American supermodel Gigi Hadid walks the runway during the 2016 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Hadid has many fans in China. Photo: Courtesy of Victoria's Secret
Every winter, Yang Ling anxiously awaits the annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. When the video of the extravaganza featuring the world's hottest supermodels becomes available online for the Chinese audience, she is always among the first to watch it.
Apart from the four shining Chinese models and the show's inclusion of Chinese elements this year, Yang looked particularly for the presence of Gigi Hadid, her favorite model.
"She is labeled as a curvy model, but I don't think so," said Yang. "Gigi has the perfect body shape. The plain and skinny physique does not fit today's new aesthetics. I like her sculpted body shape with beautiful muscles - a reflection of a healthier lifestyle."
Yang, 32, works for a State-owned company in Beijing and is an avid gym goer. She is among the growing number of young Chinese women who exercise regularly to keep fit and feel good about themselves. They are the keen pupils of latest overseas exercise trends, among which the Victoria's Secret supermodels' daily workout regimes are the most popular.
Training like an 'angel'
Yang became a fan of Hadid one year ago after watching the 2015 Victoria's Secret show. Soon she started studying and copying Hadid's training technique.
It's a tradition that models go through "devil's training" every year ahead of the show to ensure that they will look their best on the catwalk. The models, especially the angels, the models in the show that wear wings, would update their Instagram with photos of themselves sweating at the gym in preparation for the catwalk.
Yang did a lot of research on Hadid's fitness workout. When she learned that Hadid has a passion for boxing, she was amazed and decided to take up the sport.
She registered with a boxing club in Beijing to learn some basic skills. Now, she does almost an hour of boxing at the gym every day.
"Boxing is an aerobic exercise that is very effective in burning fat," said Yang.
Apart from boxing, she also does pilates, another popular workout method among the Victoria's Secret models.
"It helps me to stretch, reshaping and refining the muscle lines as I go along," she said.
Yang Lin boxes at a gym in Beijing.Yang is among the growing number of Chinese women who exercise regularly to keep fit. Photo: Li Hao/GT
Learning from the Internet
On YouTube, many short training videos break down and demonstrate the routines of some of the Victoria's Secret models. Fitness programs produced by the models' coach Justin Gelband and Ballet Beautiful, a program developed by Mary Helen Bowers, a trainer to many models, are some of the videos that can be viewed in China via streaming websites such as bilibili.com, which provide Chinese subtitles translated by volunteers.
Some of the Ballet Beautiful training videos, which can be accessed at a charge via the official website in the US, are also being subtitled and sold in China via Taobao for 10 yuan ($1.45).
Also, reports of the models' preshow workout regimes published in American and British media have been translated by fitness lovers who share them on Chinese social media platforms.
Cass Lin, a fitness blogger who runs the WeChat public account Fitnessforu, shared her experience of following the Victoria's Secret supermodels' workout regime on zhihu.com, a Chinese Q&A platform similar to Quora. The post, a response to the question "What it is like to train like a Victoria's Secret angel?" gained more than 1,500 likes.
In her post, Lin said she followed the Ballet Beautiful program for a couple of months. The workout, which combines ballet elements with other forms of physical exercise, is practiced by models, including Candice Swanepoel, Lily Aldridge and Rachel Hilbert.
"I enjoy it because I feel I am beautiful while practicing it," said Lin in a post. "Ballet is elegant, and a lot of the movements are helpful in adjusting one's balance, body sculpting, and improving one's temperament."
However, the drawback is that it could be difficult for people without a dancing foundation to pick up, she said.
"Beginners can start by joining similar ballet fitness courses at local gyms first and then practice following the guidance in the videos," she suggested.
Born to be a supermodel?
The Victoria's Secret's models display the sexiest body shape a woman can achieve. Their beautiful fitness photos and selfies give evidence to the fact that their methods work. However, some training coaches point out that these methods may not be the right fit for everyone.
Ardis Chen, a private fitness trainer who specializes in women's body shape building, said that while the Victoria's Secret's Fashion Show is eye-catching and inspires more women to go to the gym, people should find the most suitable method to follow in accordance with their own fitness level and shape.
"The Victoria's Secret's angels are born to be supermodels. Their admirable, long and straight legs are decided by the widths of their pelvis. It matches the result of body mechanics," said Chen, who is also a fitness blogger known as Coach C.
For example, he said that while ballet fitness programs are helpful in fostering an elegant temperament in women, they are not very effective in burning fat.
Chen's fitness studio offers customized training courses to women who want to refine their body shape. He designs the training regimes in accordance with each individual's bone structure.
"The attitude of the supermodels and their perseverance when exercising is what ordinary people should learn from, rather than their training regimes," said Chen.
In addition to the workout programs, people also copy the diet of some of the supermodels.
For example, Liu Wen, one of the Chinese supermodels featured in the 2016 Victoria Secret's fashion show, once shared photos of the food she ate on Weibo. Her meals consisted of a small amount of vegetables, fruits, grains and pasta.
"The meals lack protein, which provides necessary amino acids for the body. Also, the total calories in the meal is estimated to be less than 1,000 calories, which is far less than what is required for the basal metabolism in the body," said Tang Jingjing, who is a food safety inspector and a health and dieting blogger.
Tang said she has also followed the workout program of Victoria's Secret models, but, in her opinion, some of the diets that emphasize a low caloric intake, especially those designed for losing weight before the show, are unhealthy in the long run. Going on a diet is not a long-term solution for people who want to lose weight, she said.
"Supermodels usually have a strong willpower and can bear eating plain food for a long time," explained Tang. "Ordinary people may become fatter after resuming their previous diet because their self-control may not be as strong."
Tang suggests that people find their own healthy way of eating. "For example, if you are a big fan of stewed pork, I won't stop you from eating pork. Instead, I would suggest that you eat more vegetables because the fibre can help block the fat from being absorbed into the body," she said.
There is a simple principle that everyone can follow to diet healthily, she said - food portioning. She suggested that dieters portion their carbohydrates, proteins (including seafood and eggs), and vegetables according to the 1:1:2 ratio. In the West, people eat beef and chicken more, as they are a more common source of protein, but in China, beef and chicken can be replaced by lean pork, said Tang.
She also cautioned that the beautiful body shape and muscles of the Victoria's Secret angels cannot be achieved by dieting alone.
Yang said she keeps a normal diet, and she doesn't eat greasy and unhealthy food such as crisps and chips. After more than six years' exercise, her body fat ratio (BFR) is 15 percent, which is lower than the required 18 percent of Victoria's Secret models.
"Each time I see the changes I achieved through working out, it encourages me to keep on exercising," she said. "Not everyone will become a model. But training like a Victoria's angel makes me happy," she said.