Is training for the Victoria's Secret runway show actually just like training for a marathon? Well, no, it's not, but the show's stylist sure seems to think it is.
Victoria's Secret Angel Adriana Lima outlined her exercise and eating habits just prior to the VS show for the Telegraph newspaper. Things have gotten a lot more protein-shake-y since Lima was last asked about her pre-VS diet, by New York magazine last year! (Note to reporters: maybe start asking models questions other than "Like OMG seriously what do you EAT?" Just a thought.)
Back then, Lima said she went on a "definitely zero-carb" diet and upped her work-out regimen to two hours per day (which she spent with a personal trainer). "I only can eat green vegetables, everything grilled or steamed, or four ounces of any type of protein," she explained. Lima said the diet made her feel healthier. "I have a nutritionist. I go there, and he checks my blood, my breathing, everything to make sure what's going to work for your body, you know?" New York witnessed Lima ordering lunch at a Victoria's Secret event:
Indeed, when it's Lima's turn to order her meal, she speaks to the waiter at length, finally telling him, "Whatever you can do." Her entrée, which is not on the menu, is the last to be brought out: a piece of chicken including bone and skin set atop green vegetables and carrots. She pushes the carrots aside and eats the rest.
This year, contributing an important update to the developing story of Things Adriana Lima Consumes, the Telegraph reports that Lima has been working out daily for the past six weeks, and twice-daily for the last three. In addition to which:
She sees a nutritionist, who has measured her body's muscle mass, fat ratio and levels of water retention. He prescribes protein shakes, vitamins and supplements to keep Lima's energy levels up during this training period. Lima drinks a gallon of water a day. For nine days before the show, she will drink only protein shakes — "no solids." The concoctions include powdered egg. Two days before the show, she will abstain from the daily gallon of water, and "just drink normally." Then, 12 hours before the show, she will stop drinking entirely. "No liquids at all so you dry out, sometimes you can lose up to eight pounds just from that," she says.
Meanwhile, the stylist Sophia Neophitou, who is styling this year's VS show, says, "It's like they're training for a marathon. Adriana works really hard at it. It's the same as if you were a long-distance runner."
This gave me pause. Training for the stage-lit, styrofoam-winged, body-glittered, televised modern-day fertility ritual that is the Victoria's Secret show is just like training for a marathon? It's the same as if you were a long-distance runner? That can't be right, I thought. I figured I'd ask some actual long-distance runners what the deal is.
First, I emailed my dad. ("It's about a Victoria's Secret model!") My parents actually met at a running club; they both ran middle and long-distance races, and my dad ran marathons with some regularity until his Achilles put an end to his running entirely. (My dad's dad, who is now in his 70s but still doctors the trees on his property and chops his own wood, ran marathons into his late 60s. With a time of 03:38:42, he placed first in his age-group last time he did the Pittsburgh marathon.)
I got my mum on the phone, because my dad, who is a professor, was in class. I ran (heh) down Adriana Lima's diet, the diet Neophitou said was long-distance-runner-like, and she murmured, "Oh no, no." A key part of any pre-marathon diet — Neophitou, you may want to pay attention here — is not cutting down on carbohydrates, it's loading up on them. Back when she was running, whenever she or Dad was prepping for a long race, she says, "sometimes the organizations would have carb-loading dinners the night before, and they'd serve all pasta and spaghetti. Usually the elite runners though, I mean the really elite, have their own nutritionists and trainers. And maybe their own cooks."
Update: Dad Sauers emailed the following:
Marathoners have been known to change their diets in the weeks leading up to the big event, going through a period of depletion (high protein, low carb), followed by carbo-loading (all carbs). However, at no time would any athlete cut back on fluids. What this gal is doing is more like what body builders do prior to a show. One of the reasons bodybuilders often cramp-up while posing is that they are so dehydrated.
P.S. I still can't get over the fact that you did not take in the marathon when it passed through Harlem
Then I asked Erin, who ran the Chicago marathon in 2010, and has also run in 5k, 8k, and 15k races. "I ran a 5k on Saturday!" she said. "I finished in the top 2% of women who entered which made me feel like a big all star until I realized that 5k is not a race that attracts people looking for a challenge."
Me: Hey Erin
Me: did you see this Telegraph article where the Victoria's Secret stylist says of Adriana Lima's zero-carb all-liquid protein-shake-a-thon diet, "It's like they're training for a marathon" ?
Me: I wondered, as someone who has in fact trained for (and completed!) a marathon what your take on this was.
Me: it was news to me that marathon runners don't need carbs!
Erin: when you train for a marathon you eat like a horsegoatpig
Me: that's what I thought!
Me: but ESPECIALLY carbs, right?
Me: carb loading!
Erin: before runs, yes
Me: that's what it's called
Erin: then after the runs, meat
Me: ah, I see
Erin: long runs at least
Me: you're also supposed to kind of avoid "roughage" in the hours leading up to a longer run
Me: OK. So, Adriana Lima Diet =/= Marathon Diet.
Me: Just as I suspected! Thanks.
Then I asked supermodel Christy Turlington. Well, I didn't ask her — I just re-read what she told Women's Wear Daily last month about her training diet for the New York marathon:
"One thing you have to do is carb-loading. That is something I had always heard about but never really knew what it involved," she said. "It's kind of nice to say you have to eat carbs. That's my job right now."
This past weekend Turlington, by the way, ran a respectable 04:20:47.
So there we have it. The Victoria's Secret diet is to the marathon-training diet as Froot Loops are to a pineapple. Both "diets" involve food, but that's about where the similarities end. Neophitou's desire to compliment Lima on her dedication is commendable: most models do work hard to maintain their physiques. And in general, a model's relationship to her body may be akin to an athlete's — for both professions, the work is a kind of high-end (and, for a very few, well-rewarded) physical labor. But marathon training it is not.
In the article, Neophitou goes on to say that the body type Victoria's Secret favors is like that of the original '80s and '90s supermodels: it is, she claims, curvier and more generously proportioned than the current high-fashion type. "It isn't about being a waif, it was about being empowered and you can achieve that," she says. (It's a little-known fact that one day in 2006, literally everything became empowering to women! It's also a little-known fact that the body of a Victoria's Secret runway model is "achievable.") But as reported by many a woman who modeled at the time — most recently, Carré Otis — the models of that fondly remembered period were under enormous pressure to be thin. There was nothing "natural" about the vial of cocaine Otis's agency allegedly gave her every other day to keep her weight down.