We Tried It: Working Out with Celebrity Trainer Jill Payne

Payne brought her new Spiritual Athlete workshop to Boston.

Jill Payne

Jill Payne/Photo by Jamie Ducharme

Working out with Jill Payne is not what you’d expect.

After a glance at Payne’s resume—she’s worked with the likes of Gisele and has her own gym in Costa Rica, which was until recently branded Power Payne Fitness—one could assume that she’s the all-business, no-nonsense stereotype of a celebrity trainer.

In short: She’s anything but.

Payne, who calls herself a performance coach, was at Boston Sports Clubs Studios Saturday to promote her new Spiritual Athlete brand, which is all about melding mental and physical energy with movement. The workshop starts off not with burpees and bicep curls, but with a talk about living in a “beautiful state” and changing your energy to change your life. The program feels more like an empowerment lesson than a workout, at least at first, and that’s kind of the point.

Jill Payne

Jill Payne/photo by Jamie Ducharme

“The main message is that you’re deciding how you feel and how you live and what you attract all the time, and you have the power to change it all the time,” Payne says. “[It’s] the idea of training your mind to train your body, and training your body to train your mind.”

What that means, in Payne’s world, is learning how to boost your physical energy, be positive, and banish stress and anxiety, and practice those skills at the gym and beyond. Her event includes a workout, but it doesn’t feel like the focus of the day—it shares the limelight with breathing exercises, muscle activation, inspirational messaging, and plenty of activities that feel out of place in a fitness class.

We high-five frequently and practice greeting fellow attendees with enthusiasm. We discuss “living at a 10,” energy-wise. We learn some, um, suggestive stretches meant to practice feeling “ecstasy.” We dance from drill station to drill station. We stand in power poses to change our physical bodies and mental outlooks. It’s definitely not your usual workout.

Spiritual Athlete

Spiritual Athlete workshop/Photo by Jamie Ducharme

But by the end, everyone is not only sweating, but smiling. When Payne asks each participant to share his or her takeaway, everyone has something to say—and the statements actually feel genuine. On her way out, one woman even proclaims the afternoon “life-changing.”

“I want people to thrive, I want people to be happy, I want people to enjoy what they’re doing and be present,” Payne says. “What I can allow people to do is just live at that peak state where performance happens, where anxiety is gone, where worry is not present.”

Shattering expectations can’t hurt, either.

Payne is currently on a world tour to promote Spiritual Athlete. She’ll be in Boston twice more this year—stay tuned for details about future workshops and appearances.