Kacy Duke

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Diet Detective: Hey Kacy, so glad that you’re participating in this interview. I remember when Equinox just opened up on the upper west side in Manhattan, I used to see you there training and teaching classes (always the most popular, I might add). My first question is something that we all would like to know: How did you get into the fitness business?

Kacy: Honestly, I feel as though I was born into it. Even as a kid, I loved the feeling of movement. Wildly energetic, I excelled at track and field and literally danced my way through my teens. As an adult, I let my body lead the way as I searched for a way to combine the power of running with the grace of dance. I studied dance therapy (healing through movement), taught aerobics, became a Nike Body Elite Personal trainer, and helped create the Equinox Fitness Clubs. Today I feel like my mission is to help fitness find a home in everyone’s life. My job now is to help the world understand that fitness is not just about the external. It’s about the power and grace that also comes from within. It’s about understanding that being fit is LIFE SUPPORTING and can give you much more than just a firm butt.

Diet Detective: You train many celebrities. It always amazes me how they can transform their bodies for a particular movie part. How do they do it? What are some secrets you can tell us?

Kacy: I honestly wish there was some secret to tell you! Getting in shape is a celebrity’s job, so that can make it somewhat easier. But at the most basic level, they are just people like you and me and they still have to do the work. There are no shortcuts or magic potions. It’s interesting that you ask about how they get in shape for a particular movie role, because that’s obviously important for their careers. I do try to have my celebrity clients, whether it’s Kirsten Dunst or Rachel Weisz or Bruce Willis, look to themselves for the motivation to get in shape — not any particular role. It’s my experience that once you appreciate your body and believe in yourself, the tough physical work of getting in top shape comes SO much easier. I guess that’s my secret — look inside — not outside for your motivation. Do it for you.

Diet Detective: Can you explain the concept: “I Am,” “I Can,” “I Do”?

Kacy: It’s a three-step process for getting, and most importantly, staying in shape. You can think of it as getting the body of your dreams from the inside out. It breaks down like this:

  • I AM = The Mindset. Taking a complete emotional inventory and exploring your relationship with your body. This is far and away the most important step to getting in shape, but it’s the one everyone skips — even most trainers. Nothing positive can happen out of hate. Yet how many women use hate as their motivation? They hate their thighs. They hate their arms. A negative self image may get you in motion. But it can’t sustain you; only burn you out. Only positive affirmation can get you where you want to be.
  • I CAN = The Motivation. Once you believe in yourself, you can start tapping your true strength and potential. This is HIGHLY motivating for clients. I know I really have them when they’re in the gym beaming from ear to ear because they can’t believe what they’re capable of! The more you see you can do the more you want to do. You, not any outside influences, are your own motivation.
  • I DO = The Movement. This is the final step. This is where you push out of your comfort zone, tap into your inner goddess and make magic happen! Seriously, once you reach I Do, you won’t believe the reflection starting back at you from the mirror… or how much you love it from the inside out.

Diet Detective: How do you get a client motivated to stick to a fitness program?

Kacy: I have them go for the unrealistic. It sounds counter-intuitive. But if you come into a training program not believing you can really get what you want, you’re not going to be very motivated to hang with it. If you come in and think, “Okay, I’m really going to do it this time” (and of course you have the plan to make it happen), you’ll be more motivated to stick with it.

Diet Detective: Tell us the biggest secret that trainers typically don’t tell their clients, but should?

Kacy: I have to go back to “I AM” on this one. You really, really need to start your fitness journey on the inside, in your heart and in your mind. Develop a relationship with your body, don’t berate it or beat it up. Love it. Love yourself. Show your body some love. To me, that’s what it’s all about.

Diet Detective: In all your years of training, what do you consider the best non-weight related exercise?

Kacy: Well, obviously I’m a little biased, but I think my Warrior moves (long lunges combined with high knee sweeps) are hands down the best non-weight moves for toning and tightening on the outside while also making you feel really, really good on the inside!

Diet Detective: If you could only do one strength training exercise (using weights) what would it be?

Kacy: Honestly, I would rather do high-energy “I DO” moves, where you’re leaping and jumping and using your own body weight for resistance than weighted moves any day. You end up feeling stronger, lighter, and more agile than if you do heavy weighted exercises. But to answer your question, I would probably pick flip squats.

Diet Detective: What is the worst strength training exercise? Or one that is the most frequently done incorrectly?

Kacy: I would have to say crunches. When they’re done properly and with precision, they can be an excellent exercise. But they’re easy to cheat or do incorrectly. I recommend one or two similar ab moves in my book, but I’m very careful to give explicit directions for making them work.

Diet Detective: Can you tell us one strength training myth that we probably have not heard about? Or would be surprised to learn?

Kacy: A lot of people still insist that women cannot “bulk up.” I’m sorry, but that’s just not true. No, maybe they can’t get quite as big as a man, but depending on your muscle fibers and genetic makeup, it is possible for some women to bulk up. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t strength train. They just need to take a different approach. I don’t worry about this too much with my clients, because I don’t use heavy weights. I increase the resistance and work effort in other ways that I find creates lean, pretty muscles.

Diet Detective: If you could eat one forbidden or unhealthy food whenever you wanted without gaining weight, what would it be?

Kacy: I really don’t like the term “forbidden” food. It puts the food on some impossible pedestal and gives it a prominence in your life that it shouldn’t have. Food is food. There’s no forbidden food. I eat steak and bread and chocolate and drink alcohol. It’s all about appreciating your body enough to understand the role those foods play. When everything is in its proper place, and you’re respecting and loving yourself, your diet naturally falls into a balance where the most nutrient dense foods take prominence and the sweets and accessories round it out.

My favorite treat? That would be Red Velvet Cake! All my friends know it has to be from Make My Cake, a great bakery up in Harlem here in New York City. I love it!!

Diet Detective: What is the one food or meal you always eat before training? What do you advise clients to eat?

Kacy: I try not to be that rigid about what I eat. Because what happens if I can’t get that food? Then I’ll be thrown off, and I don’t like that. I do have my own energy mix of almonds and dried cranberries, which is perfect for keeping hunger at bay while providing me with lasting energy, and of course valuable nutrients. I tell my clients to eat something nutritious and light one to two hours before their workout. A handful of nuts. Half a banana. Just a little something so they’re fueled up, but not weighed down, for the work ahead.

Diet Detective: What’s your favorite breakfast?

Kacy: Fat-free Greek yogurt with a little honey, blackberries and Fiber One cereal.

Diet Detective: What do you consider the world’s most perfect food?

Kacy: Edamame. They’re the perfect blend of carbs, protein, and healthy fats. You can also flavor them with darn near anything. I’ve been known to spice them up with everything from curry powder to strawberry juice! Love ‘em.

Diet Detective: On those days when you’re not motivated to work out, but you should, what’s the one thought that gets you going?

Kacy: How much better I’ll feel 10 minutes into my workout. Listen, we ALL have those days when we’d rather sink deeper into the sofa than get up and move; but that’s when your body needs movement most. It’s all physics. Once you get in motion, your body wants to stay in motion!

Diet Detective: What person do you respect most, or who motivates you?

Kacy: My mother. She would say “Jump Kacy and let the net appear” but she has always been my net. That was her way of saying dream big and never give up! I love her so much.

Diet Detective: What do you do to reduce stress/relax/center your mind? Do you participate in an organized relaxation activity such as yoga, meditation or tai chi?

Kacy: I’m very spiritual. I talk to God. I study about the Goddesses from long ago. I burn candles and mix teas and tinctures. I use bath salts. I practice positive affirmations every single day. I live a pretty hectic life here in NYC. It’s important to use all the tools I can to reduce stress, stay focused, and center myself. I talk about that quite a bit in my book, because I think inner peace is the first step to outer fitness.

Diet Detective: Do you have a Calorie Bargain?

Kacy: I don’t necessarily think in terms of calorie bargains, but I know what you mean. It would probably be Wasa Crispbread. I love it with sashimi-style salmon. It’s satisfying without being overly starchy.

Diet Detective: What was your worst summer job?

Kacy: Not having one.

Diet Detective: Define failure.

Kacy: Not using the gifts God gave me to my fullest potential.

Diet Detective: What’s the best book about health that you’ve read?

Kacy: I’ve read so many great ones. How about if I tell which one I love right now? This book is not so much about health, as it is about your body and the muscles you’re training. I think it’s a great one. It’s called Strength Training Anatomy by Frederic Delavier.

Diet Detective: Do you have a pet?

Kacy: Not currently. I did have Starr, my most beloved dog, who passed away a few years ago. Right now Starr still has my heart and I’m not yet ready to take it back. I do miss him so.

Diet Detective: What did you want to be at the age of five?

Kacy: A dancer, actor, or doctor!

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