According to celebrity trainer Erin Oprea, there’s a top-secret solution to staying committed to fitness — and it’s called hard work. Erin is known for pulling no punches, but she also cares deeply about helping all women get stronger to reach their health and wellness goals.
After enlisting in the Marines, Erin built a personal training career from scratch. Then she wrote a best-selling book called The 4×4 Diet, joined the Menud app as an #EatLikeMe influencer, started CITYSTRONG, and remains dedicated to her family. Learn how her focus, energy, and diligence have helped Erin grow her private training business all over the world.
Did you always want to be a personal trainer?
Actually, no. I wanted to be a policeman, then decided I was going to be a P.E. teacher, then I started college and realized I didn’t love kids that much. Then I wanted to get into personal training, because it’s kind of like a P.E. teacher, but with adults! I got certified when I was 18, and then thought the Marine Corps looked fun, so I joined and did that for nine years. When I got out, I started training at another gym. And then I got divorced and realized I couldn’t support my kids with training, which is what I wanted to do. Everyone told me I couldn’t do it, and I decided, “Yes, I can.”
So I cleaned houses. I trained early in the morning and cleaned houses until my kids got out of school. From there, I built my business and worked hard. Anything I could learn and do to grow my business, I did. I worked really, really hard — because to get to where you want to be, it takes hard work and discipline.
I trained early in the morning and cleaned houses until my kids got out of school. Anything I could learn and do to grow my business, I did. I worked really, really hard — because to get to where you want to be, it takes hard work and discipline.
You’re well-known for training celebrities like Carrie Underwood, Kaitlyn Bristowe, and Jennifer Nettles — tell us more.
Working with celebrities is no different than working with anybody else. They have crazy schedules and are very hard-working. People have misconceptions about celebrities, but nobody sees the behind-the-scenes part. They work their butts off. It’s one thing to have a personal trainer, but you still have to put the work in and have discipline with your diet. Also, a lot of celebrities don’t have full-time chefs like people think! Most are pretty normal people who just have crazy lives and crazy schedules.
When I see Carrie Underwood, I see her as Carrie; I don’t think of her as a celebrity. I’m not a starstruck kind of person, and I didn’t set out wanting to train celebrities anyway. That wasn’t a goal of mine. It fell in my lap; I was never looking for celebrities, they all came to me to be trained. I tell people in this industry if your goal is to train celebrities, you’re mistaken. Your goal should be to be the best at what you do and work hard.
What was the most challenging lesson you had to learn as you were first starting out?
I was a single mom, and as a personal trainer in those early days, I had to be at work at 4 am. So first, trying to figure out how to get my kids to school was hard. Then, learning how to market. Man, if I could do one thing over — and I tell my kids this — I would have gone to school to learn how to market myself and be a better entrepreneur. I didn’t know anything about business. My mom was a marketing teacher, so I learned a lot from her, and I just happened to meet with the right people all the time. Lots of trial and error.
You’re going to sink before you succeed, that’s for sure. A lot of people don’t realize how much failure comes along the journey of success. You can’t have success without some measure of failure. In this career, there are so many highs and lows, and when the lows come, you just want to quit.
But don’t give up — stay with your passion. If you don’t feel passionate about your career, or you’re doing it for the money, it’ll be a hard job. Clients see passion, and they see whose looking for money, and they’ll know whether or not to stay with you.
If you don’t feel passionate about your career, or you’re doing it for the money, it’ll be a hard job.
You enlisted at a young age. How did you make that decision, and what did that experience teach you?
My time in the Marine Corps time taught me more than I could’ve ever learned in the regular world. My personal training life is so structured; my schedule is minute to minute from 3 am to 9 pm. I don’t have an hour for lunch, or coffee breaks to meet up with anyone. My average day is 15 hours — sometimes up to 17 hours. And a lot of that discipline came from my military days.
While there, I led the first all-female platoon, so I learned how to work hard to constantly prove myself as a woman. At the time, women were known as WMs, walking mattresses — seriously. So you always had to prove that physically you could do what the men could do, because if you could prove yourself physically, and you could prove you were smart, you got a lot more respect.
Working hard to prove myself is the same thing in this industry. There are a million trainers and it can be a male-dominated career. I’m always proving myself to be the best I can be. There’s also no such thing as learning everything for your job. You can learn something new or useful every day.
My average day is 15 hours — sometimes up to 17 hours. And a lot of that discipline came from my military days.
How has your career changed or evolved since you started?
When I started training, fitness wasn’t cool. But over the years, a younger generation now thinks fitness is cool and hip. And yeah, it is cool to wear workout clothes all day long, and it’s cool to do workouts and Instagram them. I also think [that trendiness] it is a fad and will go away.
What are your go-tos for staying fit and healthy?
I never get less than 10,000 steps a day, every day. The key to longevity in fitness is to move. Your body requires movement. Some of it needs to get your heart rate up, too, so not always just a casual stroll. I also love weight training, which I do 4-5 days a week and then mix in cardio. And I eat clean. I do the prep work ahead of time to make the rest of the week easier. If I didn’t do that, I would totally fail at healthy eating.
To me, fitness is my form of entertainment. I try to do things so it doesn’t feel like, “Ugh, I gotta go work out…” It’s like, “Hey, let’s go downtown and walk, and we’ll walk for 30-40k steps and stop someplace and have brussels sprouts, or stop and have a drink, or stop and ride bikes.” Not, “Let’s run 10 miles every day!”
Changing it up has kept me on track. I continually find time to work out — I don’t necessarily “have time” to work out for an hour, so I work out everywhere. The whole world is my gym.
What do you love most about being a woman?
Definitely not fixing my hair or putting makeup on! Really, I love that things are more challenging for women. For me, I’ve always chosen male-dominated careers, so I’ve always felt like I had to prove myself. I like that challenge, it keeps me going. I love to be pushed in all different ways.
What do you wish more women knew about health, wellness, or fitness?
It is not a quick fix. Oh, and you cannot “spot” lose, which is the number one question I get: “I have this spot on my butt, what can I do to get rid of it?” Or, “Oh my god, my stomach is big, I have to do a bunch of crunches.” It doesn’t work that way.
The key to longevity is to take out the fad diets and learn to live a healthy lifestyle. If you are consistent, the results will come. It’s not doing 30 days and then you eat a bunch of junk and have to start over. Just learn how to live a healthy lifestyle and stop depriving yourself of certain things. If you tell yourself you can’t have something, your mind fixates on it. There are no no-no foods, just have things in moderation.
Finally, wine packs on the weight. I know. Wine is not our best friend, as much as we like to think it is our friend. But a little bit is okay!
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Never give up. Everyone goes through times where you want to quit it all. I’ve had so many of those. Surround yourself with the right people to stay encouraged, instead of the wrong people. I had an accountant one time tell me my business wasn’t very good, and he said to close it. What?! For any career, as long as you’re passionate, never give up. If it’s not what you love and just fell in your lap and you want to quit, give up and move on. If you’re passionate, and you never give up, you will be successful.
What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?
At 23, I was married with two kids and in the Marine Corps. My life was different, but I can’t think back and say there’s anything I would’ve told myself back then. Everything that’s happened has led me to the next thing. Without any one piece of that journey or puzzle along the way, I wouldn’t be where I am. It all happened the way it was supposed to, even though it wasn’t all easy.
It all happened the way it was supposed to, even though it wasn’t all easy.
Erin Oprea is The Everygirl…
Beach or mountains?
Favorite way to spend a day off?
Walking all over the downtown of a city.
Most effective workout move, in your opinion?
Lunges! All kinds in all directions. Even airborne.
I wish I knew how to…
Market myself and my businesses better. It takes an incredible amount of connections and time to do it correctly, and I always wish I had more of both.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
GI Jane. She’s always been my idol, even though she’s a character and not a real person. She has the strength of a rock — so strong physically and mentally.