Carrie Underwood, Kelsea Ballerini, Kacey Musgraves, and Maren Morris all credit celebrity trainer and U.S. Marine corps combat veteran Erin Oprea with helping them achieve peak fitness. Oprea completed two tours of active duty in Iraq and made history when she was appointed to lead the first female platoon attached to the infantry in a war zone. Since then, she has made it her mission to help others find their love of movement and fitness. “My fitness philosophy is to love life, learn to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle, but never feel deprived,” Oprea tells Thrive. “I want everybody to have fun, but feel amazing, because that’s what life is all about.”

Oprea trains some of the biggest musicians in the business, but wanted to expand to have her training attainable for everyone. She’s now released her app, PRETTY MUSCLES BY ERIN OPREA, on Apple’s App Store. It contains her signature Tabata workouts, her meal plans and grocery lists, and combines her tried and true health and well-being practices with the tools that make them possible. “It has a daily workout, and I’ve changed it every single day, so for 52 weeks you’re not going to repeat the same workout,” Oprea explains. She wants to make fitness fun, so it becomes a habit you enjoy, not a chore. “I’ve brought lots of fun games. We’ve got tabatas, which are my favorite. Also, we have countdown games, because who doesn’t love making fitness fun?” she shares.

Still, Oprea notes, “You can’t outtrain a bad diet.” She sits down with Thrive to share some of her favorite tricks and tools to start your own healthy journey today.

Thrive Global: What is your morning routine? 

Erin Oprea: I have the best morning routine. I get up at 3:30 a.m. I’ve already prepped my oatmeal the night before, so I am ready. I get ready and then I eat breakfast and take my beet shot. I pack my master, gigantic lunchbox — it’s huge because I’m gone all day long. Then I watch the morning news, which I can’t miss. And then I’m off to work for the day.

There are several tricks that you can do to become more of a morning person. One key to making the mornings more enjoyable is to be prepared. Have your food prepared where all you have to do is grab and go. Two, have your clothes set out. Three, have your beet juice ready, because there’s your energy, so then you’re going to have energy for the day. 

TG: Why beet juice?

EO: Beet juice has changed my world. Seriously, it’s going to make you feel super alert. I do beets, lemon, and ginger. But you want to make sure you don’t do it on an empty stomach. I drink one in the morning, and then I also do one right before I do my workout. So I do two shots every day. 

TG: You’re a veteran, of nine years and two tours. How has your military career inspired and influenced your fitness career?

EO: My Marine Corps time has totally made me the person I am today. One, it’s given me the structure and discipline to live my crazy schedule that I live. Also, it’s helped with my fitness routine because the military’s mostly body weight training. So I bring out all those good old Marine Corps friends of mine to help — they are in my Pretty Muscles App.

TG: In your book, The 4 x 4 Diet, you talk about four major nutritional roadblocks. What are they?

EO: My book, The 4 x 4 Diet, is all about learning how to live a simple, healthy, balanced lifestyle forever. It’s not a quick fix. So, I want you guys to do these four simple things so you can still love life, but live it in a balanced way and have fun. Number one, cut out starches in the evening. Eat them early in the day. That’s your energy source. So eat them, and then burn them. Don’t eat them in the evening. Feed yourself lots of yummy proteins and veggies. 

Second, cut back on sugar. Third, cut back on alcohol. I’m not telling you to cut alcohol out, because I realize this is a lifestyle. It’s not a crash course. So cut back on alcohol. Last but not least is watch your sodium intake. You’d be amazed at the difference, not only in the way you feel, but in the bloating that you’ll see was happening when you cut back on sodium. 

TG:  What are some of the sneaky things that have sugar and sodium?

EO: Sugar is hidden in so many things. One that a lot of people don’t realize is dried fruits. It’s also in granola bars and protein bars. Even lots of salad dressings are loaded in sugar. Don’t forget the marinades that you put on your meat. If you’re getting the teriyaki, it has tons and tons of sugar. Read food labels. That’s the most important part, read the food label. Not only should you read the food label, you should look at the serving size, too.

Sodium is hidden in everything. Pretty much if you’re shopping on the inside aisles of the grocery store, you’re going to find a lot of sodium. It’s in breads and tortillas. Anything that’s in a box, you’re going to find a lot of sodium in it. So you’ve got to start cutting that down.

TG:  As you’re reading the food label, is there an amount of sugar you should look for?

EO: I like to stay around five grams of sugar or below. Of course, if you’re eating an apple, it has like 26 grams of natural sugar. That’s fine. Don’t go eat three apples a day, but an apple a day is fine.

TG: What’s your advice for people who may have fallen off the fitness wagon and want to get back, but may be intimidated by the gym or think, “I’ve already fallen off. How am I even going to get motivated to go back?”

EO: Everybody can get back on track. If you want to start out with just doing half the reps, do half the reps. You need to just start moving your body. The more you move, the better you feel. The more you sit, the tighter you get. So break that vicious cycle of sitting and move your body and get energy. Then you’ll have the energy and you’ll want to work out. 

TG: Are there some less obvious ways to sneak movement in throughout the day?

EO: Instead of sending someone in your office a message, like an email, how about you walk over there to them? Not only do you get to have a little friendship, you get some bonus steps in. Another sneaky way is to drink a lot of water because then you have to pee a lot. Guess what that means? You get to go to the bathroom a lot. Then you get little bonus steps there too, which is a win, win. And you’re hydrated.

I have lots of meetings, but I don’t love sitting for meetings because it just makes me want to go to sleep and it doesn’t get my creative mind sparking at all. Instead of sitting, you can go for a walk.

TG: What are your favorite healthy meals? 

EO: For breakfast it’s oatmeal, fried egg whites, and blueberries, every day. My go-to healthy lunch is hard-boiled eggs and popcorn. My go to snacks are fresh berries and Simply Popped popcorn. I love rice cakes with a little bit of almond butter, and a little drizzle of honey, which is delicious. Hard-boiled eggs are always easy because I buy them already peeled because I’m lazy. 

TG: What guidance do you give to your clients in terms of stress eating? 

EO: Stress eating is a real thing. It affects so many of us. I’m telling you, no matter what, that answer is not in the fridge. It’s not going to fix any issues. But what can really help is getting out and moving your body — getting that fresh air and vitamin D. Let your mind clear.

TG:  How do you stay focused? 

EO: What keeps me focused, outside of jump roping — because that’s what clears my mind and lets me stay focused — is that I’m a numbers person. I have to know that whatever work I’m doing, I have to see numbers changing. I need to have a report. It’s kind of a weird, quirky thing, but it works for me.

TG:  What would your tips be for other people to stay on track for their goals?

EO: To stay on track for your goals is not easy. I suggest you make small goals. Small goals will have a large impact if you stay consistent with those small goals. 

A couple examples of small goals are: Instead of, “I’m going to lose 100 pounds this year,” you can say, “You know what, this week, instead of drinking three Diet Cokes a day.” But you need to start adding all these up. It’s not like the next week you quit. So do all those little things, and eventually they’re going to add up, and you’re going to reach your goal by the end of the year. You’ll stay consistent. Who doesn’t like checking little things off their list? 

TG: What is your evening routine?

EO: After dinner, I love to move my body. One, you get your digestive system moving, so then your food processes better, you sleep better. But two, I get the rest of my energy out, and I’m ready for a great night’s sleep.

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  • Lindsey Benoit O'Connell

    Deputy Editor, Entertainment + Partnerships at Thrive

    Lindsey Benoit O'Connell is Thrive's Deputy Editor, Entertainment + Partnerships. Prior to working at Thrive, she was the Entertainment + Special Projects Director for Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, Redbook and Woman's Day booking the talent for covers and inside features. O'Connell currently lives in Astoria, NY with her husband Brian and adorable son, Hunter Fitz.