What's Her Secret: Kira Stokes
The fitness guru shares tips on food, fitness, setting achievable goals, and following your passion.
Whether she's training hosts of The View and the Today, Weekend Edition show, developing her forthcoming series of fitness apps, or teaching one of her signature classes (including Stoked360, StokedAbs, and Stoked F.I.T. Camp), celebrity trainer and fitness guru Kira Stokes is driven by true passion for movement and health. We chatted with Stokes for fitness and food tips, advice on following your own passion, and even learned what brings all the neighborhood kids to her driveway.
For you, movement is more than fitness, it's a true passion. How did this love of movement start? "From the time I was a child, my father put a real trapeze in our backyard. We had a woods in our backyard, so we had part of it cleared out and left two enormous trees. He had this company come in and put in a steel beam, and then in another part of the woods, he built balance beams that went from tree to tree. Some went parallel to the ground, some ascended, some descended, and then [there was a] shimmy rope from tree to tree that I would shimmy down. I was that kid who was always outside running around; I never sat still. My dad would go running ever day after work, and I would wait for him at the end of the driveway and he would let me run the cul de sac with him. It was always evident, to my parents and myself, that I was really born to move. I was a gymnast growing up, and being an athlete, just moving all the time––I enjoyed it."
Wow! And that has stayed with you. "I'm turning 40 in a month.
When I come home from work and have taught six classes and worked a total of 12 hours between training clients and teaching, my husband is like, 'You never sit down.' One thing I'm not particularly good at is relaxing!"
Sounds like your heart is in it, it grounds you and gives you purpose, clarity, and joy. Living out your passion is an amazing gift. "Yeah, most people don't get to have a career in a field that's their passion. It might be one or two percent of the population. I'm so lucky I'm doing just that. Every day I wake up and go to bed with a smile on my face, knowing that I've helped people and that I've enjoyed what I've been doing all day long, so it doesn't feel like work, it feels like play—like I'm just on a playground all day long and loving it."
That's great advice for anyone in any field, to take at least some time every day to invest in their passion and reap the joy from that. "Exactly. As an instructor my job is not to work out during my classes. My job is to coach and motivate. That's not my workout. My workout happens on my own time. Yeah, you might burn some calories and jump around a little, I'm not going to lie and say I don't get a sweat on, but I don't ever consider that my workout for the day."
What's a basic overview of your workout regime? "I call myself the ultimate cross-trainer. I always in my mind have a plan of what I'm going to do each day when I start my workout, and it is one hundred percent different every day of the week. One of my personal mantras is, 'You've gotta shock it to rock it.' You have to change your routine to change your body. It could be good for you mentally––for me, running is my personal church. My husband will go to church, and I'll go running. There are forms of exercise you find solace in, for sure. I run four or five days a week, but it's always different. For example, yesterday I ran 35 minutes, maybe four miles, then I got home, and we have an elliptical and spin bike at home, we have a gym, so I grabbed my jump rope, jumped rope for ten minutes doing what I call my Stoked Circuit in the driveway––hurdles, agility ladders––I put them all out in our front yard. Then I'll roll the spin bike into the driveway, and I'll spin for twenty minutes. I'm a renaissance exerciser, I do a little bit of everything! And I do work out seven days a week."
Ha! That must be quite the display out in the front yard! "It's totally not normal in our neighborhood, but all the kids end up joining me thinking it's just fun, which shows you that exercise can be fun."
The images of you are so inspiring, you're totally ripped. How do your clients understand that your personal best is different than someone who works in an office all day? "That's the first thing I tell people. Like, some girl walked by me and said, 'You have the most kick-ass body I've ever seen, it's so depressing'. I'm like, 'No no no, this is what I do for a living.' My personal belief is you have to practice what you preach, and if you're going to be a trainer, you better look like a trainer, I'm sorry. You have to live the lifestyle. You need to be able to get in front of someone and inspire them, just by standing there. Then you need to be able to motivate them on top of that with your knowledge. It's finding your best body. I do work my butt off. Genetics plays a part in it, but what I did with those genes is all my doing."
How do you approach setting goals? "With myself and my clients, I always say small goals lead to big results. I had a client who was trying to cut a minute and a half off her mile. I kept saying, let's cut ten seconds off it first, then we'll cut another ten, and we'll get there. But if you say I have to cut a minute in a week, it's never going to happen, and you set yourself up for failure."
That's great advice for any goal in life, I think. "Totally. What's really helpful too, is, every little goal that you achieve, you reward yourself in a way that has to do with the particular goal you have. For clients, if their goal is to lose three percent body fat, once they've lost one percent, buy yourself a new workout top that will motivate you to keep going. And that can apply to any goal in life. I have clients who drink wine every night, I say, 'Let's start by cutting it down to three nights a week.' It's very hard to go cold turkey on anything in life, it's good to have longevity with any goal you're trying to achieve. [If you go cold-turkey right away,] you can usually do it for a few weeks, but you'll typically go back to whatever habit you had."
What's your diet like? "I typically eat most of my carbs in the morning, or the beginning of the day, and have vegetables and protein at night. I eat something, no joke, every hour and a half. I am constantly feeding my metabolism, which I really do believe is the key to life. It might just be 100 calories, but I'm constantly putting something in my body. I'm very clean with my diet, my complex carbs come from oatmeal, quinoa, farro, things like that. Lots of salad with chicken, lots of eggs. One of my favorite tricks is to take a hard-boiled egg and take most of the yolk out—because you do need some of those fatty acids—and put hummus in it, for a healthy deviled egg. And after every workout religiously for the past 20 years, I've had a protein shake."
Finally, how does your Stoked Method jive with your personal philosophy towards fitness? "It goes along with my whole cross-training belief––I wanted to create a series of classes that would challenge people's bodies in completely different ways, every day. And the transformations I've seen in the Stoked athletes who have been dedicated to my program, it's unbelievable."