eye. Stress often leads to bad eating habits. Comfort food.
I do believe that happens. Not often when we are under stress do we say, “Give me that steamed broccoli.” I think that poor eating and emotions are pretty correlated. When someone is having problems with (poor) eating, most times you have to look at the triggers that cause them to eat.
You worked with several cast members of “Reba” at the same time. That’s unusual with a TV show.
It is but they are an interesting bunch. During the time when they were filming (until 2007), it was this really cool, cohesive group of people. I was training Melissa Peterman and Joanna García separately. Sometimes I would have them come in together due to scheduling conflicts. They told Reba (McEntire) about me. She invited me to come in and work with her too. It was very group oriented. They always wanted to be together, and it was fun. I would put up a little circuit for them and I would have boxing stations. I would make them do all kinds of fun stuff. They would laugh at each other. I think that this was a way for them to blow off steam at the end of a shoot. I would come after they have finished filming or sometimes beforehand which would set the tone (for the day). It was a lot of fun. Reba is such a pistol. She’s an incredible and amazing person.
With your clients are there big differences in what they are looking for you to do?
I do an induction stage where I have them fill out a questionnaire that basically asks them what they are looking for. With some people, they are hiring me like they would hire a clinician. It’s like, “I am retaining you for your information, and for your scientific background. I have these goals and I know that I am going to retain your information to get there.” Then there are people who want that psychological factor. They maybe want to rent a friend who comes along with other things. Or they want accountability. They know that in the absence of hiring someone, they won’t get their ass out of bed, and do the work.
If someone’s publicist is hiring me or someone’s management office is hiring me, I ask them what their expectations are. With a lot of the Victoria’s Secrets’ models, their office will call and say, “We have 6 weeks. This is our goal. When can you start?”
Clients will have a short term goals? Like a tour or a film part coming up?
Correct. If it’s a short term goal, especially a movie role or a magazine cover, they may know that they need the accountability, and they need the science behind (the training) because they need the results quicker than, say what three months, would afford. That way, I come in and, basically, descend upon them in all of those areas.
Are the goals with Victoria’s Secret models primarily weight and body toning?
It’s a matter of both. It is very individualized. If someone has been inactive, they need to develop a little muscle tissue. And, if they have been inactive, and there’s been too many calories in their lives then we have to remove the body fat on top of that so what we sculpt underneath shows.
Performers need stamina to be able to be onstage nightly for 90 minutes or more.
Endurance is more of a consideration with people in the music industry simply because of what they do professionally. Onstage, they are projecting all of this energy. It is consuming. Not only are they doing it once, but they are sometimes doing it three (nights) in a row with travel in between. They have to endure.
They have the aesthetic realm but, with that, they have to become more conditioned, and the result is that they look better. So it’s more like (working with) an athlete--where it’s performance-oriented first and then outcome is the bonus of looking really good. That’s how I usually approach performers. They will have other variables that they have to consider with the effort that they have to put in with me, but it’s more about endurance with those type of people.
Touring usually means eating at Shoney’s, Cracker Barrel, McDonald’s or trucker stops. Any suggestions on how to eat properly on the road?
There are a couple of sources they need to tap into if they are traveling and their options are few. They just have to have discretion of what to avoid. The worst things are the refined products. Anything that is white and overly processed is a convenient and cheap way to eat. That is a lot of the downfall of the people who are trying to maintain a consciously healthy lifestyle. A pastry or a pita pocket; anything that has been really processed, and that is in the freezer at 7-11, that you can consume after 30 seconds in the microwave, there should be something on the label listing it as a (poor) addendum to your health.
That sounds pretty bleak.
But honestly, you can go to McDonald’s and order the salad and be very conservative with the dressing. And, if you were to get a chicken breast and not eat the top, and only eat the bottom—like an open face (sandwich)—you will have split your fat (intake) and all of those bad cholesterol raising calories. And, that’s a fast food place, so it’s matter of having discretion. If you start out with education you know how to translate each place that you go. You can go into 7-11 and get a meal replacement shake. You can buy an apple. You can get cheese and V8 juice there. Well, that’s 500 calories. That is within your RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) requirement. But a lot of people buy Hot Pockets (croissant crust sandwiches) or one of those frank foods that rolls in the heat thing (rotisserie) all day long. They eat that instead. So then they are foiled on staying on goal.
V8 juice is high in salt content.
It is. So it’s a matter of moderation. If you are going to get your vegetables in that way with it comes sodium for flavor, and in order to keep it on the shelves. You will then have to restrict your sodium throughout the day. You also need to be able to flush your water out, and get in several liters throughout the day.
Drinking water is that important?
It really is. If I was to pick two things that I think people should be really aware of it would be water intake, and good fat intake--like having Omega-3 (fatty acids) found in cold fish. There’s also Omega-6 and 9s which are polyunsaturated oils that you can use, like more of a Mediterraneandiet. If we are deficient in Omega-3 than we have to take it in through our diet. Our cholesterol levels can go down when you take in Omega-3s (fatty acids). Your body speaks to the cells and asks them to dump the fat out of your system.
[Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, and some Omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation. The typical North American diet tends to contain 14-25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids.]
What kind of exercise program can a performer take on the road?
There are a couple of tools that I really like. One of them is the Thera-Band (exercise tubing). Basically, it is a rubber tube with handles on the end. It’s a makeshift pulley system that comes with an anchor. It is quite inexpensive. You can put the anchor in a door and close the door. There are a series of maybe 10 movements that you can do (with it). You are able to stand in front of it, and generate enough tension to do standing rows (exercise). Conversely, if you turn around you can do chest presses with it. You can do squats and lunges. A towel can be a surrogate for a mat. If you lay down on it, and do abs and modified bridges with some flexibility, you are not lacking for anything.
Most hotels have a gym.
So getting on the treadmill is good. In the worst circumstances I will encourage my clients to bring the Thera-Band, and a jump rope. If all fails, there’s the stairs. If descend and ascend five or six flights of stairs for 20 minutes, you would be pretty drenched in sweat and you would know you did some cardiovascular.
At the end of the day your body doesn’t know you are going up stairs at a hotel. It just knows that it needs to overcome the demands you are placing on it. If you commit to doing three flights (of stairs), and your recovery is going down you can at least do intervals because you haven’t overextended yourself. After 20 or 25 minutes, you pop back into your room, stretch out, and do some modified movements.
You live and work in Los Angeles where the health regimen of entertainers is generally good.
It is. I think that’s because LA has so many resources for wellness. It’s a pretty expanded version of all those options. Whereas one genre or type of health (regimen) may hit a smaller city or town, the big urge for Pilates or yoga will come in for instance. But because we have so many millions of people, so many philosophies emerge that you can shop around. You end up finding something that works for you. In Beverly Hills and all those kinds of areas, everybody tends to look a little alike. They follow the same regimen.
Los Angeles is the capital of narcissism. There are just so many resources for people who are serious about how they look. I drove by a magazine stand the other day, and there were probably 2,000 magazines. I bet that 60% were on health and wellness. You can now get magazines and read all about spas. There are five magazines that talk about places to go to get pampered, and utilize leading technology. And, within those spas, different kinds of philosophies and regimens emerge. So there’s no shortage of resources to find different things that fall under the heading of beauty in Los Angeles.
Still, we are living in an era of obesity. With all of the selections at any supermarket, trying to eat healthy is difficult.
It’s true. Also income versus education and demand will correlate to supply. For instance, in Los Angeles, it is very easy to go to a store, and get organic produce and it is not super expensive. I shop at Trader Joe’s all of the time. They epitomize what a consumer should be having, and (the store) is completely packed. If (organic produce) is available, if you educate the public and, if it’s what they want because they aspire to look a certain way, well, those are tools of the trade.
Many models eat organic foods. What’s the benefit?
I think that they maintain consistency in organic because they can afford to. Also what’s the risk of having something that is deemed organic versus something that is not? The reason that I advocate (organic) beef is because there’s not the hormones that it took to mass produce. It’s a small farming (sector). The beef is a little better in quality. There’s less corn meal or less derived foods that have come from non-organic sources. It is the same as having an individual who ate junk food all of their life, and an individual who had good clean meats and good clean vegetables, and taking their blood tests. If you looked at the integrity of the muscle tissue, there would be a difference. So if we are eating (beef) tissue than we want tissue that is good quality.
That’s not necessarily true with organic fruits and vegetables.
A lot of the soil nowadays is being leached so poorly that you can’t really guarantee anything organic doesn’t have pesticides and doesn’t have (different) kinds of derivatives there either. Organic meats, I do like, however.
What advanced education do you have?
My background is in kinesiology and I also have certification in intracellular physiology which is a form of nutrition. I went to the University of Calgary. I was born in Morinville, a tiny town in northern Alberta where there’s 6,000 people. (After graduation) I got a job doing wellness in the work place in Calgary. I did it for the Lindsay Park Sports Centre (The name of the multi-sports complex was changed to the Talisman Centre in 2002, after the City of Calgary sold the naming rights for $10 million to Talisman Energy for 30 years). I also did a lot of consulting for engineering firms.
How did you get from being a member of the Canadian bobsled team to doing this?
I retired my bobsled. My old teammate Kristy Lees, who is now one of the house consultants for the IOC (the International Olympic Committee) and a strength and conditioning coach for the women’s Dutch team, was friends with celebrity trainer Jeannette Jenkins [often linked romantically by the media to Queen Latifah] who owns the Hollywood Trainer. She advised us to move here. Jeannette is half Canadian and she’s incredibly successful with a book and DVDs and being a spokesperson for BET (for The BET Foundation’s A Healthy BET Campaign).
How long have you been in LA?
Eight years. I was able to find a sponsor in the U.S. Once I was here, I started generating more and more clients.
Was it scary making the jump from Alberta?
It was. However, I had a couple of friends who were already living here. It really helps when there’s someone who can help you navigate being in a new town. I had a job when I came here. My work helped me lose the ideals that I used to proclaim at the top of my lungs about the socialistic (American) system. Once I started making the money that the U.S. affords, I changed my tune a little bit.
You teach at the Power Up fitness retreat for women, which is offered seven times a year.
We’re still doing it. We are now trying to find the right time to do it again, and we are exploring all of the common interests of the people that involved. I am also doing a boot camp that is similar to Power Up under the name Celebrity Bikini Boot Camp in April. It is out of the One Bal Harbour Resort & Spa in Miami. We are going to run it for 7 days. With this luxurious backdrop, we are going to kick peoples’ asses all day long.
How many people will attend?
Probably no more than 8 to 10 people, simply because we want to keep the group together. It’s a numbers game of trying to keep people controlled a group so they don’t feel like it’s this big huge aerobics class in the sand.
What clients will you attract? Models?
Yes. Considering the cost, we do look at a certain demographic of people who expect a certain type of luxury, a certain type of service, and a certain type of experience. So we do have a lot of people right now from Los Angeles. And we have quite a few (members of the) press we have invited that have committed as well.
We are in love with the hotel. It’s a new, innovative hotel. They are launching a lot of their services and expansions. It dovetails nicely with what everybody wanted as an experience, especially having the beach in the morning to have people rise and shine (to) and to walk the beach. We are guaranteed that it is going to be relatively warm, being that it is in April.
You can take this fitness template to anywhere in the world.
Yes, and I plan to use April as a prototype for a specialized extended service and, maybe, go to other (luxury) hotels in the future.
Larry LeBlanc was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, the London Times and the New York Times.