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"She's a magician in the way she can transform your body," wrote in one fan of our 16th and final Hottest contestant, Natalie Yco. This trainer is known in LA for her intense kickboxing and booty workouts, and though she teaches classes at Equinox she's also a free agent offering private sessions at a varity of studios around town. (Disclosure: Thank goodness for that, or we wouldn't have been able to include her. Equinox politely declined to participate in our trainer search since they didn't want to rank employees on their looks.) We asked Natalie how she got into the biz (because she has asthma, interestingly enough) and found out about her new fitness line.
How did you get into training?
"I was born with asthma and I remember the times I had to go to the hospital and breath out of a machine. It was frustrating. As I got older I wanted to get involved with sports but I couldn't even get through practice. There's something innate in me; I wanted to be active. I was 19 years old and someone took me to a Gold's Gym and I fell in love with fitness. And then, after that, I got into martial arts. Putting those two together helped me to get off my inhaler. I still have sports-induced asthma, but I don't need an inhaler anymore. That's how I got into teaching and training."
What's the hardest thing about what you do?
"Trying to get people to understand that in order for them to be fit, healthy and to actually see a change in their body, they need to get off the freaking elliptical. They have to do more than that. Cardio by itself is not going to cut it—they need to incorporate strength training. You burn more calories after you do the type of training that involves both cardio and strength training, and it has to be at a high level. You need to know that it's not just about cardio, cardio, cardio."
What's the most rewarding?
"When people approach me and tell me that I made their day better. If they come in and they're having a crappy day, and when they leave they have a smile on their face. Or when someone says that my class was one of the hardest things they've done! That's what has made me feel really happy and proud about what I do."
What's your advice for someone just starting out?
"Start off with something you like doing. Anything. Just to get your body used to activity. If you try to do something for someone else or because it's the hottest thing and you don't like it, you won't continue on."
Do you see people making mistakes in their workouts? What kind?
"They have to work a little bit harder and they have to be willing to get uncomfortable. Without getting uncomfortable they're not going to see a change."
If someone came to you wanting a flat stomach, what would you tell them?
"Of course, training is very important to help speed up the metabolism, but they do also have to watch what they put in their mouth. It's a combination of what they eat and their training. Don't do a class and go and have a pizza the next day. You can't do that."
Where do you shop for workout gear?
"I go to Lululemon in Beverly Hills. I love their styles and it's a good quality brand."
What do you do when you're not working out?
"I love to shop. I'm a bit of a shopaholic. I love clothes, I love shoes. I have, for the past year, been working on my own functional fitness line. It's really exciting. The look is going to be a combination of strength and femininity. I'm hoping it will be out by [the end of] this year. People will be able to buy it online."