In the hours leading up to the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, models Romee Strijd, Lais Ribeiro, Jasmine Tookes, and Josephine Skriver get in their final squat exercises and boxing sessions before they take to the runway in their wings. The man they trust to get them in tip-top shape? New York-based celebrity trainer Kirk Myers, who made the 15-hour-long flight across the world for the job.
"[Kirk has] worked really hard," says Victoria's Secret model Zuri Tibby, who trains with Myers. "He’s one of the best people that I know, and he really, really inspires people."
But 17 years ago, before he was one of the most in-demand trainers in the country, Myers weighed over 300 pounds and was fighting for his life in an intensive care unit. This is how he turned his life around—and used his experience to train some of the world's fittest.
His lifelong weight struggles first came to a head in high school.
For as long as Myers can remember, he had been overweight. Growing up, his vice was eating junk food like Oreo cookies and raw cookie dough, and drinking up to two gallons of chocolate milk per week, which he attributes to his addictive personality.
Myers used his weight to his advantage in his position as nose tackle on his high school football team. Though he wasn't bullied, he realized his senior year that his weight was a problem. “I was trying to find a tuxedo for prom, but because I weighed about 315 to 320 pounds, it was hard to find clothes that fit," he says. "That memory really stands out.”
In college, his health hit rock bottom.
At 21 years old, Myers was sleeping for nearly 18 hours a day and had abnormally low energy levels. “I thought I had mono,” he says. Desperate for answers, his stepmom took him from campus at Missouri State, where he was majoring in elementary education, and admitted him into a hospital, where he would spend 11 days. Doctors diagnosed Myers with congestive heart failure—a chronic condition in which the heart doesn’t pump blood properly. “I thought, 'Okay, there’s a chance that I can turn this around,'” says Myers. He made the decision to become more disciplined about food by watching his sodium intake and incorporating more vegetables into his diet. “I was forced to change my lifestyle,” he says.
A man named Rick Carter, who owned a gym in Kansas City, Missouri, took Myers under his wing to teach him how to lift weights and eat properly. “I spent probably six months just taking care of myself and focusing on losing weight,” he says. “[Rick] cared a lot about me, and he just liked me for who I was.”
Losing weight inspired him to open Kirk Myers Fitness.
Myers started taking daily walks and training two body parts a day at the gym. "I would do more full body, cardio types of workouts four to five times a week to lose weight and strengthen my heart," he says. He also set short-term weight loss goals that ultimately help his reach his final weight goal.
Within months, Myers says he lost 10 pounds, then 20, then 40, and hit a major milestone when he dropped a total of 80 pounds. At this point, Myers says his friends started to take notice of his new physique and asked him for fitness advice. "That’s when I realized I wanted to become a trainer," he says.
Over the next few years, Myers dropped over 130 pounds, getting his own weight down to 170. “It boosted my confidence, so I knew that that’s what I wanted to do for a living,” he says. Business was booming, and so was Myers’ bank account. With Kirk Myers Fitness in Kansas City, he was making over six figures.
However, for a young man in his now late 20s with a self-proclaimed addictive personality, this proved disastrous.
After hitting rock bottom again, he found a new start in New York City.
“I had lost everything I had when I was almost 30,” Myers says. He recalls going through a big partying phase and drug binge, which led him to a second trip to the ICU. “This time they told me there wasn’t that high of a chance for me to get better,” he says. After making it out of the hospital, he moved in with his sister Susan and her three children in Tennessee. “My sister taking care of me changed the game,” he says. “It was jail, but in a good way.”
After a whole year at his sister’s place, Myers decided to move to New York City in 2011 to reconnect with his older brother Kip. Once there, Myers continued to lead a healthy lifestyle by practicing Kundalini yoga for three to four hours a day. “People that have had drug issues or big time emotional problems do Kundalini,” he says. “It’s kind of a rehab program, in a way.”
Soon after, Myers made his way back into the fitness world, jumping from gym to gym as his pool of clients began to grow.
After meeting Hugh Jackman, The Dogpound was born.
Myers was training up to 30 clients at Gotham Gym when one of those clients introduced him to actor Hugh Jackman.
“The first time I trained him, he brought two friends—one was Tom Farley, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, and the other one was actually his bodyguard,” he says. The group quickly began to outgrow the space at Gotham Gym, so Myers decided to open up his own place. Jackman brought his dog to his workouts—and The Dogpound was born.
The Victoria’s Secret models have become a part of The Dogpound brand.
"The Victoria's Secret girls are super inspiring to train because they work so hard and smash every single workout," Myers says. "Most of the girls are super positive and bring an amazing energy to the gym."
How did he meet his first Angel? Myers says celebrity hairstylist Marty Harper introduced him to model Jasmine Tookes. Harper told Myers that Tookes had heard about the Dogpound and really wanted to try it out. Tookes came into the gym and soon recommended it to several of the other models. The rest is Instagram history.
For many, Myers has become a confidant and friend. "In general, these people who are in the public eye, they sometimes feel the pressure, and you have to be there to remind them to stay positive," he says.
His heart condition improved significantly and his business is better than ever.
These days, Myers says he finds himself coming across a new set of challenges as he tries to balance a healthy lifestyle and a successful business. “I honestly think I broke the world record for most training sessions this year,” says Myers. “It’s grown so much."
He stays fit by weight training different body parts each day and speed walking for quick cardio workouts with his fellow trainers at the Dogpound every night. His meals now consist of egg whites, avocado, salmon, asparagus, and protein shakes.
Myers also has attributes much of his health success to yoga. "I’m a big believer in Kundalini and positive vibrations—it actually had completely reversed [my heart condition]," he says. "The size of my heart has changed. It isn’t enlarged."
And although the now 38-year-old admits he has his hands full, the ambitious businessman says an expansion is definitely part of the bigger picture; it’s just a matter of when. “We’ve considered L.A., but if we’re going to do it, we want to do it just right."
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I’m Eileen, the digital news reporter at Hearst Digital Media. As a member of the newsroom, I report on a wide range of news, including entertainment, politics and lifestyle. I also cover red carpet events for over 20 of Hearst's magazine brands. I previously held positions at CNN, Facebook and MTV, where I worked as a digital producer, writer and on-camera host. Fun facts: I'm fluent in Spanish, a BU alum, and love fashion and travel.
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