After a recent show during Toronto fashion week, a handful of models were chatting about what they did in order to stay slim. "Seriously? I don't do anything," said a tall, lithe, blond-haired beauty. But when asked about specifics, she admitted that she walks everywhere and takes the occasional yoga class.
There's no denying that models' youth and genes have a lot to do with their success, but the look isn't completely effortless. Long-held beliefs that models stay thin through a constant diet of coffee and cocaine gained credence after photographs were published apparently showing Kate Moss snorting the white stuff. But many others make a healthy lifestyle their ticket to work on the runway.
Cindy Crawford finds time to exercise -- either a cardio workout, Pilates or yoga -- in order to keep up with her two children as well as maintain her model figure at the age of 40. She has even made workout videos to help people stay in shape.
Daria Werbowy, the Canadian face behind Lancome, admits that despite her busy schedule she is a skatergirl at heart and relishes downtime so she can hit a parking lot every so often.
Up until a few months ago, Diana Wilson, 20, played hockey and refereed games to get as much skating time as she could. But when the London, Ont., native moved to Toronto to pursue a modelling career, her hockey pastime was put on hold.
After a few months in the big city, she was hired for the runway at fashion week.
With a busy schedule and no car to get to games -- she wasn't about to carry hockey equipment on the subway -- she had to get her exercise elsewhere. She walks -- and now that the weather is warmer -- Rollerblades, everywhere.
But that isn't her only activity.
"When I started modelling I really got into working out," said Wilson. "I was doing Pilates mainly because that was highly recommended by everyone in the industry because it focuses on your core. I did yoga as well, partly because I enjoy it. It's good for this type of profession."
Mark Stables, personal trainer and life and wellness coach, said Wilson's yoga and Pilates regime -- save the hockey -- is what he recommends for many of the models who come to him to achieve, or retain, a slim runway physique.
"You are looking to create long, lean muscles," said Stables, owner and director of Toronto's Benchmark Group. "Yoga and Pilates, I believe, are beneficial for anyone ... right across the board - I mean there's nobody who wouldn't benefit from it."
For models, staying sleek isn't just about vanity. These girls must be lean in order to work.
The first thing an agency will tell a model, once it has decided to represent her, is that measurements, specifically waist and hips, must remain small, said Wilson, who was told her hips can't exceed 35 inches. Wilson stands five foot 11 and weighs 120 pounds.
"If a girl comes in with 36-inch hips, we will ask her to lose the weight to get down to 35 or 35-and-a-half," said Elisabeth Lepage, an agent at Elmer Olsen Model Management.
Wilson doesn't know personally any models who do drugs, but said there are girls in the industry who will try anything to keep those measurements.
She feels she escaped that pressure because she got into modelling late in life -- at the ripe age of 18. Some of the younger girls get signed much earlier -- before their bodies have fully developed. When their hips start to expand, they panic. That's when they can fall prey to the coffee and cocaine diet, she said. A lean-look workout
Stables said one of his clients, a 17-year-old model, came in to his office with a photo of herself taken two years earlier. Her goal was to work out in order to get rid of the "fat" on her hips and look like she did in the picture.
He pointed out that it wasn't fat on her hips, she was simply growing.
Instead of getting "skinny" again, Stables encouraged her to build her upper body strength in order to balance her figure. The teen is now a young women who works as a model.
"There are definitely women who continue being healthy and still be models even though they don't have Kate Moss bodies," he said, adding that anyone can lose weight for a show, but it's the models who adopt a healthy lifestyle that have the staying power to continue working without side trips into rehab.
Jennifer Irwin, assistant professor of Health Sciences at the University of Western Ontario, said that even though the general public looks to Hollywood and fashion runways for ideal bodies, these bodies are not the norm.
She said the average North American female is five foot four and weighs 140 pounds.
"(Models) are genetic anomalies. It is not something that is reasonable or healthy for the rest of the world to strive to be," she said, adding that an active lifestyle is important and the body that results is the ideal.
Wilson's willowy frame and love of hockey -- both from her father -- as well as her healthy lifestyle ensure a sleek figure will be hers for some time.
"In an ideal world I'd play hockey every day ... but it's bike and Rollerblade season now," she said, adding that she has workout videos she can use when the weather is not so nice.
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Pilates and yoga moves an important part of a lean-look workout
TORONTO (CP) --Trainer and lifestyle coach Mark Stables, the owner and director of the Benchmark Group, sees many clients, including models, who want a lean look. The best exercises involve doing weekly yoga and Pilates, two to three times per week, he says.
The key is to focus on flexibility moves that not only increase your range of motion, but also strengthen muscles. Not only will these exercises lengthen your look, they will improve posture and balance while giving energy and confidence, he says.
The following tips can be part of a workout to create a leaner look.
» Pilates builds strength while lengthening the muscle, unlike conventional weight lifting which may shorten and tighten the muscles if done improperly.
» Pilates builds core strength and postural awareness, giving the illusion of a longer and leaner physique. Posture plays a huge role in how models and ballet dancers appear.
» The stretches and poses found in a typical yoga workout not only increase flexibility but also lengthen muscles.
» The concentration yoga demands improves body awareness, creating a true mind-body connection, which makes a healthy lifestyle more achievable.
» A Swiss ball, medicine ball, and other balance tools will strengthen core muscles creating a longer/leaner look while making abdominal muscles stronger for day-to-day activities.
» Working and stretching the thigh and gluteal muscles with lunge exercises improves balance, co-ordination and strength. The added bonus is leaner legs and a perkier behind. Stables suggests sets of 15-25 repetitions for lower body resistance training exercises, such as plie squats, side lunges and the sumo-walk (a lunge combined with walking).
By LORRAYNE ANTHONY, CP