You might expect Harley Pasternak to be more brawn than brains when you look at his star-studded roster of training clients (Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande and Adam Levine). But the Toronto native knows his stuff. Not only does Pasternak hold a Master of Science in exercise physiology and nutritional sciences from the University of Toronto and an honors degree in kinesiology from the University of Western Ontario, he’s also a New York Times-bestselling author and the former nutrition scientist for Canada’s department of national defense.
In November 2018, he added another accolade: Four Seasons tapped the wellness guru as its first global fitness advisor, responsible for redesigning the brand’s gyms and developing workouts for luxury travelers the world over — his September-debuted YouTube video series tackles fitness topics ranging from toning your beach body to beating jet lag.
Forbes Travel Guide caught up with the celebrity trainer to get the skinny on his celebrity clientele, his affection for the luxury hotel company and his top tips for staying fit on the road.
Where did your interest in fitness come from?
I grew up as a hockey player in Canada and focused on working out to get stronger for the sport. Before long, I became more passionate about the working out than I did the hockey. Growing up as the only child without diabetes in my family, I became very health-conscious at a young age and decided to pursue nutrition and exercise in university for nearly the next decade.
During university, I started a personal training business, which catered to the Hollywood actors that came to Canada to shoot feature films. After working on a film called Gothika in Montreal with Halle Berry and Robert Downey Jr., I was invited to come to Los Angeles to get Halle ready for her next film, Catwoman. That led to an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, followed by a career of writing fitness and nutrition books, designing running shoes, fitness video games, exercise equipment and now, designing exciting fitness facilities for Four Seasons properties worldwide.
You’re Four Seasons’ first global fitness advisor. What does that title mean?
Since becoming Four Seasons’ first-ever global fitness advisor in November, I’ve hit the ground running, overseeing strategic enhancements to the design and redesign of numerous fitness facilities across Four Seasons’ global portfolio of hotels and resorts.
In my role, I’m also supporting the development of exclusive fitness programming. One of our first projects was the release of a comprehensive fitness video series addressing the most common challenges experienced by travelers. The videos provide simple and effective tips to help travelers stay active while on the go. The videos are easily accessible in the recently refreshed Four Seasons App as well as on [the brand’s] YouTube channel.
What are some of your most recent projects?
We designed the fitness facility from the ground up at the stunning, new Four Seasons Hotel Montreal. We used Hoist Fitness ROC-IT equipment in a custom black finish to match the hotel’s sleek design, and also strategically arranged all equipment so that guests can enjoy their own personal space no matter where they are in the gym.
At the iconic Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, we’ve created an incredible indoor/outdoor gym so guests can make the most of the beautiful California sunshine. With interactive flooring, state-of-the-art equipment and a custom motion cage studio where four people can work out at once, this facility will definitely attract some celebrity buzz.
The views and surrounding nature at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay’s fitness facility are breathtaking. So, to bring this natural harmony indoors, we created a stretch of grass-like turf for sprints or the use of sleds and sliders. We also completely revamped the fitness equipment with an eye to quality over quantity.
How did your partnership with Four Seasons come about?
I am a long-standing, frequent guest of Four Seasons hotels and have always loved the brand. Four Seasons knows the luxury traveler better than anyone else. And with over 30 years of experience in the fitness industry, I understand what travelers need and, importantly, what they want when trying to stay fit while traveling. The marrying of our expertise was the perfect combination as we work to elevate the Four Seasons fitness experience for luxury travelers worldwide.
There’s been a trend of health-focused travel in recent years. Have you noticed a change in mindset in your clients toward fitness/health on the road?
Absolutely. More than ever, my clients tell me that they want to stay fit and active while on the road. But it’s oftentimes hard to find time or get inspired to work out. They key is to be realistic with yourself and work out in bite-size pieces.
The average traveler isn’t going to run a marathon or spend three hours in the gym. And the reality is, you don’t need to. That’s why I created the Fit with Four Seasons series — they are easy and effective videos that make fitness manageable and inspire you to get active while traveling.
What are your top tips for staying healthy on the road?
There are five habits that you should try and keep, whether you are on the road or not. These include walking at least 12,000 steps a day, unplugging from technology at least one hour a day, trying to get at least seven hours of quality sleep at night, eating protein and fiber in three meals and two snacks a day and, of course, challenging your muscles with an efficient resistance program.
What’s great is that the Four Seasons video series provides over 20 how-to videos of fantastic resistance workouts we’ve created. And in these videos, I provide the same tips and tricks that I give my celebrity clientele.
What are some of your favorite workouts?
A great overview of some of my favorite workouts can be found in the Fit with FS Challenge video. It’s a series of simple workouts that can be done anytime, anywhere using only your own body weight.
It’s a full-body workout that can even be done in the comfort of your hotel room and includes planks, skater lunges, supermans — lifting your arms and legs off the ground while laying flat on the floor — hip thrusts and push-ups.
For the person who’s just starting to work out, how will your new Four Seasons video series help?
The video series is simple, practical and provides guests with easy-to-understand tips and tricks that they can use to stay active while traveling. Maintaining your fitness regime while on the go doesn’t have to be burden — it’s all about balance.
Balance when it comes to working out, your diet, your sleep and your mental health. These are all important facets of maintaining a healthy fitness regimen when traveling.—Sarah Chanin