Local trainers keep stars like Harrison Ford in shape

Nathan Mellalieu was sitting at home one Saturday night three years ago when he got a surprise phone call. “Nathan, this is Harrison Ford.”

Once Mellalieu got his bearings, the two chatted about how he could help the Indiana Jones star keep fit while shooting Firewall in Vancouver and help him deal with injuries he incurred from all those years of doing his own stunts. It’s the kind of call Mellalieu never imagined receiving growing up in Coquitlam.

As owner of Studeo 55, a 16,000-square-foot boutique gym in downtown Vancouver, Mellalieu is one of a handful of local trainers who help stars like Ford, Halle Berry, and Ben Affleck stay in shape while they are shooting in Hollywood North.

Studeo 55’s staff focus on maintaining a workout regimen that has been developed by the star’s personal trainer, although they try to add their own twist to things by introducing the actor to exercises that emphasize functional movement and core strength.

“We never designed it to be celebrity-driven,” says Mellalieu of Studeo 55. “It was so unique in the city we knew it would be perfect for celebrities because of the level of service. We model our service level after the Four Seasons.”

That kind of attention doesn’t come cheap. Custom memberships can range from $300 to a mind-blowing $12,000 a month. Stars, however, who have worked out there swear by it. Jennifer Garner credited Mellalieu’s team for her sculpted physique in the 2005 film Elektra. Thanks in part to Garner’s seal of approval, Mellalieu says the majority of films in town now have some of their talent work out at his gym.

Another trainer with ties to Hollywood North is Sara Shears. When she isn’t training clients at East Broadway’s Cocoon Athletics, Shears trains celebrities like Salma Hayek and Rosario Dawson in Los Angeles or on location.

She has developed an intense six-week course called Elevate, which consists of half-hour sessions that feature strength exercises and some cardio. The course, which costs $1,000, also includes a food plan that emphasizes portion control.

Shears notes that working with celebrities poses some unique challenges. “Sometimes they need to lose a significant amount of weight or bulk up specifically for a role,” she says. “There is also usually some sort of time constraint.”

Celebrities also face a huge amount of public scrutiny. With the rise of the paparazzi and the Internet, movie stars are expected to look good all the time, not just on-screen. One set of unflattering beach photos can launch a tabloid frenzy and hundreds of catty remarks on gossip blogs.

Such pressures often force Mellalieu to focus on a star’s mental health, making sure that they’re working out for the right reasons. “They need influences in their life that keep them grounded. People tell them, ”˜You need to be skinny’ or ”˜You need to be bigger.’ Sometimes these ideas are pushed upon them. I just try to give them that voice of reason so it doesn’t really affect their self-image or their self-esteem.”

Mellalieu believes that celebrities need to concentrate more on their fitness and functionality and less on how they look in a bathing suit. His workouts consist of dynamic, multijoint movements designed to develop core strength. He claims that if celebrities—and everyone else, for that matter—focus on making their bodies more functional, the rest will fall into place.

“For a lot of trainers, the number-one thing is how a person looks,” he says. “We know the priority should be how does this person work. If you get function first, you can get aesthetics. If you train for aesthetics first and foremost, function doesn’t happen.”