Thursday, December 20, 2012

Interview with Powerstrike/Atletica creator Ilaria Montagnani

I discovered Ilaria Montagnani’s workouts a few years ago on a morning show.  It was on in the background and the journalist was talking about the ‘new sword workout sweeping the nation.’  This perked up my ears because I thought it would be right up The Mr’s alley since he had samurai swords as a kid and I’d had him doing some pretty ‘girlie-centric’ workouts at that time.

As I watched, I saw Ilaria and developed an instant girl crush.  She was confident, strong and made it all look effortless.  I immediately searched online and found the Forza Workout and surprised the Mr with it.  We didn’t have the ceiling clearance (and I didn’t have the confidence) to use the wooden swords so I used 2 reinforced…are you ready for it?...wrapping paper tubes.  Yep.  I wanted to get the moves before I invested anything else in this workout.  You could use a broomstick or paint roller extender or something similar if you don't have swords laying around.  When you do it, it seems like “okay, chops and cuts.  Big deal.”  Oh yes it is!  The repetitive motion had our arms, shoulders and delts screaming and had me looking up any workout that I could find by her.  We got Powerstrike 5 and it is by far one of my favorite workouts.  I remember different audio cues that I used to say "just get to this part or that part" or when the angelic chant came in toward the end we used to giggle with relief that the end was near!  Anything Ilaria puts out, I will buy, sight unseen because there is this way about her when she teaches that makes you feel like she believes you can do it so you do it as best you can. 

I was so excited to see that she had new DVDs coming out and watched some of the live streaming when she was filming them.  I knew we were in for it and I can’t wait to get to it!  

I am lucky enough to be able to interview the woman behind these workouts and without further adieu, Ilaria Montagnani.

Photograph by Michael Brian

I am such a huge fan and I have to say that when I think of the word “strong”, your physique comes to mind instantly.  What made you become so passionate about fitness?  Did you ever struggle with your weight at any point in your life?

I started my journey in fitness in my teens because I was always very active and then a car accident, when I was still living in Italy with my family, forced me into rest and I started gaining weight.  At that time I didn't really know anything about nutrition and the only way I knew to get into shape was by being physical, so I started my own "routine" of exercises.  Then I moved to America and I started gaining weight again because the food here and the portions are very different than what I was used to eating in Italy.  So again I found myself having to lose weight, lots of it this time.  But this second time around I knew that I didn't want to just lose weight; I knew I also wanted to build a stronger body, so I got into Martial Arts and weight training.  Karate became my life and that combined with weight training started to transform my body into a stronger machine. 

Do you follow a specific eating plan?  What would be on your plate on an average day?

I am now a vegetarian, I have been for almost 8 years, but I still eat fish. The only reason why I am vegetarian is for ethical reasons.   I cannot stand how animals are treated by the food industry, even when it comes to fish my choices are extremely limited.  I now mostly eat tons of vegetables and fruits, lots of fish (wild caught-sustainable, not farmed-raised) occasionally I will have eggs if they come from a reputable farmer, rice, stone wheat bread, tons of nuts (probably too many!) and yes, of course,  dark chocolate.  Sweets are not my weakness, so it's easier for me to resist cakes, I don't care for ice cream or candies but fresh baked bread or pizza are very hard to resist!  Also I don't drink sodas, diet or not, too many artificial chemicals in it, they are just bad for you.

What does your typical workout schedule look like?

I teach 6 days a week 3-4 times per day and on Saturday 5 classes a day, in addition to that I do my own training, which consists mostly of interval training and heavy lifting and sword practice.  I am at the gym many hours every day.  Good thing that I love it or I couldn't do it, it's hard work and I am not 20 anymore. I put my body through a lot.

Do you have any fitness related goals for yourself or is maintaining your physique your main focus?

My main focus is to stay strong and healthy, and it's to prove that women of all ages can and should be strong and healthy.  Most people don't realize their potential.  Regular individuals can push 20 times harder than they are doing, we don't really know how much more we have in us.  We just scratch the surface and find reasons (excuses) why we can't push harder:  “No time, I have kids, I have work, I don't know how to do it....” but if your goal is to be healthy and also to have the strength to do things that you love in life, staying in a fitness regimen is much more possible and following a good diet becomes much less of a challenge.

What inspires you as a fitness instructor?

My students inspire me!  People that I meet that never like to work out and then start changing their lives, lose weight and love their bodies inspires me, people that have the will power to overcome any physical limitation and do any kind of workout inspires me.  Working out and pushing past the comfort zone will get  you a strong good looking body, but more importantly will shape your spirit and get you ready for all the challenges that life throws at us. Working out is so much more than a physical act, it trains you for life.

What advice would you give someone wanting to begin their journey to being healthy?

Start by writing down your goals: why do you want to start your journey to being healthy?  Keep the answers to that question written and look at it many times every day, let that help you when you don't feel like waking up and do your workout, when you don't want to start sweating a little every day, when you want to eat that piece of cake or hamburger and instead you have an apple and go for a walk.  Just start doing something, do it, don't dwell on it, put it in your schedule like the shower that you take every day, the sleep that you need every night, the 30 min - 45 min - 1 hour - 15 min...!  Whatever you can do, do it.  Once you get started and create a little of a habit, you are much more likely to stick to it.  But remember always all the benefits and why you are doing it.  You will always need some motivation because exercising is sacrifice.   Oh and get some good fun workout DVDs that will motivate you!!

How do you decide what exercises are featured in your DVDs?

I choose the workouts I like the most and the ones that will deliver the best results for people at home. I have cardio workouts, like Powerstrike Kickboxing and Bodystrikes, strength training workouts like Atletica and a very unique workout which I created over 15 years ago: Forza. This DVD will teach you how to work out with a sword like a real samurai, one of the most amazing workouts, mind and body completely involved.

Tell us about your new DVDs!

I have 5 new DVDs coming out: 3 new Atletica, which will work your whole body and are 30 to 45 minutes. Atletica is my toughest class -it consists of a series of high intensity interval training exercises -and it will deliver the most amazing results. I encourage everyone to try them out, even if they need to do all the moves with light weights or take break between sets, nothing will make them stronger faster - Atletica will also make you lose tons of weight! I also have a new Powerstrike Kickboxing (Vol 7) coming out and Bodystrikes (Vol 3).  Anyone can do them!

We will post more about the new DVDs on our Facebook page, please join for information, stay in touch and "specials"

If someone wants to take a class with you in person, how would they do that?

Right now I only teach in NY City at the Equinox Clubs and Reebok, if they come to the city they can take class at these gyms, but first they need to email me at so I can guest them in since these are membership only health clubs.

Thank you so much Ilaria for taking the time to chat with me.  It was a pleasure and I hope to be able to see you in person one day to give you a big hug to thank you for the inspiration you have given me to stay motivated on this weight loss ride!

To order the new DVD's you can click on any of the links below to be taken to each individual DVD:

POWERSTRIKE KICKBOXING Vol. 7  (affiliate link) 

BODYSTRIKES By Powerstrike Vol. 3  (affiliate link) 

To out more about Ilaria, you can find her here:
Powerstrike Facebook Page
Ilaria's Facebook Page
Powerstrike Web Site

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  1. Great interview. She is so inspiring and I am so ready for some new workouts (though I have a feeling part of me will regret saying that).

    Thanks for sharing and great job!

    1. She really is! I can't wait until my foot is healed up so we can bust some new moves with Ilaria!

  2. No wonder you like her so much. She sounds great, and if her workouts are like she is in her interview I bet they're amazing with none of the "put my foot through the tv" feeling I get with so many of them (Leslie Sansone, Julian Michaels...). Congrats on getting the interview.

    1. She's truly so sweet and it was a joy co-ordinating things to get this interview together. I think you'd love her stuff, she's awesome!

  3. Thanks for the great interview! She seems like a great person who knows her stuff. Don't think I'm quite at the point where I can do her DVDs but I hope to be soon. For now I'll start the 'building a routine' piece. Thanks again!

    1. Excellent idea! I can't wait until you've built up to a level where you're comfortable getting her workouts into your rotation. I think you'll really love them!

  4. Oh wow, the Forza DVD sounds really cool! If I had more space in my place I would get it, but I don't have much room! D:

    1. Forza is awesome! We're in a tiny place too and we do it in our wee living room with wrapping paper rolls! LOL It might not get the full benefits as a weighted faux sword but your muscles will still be sore the next day!

  5. Great interview! I am really inspired by this:

    "Regular individuals can push 20 times harder than they are doing, we don't really know how much more we have in us."

    I need to remember this next time I'm doing burpees. I wussed out this morning halfway through and I know that's really when I need to push it!!

  6. I'm so excited that you got the opportunity to interview Ilaria! I've been wanting to try these workouts since you write so positively about them. I might have to start out with a wrapping paper tube too. :)

  7. I loved reading your interview with Ilaria! I only found her workouts a month ago and like you, I am already addicted to doing them all and will try ANYTHING she puts out there!
    You made me laugh with your wrapping paper roll, but guess what I used when I tried the Forza workout??? My rolling pin!!! You're right though, your front delts and upper arms are on fire with that workout.
    Thanks for a great post, nice to have read it!


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