'IT'S AMAZING here!" gushes fitness guru Tracy Anderson down the phone from Rio de Janeiro. "It's a real party place, I love it!" While the rest of us shiver in the sodden wintry cold, the bubbly American personal trainer to the stars is soaking up the sunshine on the Copacabana beach, staying in one of the city's most exclusive hotels. But before you turn puce with envy, it's worth mentioning that Anderson is having to sing for her supper.Anderson is in the Brazilian capital doing daily workouts with Madonna, who is currently touring South America on the latest leg of her Sticky and Sweet tour – dates that were added after the highly publicised announcement of her divorce from husband Guy Ritchie. And it sounds like Madonna may just be taking out her frustrations via her exercise regime. "I am seeing a lot of really great places, but I work a lot," confesses Anderson. She pauses then repeats the phrase. "I work a lot."
Anderson is not the sort of personal trainer who refuses to train and tell. In fact, she mentions both the M word (Madonna) and the G word (Gwyneth) before I do, and in the cover blurb of her first DVD, to be released on Boxing Day, introduces herself to the world as "Madonna and Gwyneth's personal trainer". There's even a segment on the DVD where Paltrow appears, being interviewed on the wonders of the Tracy Anderson Method. It's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it affair, notable mainly because Paltrow says the word "bum" twice, but still, it's not the sort of endorsement you'd find on Pilates with Fern Britton.
It has to be said that Anderson's proof is in the pudding. Madonna has been training exclusively with Anderson for the past two years – she is often snapped emerging from Madonna's private gym in London – and the results are miraculous. Aged 50, the pop star is in peak physical condition, every muscle honed and toned, with a body fitter than most women half her age. Paltrow, meanwhile, who discovered Anderson first and introduced her to Madonna, describes her as "a miracle" and has wowed the paparazzi this year in a procession of teeny-tiny miniskirts designed to show off a pair of flawless thighs.
"They're both unbelievably dedicated," says Anderson. "They're good students and they're both such smart girls. They understand that you get out what you put in. So they don't fuss, they trust me, they show up, they do what I ask and they get amazing results."
Sounds easy enough. But make no mistake, the Tracy Anderson Method is not for the fainthearted, as a quick glimpse at her DVD will prove. It is a break-a-sweat-and-get-the-body-moving cardio workout (a mat workout is due to follow in 2009), made up of lots of high-energy dance sequences that, while undoubtedly effective, are fiendishly complicated. Anderson herself admits it's not easy to learn.
"It's the most frustrating thing in the world if you're a non-dancer. It takes time to learn. But once you do learn it and you're able to just go through the 45-minute tape and dance around, it will be literally the best friend your body has ever had.
"You're not hitting your joints over and over again from the same rotations (that you'd have in other cardio workouts]; you're burning an extreme amount of calories and you're working your muscles in different movements every few beats so that lots of other, smaller muscles have to wake up and help too."
This is Anderson's modus operandi. She has, she says, spent ten years researching her 'method', looking into whether our muscles retain memories of the way they exercise. She believes they can, and that once a muscle has mastered a move it gets lazy. She also believes that if we can override that by constantly using our muscles in different ways, then every woman can change her shape to have the body of which she's always dreamed.
"I wanted to know if we can really change the body against genetics and we can," she says. "This is a new way of doing things, it's a new formula."
Does she honestly believe any body can change shape to become the sort of small, dancer's body she herself sports?
"I don't just believe it, I've researched it. I've seen it and I know it. I spent five years testing 150 women of all different shapes and sizes and they all changed size."
"There are so many workouts where you will see results in the beginning and then you become static. The reason is that none of these things have the amount of moves or the understanding of when a muscle gets smart. I hate gyms, because they just exercise the large muscles over and over and don't call upon anything else to wake up."
Anderson also loathes diets. "I hate diets and I love eating," she says cheerfully. "I think it's very important to feed the body what it craves and not be in your head about it, panicking, carrying around some calorie-counting wheel in your bag or something equally absurd. I'm really not a fan of that at all."
For Anderson, an exercise regime is not just about being slim, but about being fit. "A lot of people look fit in clothes, but you put them in a bikini and it's a whole other story," she remarks. And it's something which, despite her lithe toned appearance, she has experience with.
"My own weight problem is why I did all this," she says. "I gained 40lbs when I was 19, then I gained 60lbs when I was pregnant with my son and nothing worked. I tried everything – private Pilates sessions with the best instructors in Manhattan, you name it. That's why I started all this in the first place."
Originally a dancer – "I wanted to be a ballerina" – she trained at dance school in New York, but says her weight always affected her abilities. "I heard a lot in school, 'You've got a really great talent, but there's no way you're going to be a dancer with that body.'"
Then she met Eric Anderson, a basketball player with the New York Knicks, married him, had her son and started researching exercise techniques. Fitness has, she says, been her "calling" ever since.
So what about her own workout routine? "Well, I train with Madonna every day," she says with a laugh. " So that's my workout." Fortunately, she doesn't expect the likes of you and me, or even Paltrow, to train quite that hard.
"Madonna is an athlete," she says, "she has to be treated like a professional athlete. She doesn't work out for six hours a day, though, like some of the press says. She never works out for more than two hours a day, and then only when she has the time."
Paltrow is lower maintenance. "Gwyneth can get by on an hour, an-hour-and-a-half a day. She's never performed to the physical peak the way that Madonna has. But for the average person? I'm never going to ask the average person to workout that many hours a day."
That said, she doesn't think we should cut ourselves too much slack when it comes to maintaining an exercise regime.
"It's just like brushing your teeth. You set a standard for yourself and, unless you have a problem, one of your children is sick or something out of the ordinary happens, it is just part of your day.
"It will mentally make you healthier and better, it will physically make you healthier and better, so you just do it. You don't fuss, you don't make excuses, you just know have to do it. And toughen up."
• The Tracy Anderson Method: Dance Cardio Workout is available on ITV DVD from 26 December, priced £17.99
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