The dancer and Hard Candy Fitness trainer reveals what it takes to be entrusted with the Material Girl's body.

By Abby Lerner
February 12, 2014

City by city, the Material Girl is taking the fitness world by storm! On Tuesday night, Madonna opened her eighth global Hard Candy Fitness location in Toronto. In the interview below, we caught up with Madonna's primary trainer and Hard Candy Fitness instructor, Nicole Winhoffer. She is living her (and every dancer's) dream life, but that doesn't mean the celebrity trainer and artist plans on slowing down any time soon. "My work is never done," she says. "I can always improve and be better at what I do. Just when I think I've figured out a solution or created a piece of work that I'm extremely proud of, the next day I'm working on a new project or figuring out a solution for something in my workout programming. Time moves very fast. I'm on my toes, ready and savoring every moment I have."

It's that kind of unrelenting determination that helped Winhoffer land roles in three Broadway shows, perform with recording artists like Shakira, and represent companies such as Maybelline, Mattel, and Walmart through dance. Read on to get the inside scoop on how she stays fit and fabulous-and how you can too!

SHAPE: The question on everyone's mind: How does someone become Madonna's personal trainer?

NICOLE WINHOFFER (NW): I have been a dancer all my life (I trained in classical dance, modern, jazz, and musical theater), and I was always intrigued by the science and mystery of the human body. I performed in three Broadway shows: 42nd St, Bombay Dreams, and Wicked. [Madonna's] previous trainer was recruiting professional dancers for the dance cardio portion of her fitness training. I was brought on board to assist her on her last tour. When the tour ended, I immersed myself in understanding anatomy, physiology, and the latest fitness trends while continuing my dance training. I continued to train Madonna and now I'm her primary trainer.

SHAPE: What about you personally: How do you stay fit and healthy with such a busy schedule?

NW: I've learned that making time for myself is key: rest, massage, and staying inspired. When my body is recharged, I perform my best! When I work out with my clients, I complete each of the exercises and reps with them, as it is imperative I stay in tune with their body. I train with two to four clients every week day, and I try to take Saturdays off. I'll go to yoga, ballet class, or work in the studio with my friends. We choreograph together and test new concepts and ideas.

SHAPE: What about diet? Any specific guidelines you stick to?

NW: I stay away from fried foods. I listen to my body and see what it craves. If I'm craving a lot of sugar/carbohydrates, it usually means that I need rest-my body is craving the glucose for energy. I love tofu, vegetables, and whole grains like quinoa and brown rice.

SHAPE: What foods are always in your fridge?

NW: Sparkling water, lemons, turkey, and mustard (spicy and dijon). And then my energy and recovery stash: Coconut water, guarana powder, panax ginseng extract, Guayaki Yerba Mate Lemon Organic Energy Shots, and Red Bull.

SHAPE: What's your fitness philosophy when training clients?

NW: There is ALWAYS a solution. My goal is to gain the knowledge and solutions that push the human body to its utmost potential. When someone has the knowledge and the tools, they are able to make the change. I am here to give that knowledge and the tools to my students. Art, music, fashion, stories, movies-they all inspire my workouts. They are creative, innovative, and new. With this, my students can connect to the work in a new way. Their focus is on point and they work harder (physically and mentally) to complete the workout. Once they finally "get it" (after about a week), I create and teach them a new routine that will challenge different connections and muscles in the body. If I am inspired, my students will be inspired.

SHAPE: What's your best advice for women who want to get in shape or achieve any fitness goal?

NW: Commit to change. Ask yourself if you're living at your highest potential: physically, mentally, and spiritually. If the honest answer is no, ask why. Why haven't you given back to yourself first? I see this time and time again. Women are givers. They put others first and fail to realize that they haven't given back to themselves. Mark your calendar now. BIG AND BOLD. "I AM GOING TO BE THE BEST VERSION OF ME." And start to accomplish one new change every day. Start a morning on the treadmill, give up soda, plan and pack your meals for the day, take a group fitness class. Once you commit to a change, there is no failing.

SHAPE: What's been the most rewarding part of your experience?

NW: The most rewarding part of my job is experiencing others performing my creations. When I create new workouts or choreography, I use everything inside of me to move and tell a story. It's very personal. When I pass it on to others-either on set or in the workout room-I am able to teach them my story. Finally, when we perform it together and feel the movement collectively... the energy is unmatchable.

SHAPE: Is it like you imagined it would be?

NW: It's even more than I ever imagine it would be! I am so thankful to do what I do. I am grateful and continue to give 110 percent every single day. I take nothing for granted.

SHAPE: Tell us about Hard Candy Fitness. How similar/different it is from the workouts you do with Madonna?

NW: What's very special about Hard Candy Fitness (HCF), is that it's the first gym to offer Madonna's workouts to the public! HCF is a global brand of luxury fitness clubs focused on unique and innovative fitness programming. The core of the HCF brand is its proprietary "Addicted to Sweat" group fitness programming created from the actual workout routines Madonna uses with my guidance. Addicted to Sweat offers two classes: Jawbreaker (30-minute toning) and Addicted to Sweat dance class (60-minute cardio).

SHAPE: How can Shape readers try the Hard Candy Fitness workouts?

NW: There are Hard Candy Fitness locations in Berlin, Mexico City, Moscow, Rome, Santiago, St. Petersburg, Sydney, and Toronto. Hard Candy Fitness plans to open additional locations around the world so go to and tell us where you are so we can bring our clubs or trainer network to you!

For more on Nicole, check out her official website or follow along as she documents her incredible experiences and shares tips on her blog.

"It's the constant push to be bigger, better and reach the utmost potential that every thing and every human body possesses. You can do anything you put your mind to." -Nicole Winhoffer