I’ll be honest, I don’t just have a creative crush on Erin Oprea; I have a major fitness crush on her, too. Ever since I met the personal training superstar two years ago through my girl Katy, I’ve followed her follies online. And the gal is intense, too—like, in the best, most positive, most encouraging way possible. I mean, just look at her, won’t you: Don’t you already want to be her?
But she’s even more bad ass than you’d ever know from first glance.
Erin graduated from high school at 16, became a personal trainer at 18 and enlisted in the U.S. Marines at 21. (I’d say she’s a bit of an overachiever.) She went on to serve our country for nearly a decade and, during that time, was on two tours in Iraq—in Fallujah, y’all—and also appointed to lead the first female platoon attached to the infantry in a war zone. After she separated from the Marines, Erin returned to her home turf in Tennessee.
These days, she’s highly respected as the go-to trainer and fitness professional in the Nashville area and is responsible for keeping a number of country music stars—including Carrie Underwood, Jana Kramer, Lauren Alaina and Jennifer Nettles—in line through her own healthy living empire, Oprea Personal Fitness, which launched in 2006 and focuses on one-on-one private training.
I know, I know, you’re dying to give her workouts a go—been there, done that, they’re so awesome, I can’t even tell you—but you live in sunny California or humid Bali or dreary London and coming to Nashville for your training sessions isn’t feasible. (Say what? Priorities, people.)
Lucky for you, Erin shares her approach to fitness and health in her new book, which just came out this week. Because she’s an all-around gem, Erin stopped by to answer all my burning questions.
How is your approach different to all the other diets out there?
The 4×4 Diet is four key foods and four-minute workouts. The four-minute workouts are four-minute tabatas—you can spread them out or you can do them all at once. It gives you a guide of what they are and all variations of workouts. Some use weights, some use body weight, some are for heart rate, some are more build-muscle kind of training. It’s a mixture, and it gives you what you should do each day for different levels.
The four foods are cutting back on alcohol, cut back on sodium, cut starches out at night, cut back on sugar. It’s four basic things that if you actually follow this, you will lose weight.
So you’re saying instead of doing Whole30 again, I should adopt the 4×4 Diet.
This is one that you can easily incorporate and still be able to enjoy yourself. It’s not no starches, it’s not cut out sugar completely—it’s cut it back and have little bits here and there. So go to a party, enjoy a little bit and then get right back on it the next day.
So do I really have to give up booze? (Please say it ain’t so!)
No! It’s not cut out alcohol completely, because that’s not realistic. Mine is more of a healthy lifestyle approach. It’s something you could follow forever and not feel like you’re giving up anything. Because you’re not cutting starches out completely, you’re just eating them earlier in the day when you’re going to burn them off. You’re not cutting out alcohol so you get to enjoy a couple glasses of wine, but if you drink a lot of wine, unfortunately you’re going to gain weight. It’s delicious, though—we all love it, but the truth is that you’ll add weight on your body.
How much is a little bit? What’s the cut-off point?
I try to limit it to two glasses a week. So you can choose to have those the same night, or if you have two events in one week, you have one on one night and one on the other. However you want to do it, but you want to cut it out to two a week.
What about sugar: Do you have to count the grams?
No, especially if it’s natural sugar like an apple or some beets. Added sugar is where you get in trouble. Try to limit that to five grams per serving.
My go-to snack is a KIND dark chocolate and sea salt bar. Like that?
Those are the ones that I eat, too. Some of the KIND bars are too high in sugar, so make sure that you only eat the ones that are five bars or less. Quest bars are good, too. They’ve got a lot of fiber, 20 grams of protein, the sodium is higher than I like but they do keep you full longer than the KIND bars do.
My problem is trying to eat healthy with a social calendar that means going out to dinner several nights a week. What sort of meals do you order when you’re at a restaurant?
A Caesar or kale salad with salmon or grilled chicken on top.
When you splurge while you’re out, what do you go for?
Pizza! Or I’ll occasionally have chips and salsa! I love red wine in the winter but I don’t necessarily want it in the summer when it’s hot out, so I like a shot of vodka and I’ll get a side of sour and put a tiny splash in my vodka.
In terms of fitness, what kind of workouts do you like to keep things fun and vary a stale fitness routine?
I love climbing at Climb Nashville. It’s not part of my normal routine but I do like doing it occasional because it’s something different to do. I don’t feel like I’m working out but then you realize how sore you are the next day.
Hotbox is another one that’s boxing mixed in with planks and lunges and all the fun things—it’s a great workout. Boxing is one of my favorite things to do at home, too. It burns massive calories, lets out some aggression and is just all-around fun.
Sky High Sports [or a trampoline park in your area] is a great activity to keep your whole family active. Sean and I will go to Sky High Sports with my two teenage boys. The dodgeball is the best part because you get to throw the balls at the kids—a little family rivalry, a little friendly competition.