Autumn Calabrese on the importance of routines, embracing tough love, and why dumbbells are her favorite

In a pandemic slump? Autumn Calabrese says: "Don't beat yourself up over it, but it's time to take back control" — here's how

Autumn Calabrese for beachbody at hallmark
TV Personality / Fitness Expert Autumn Calabrese visits Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family" at Universal Studios Hollywood on October 23, 2019 in Universal City, California.
(Image credit: Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

Autumn Calabrese is all about passion. The self-made fitness mogul began her career as a dancer, though her dreams were short-lived with a career-ending back injury. Instead of mulling in her sorrows, it was Calabrese's passion and willpower that pivoted herself into the health and fitness sphere, and fast-forward to present-day, her net worth sits at nearly $8 million, largely due to her partnership with Beachbody in 2013. 

As a single mom, Calabrese's mission was clear: create a simple, container-based approach to portion control that was easy-to-follow, alongside a fitness program (that was even easier to follow) called 21 Day Fix. 

With the help of the best at-home gym equipment, shoppers were able to take back control of their fitness, shedding unwanted weight and making strides toward a healthier lifestyle — and now in the middle of a worldwide pandemic? Calabrese's program is more popular than ever. 

"Ok, you gained some weight during the pandemic. Don't beat yourself up over it but also try to stop perpetuating the behaviors that led to it," Calabrese reveals exclusively to Real Homes. Instead of allowing ourselves to fall victim to the same poor decisions that got us to this place, Calabrese believes in a "tough love" approach and encourages us to be passionate about change. And how can we do that? 

Aside from grabbing up a pair of the best dumbbells (which she says are a must-have), Calabrese walks us step-by-step through how we can drop our pandemic weight (and bad habits) with a few easy changes — here's how. 

What are you recommending for people dealing with pandemic weight? 

Autumn Calabrese: I give tough love to this question. We have to let go of the excuses and start focusing on our health. Ok, you gained some weight during the pandemic. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but also try to stop perpetuating the behaviors that led to it. You don’t need to crash diet or give up carbs or foods you love. You just need a plan for a healthy lifestyle that will help you take back control instead of allowing food to control you. This is what my nutrition program Ultimate Portion Fix (opens in new tab)is all about. 

We practice balance, we enjoy our food, but we don’t overdo it. We still have treats and cocktails but in moderation. We change the way we look at food. It’s not a reward for surviving a hard day or a punishment because you feel like you didn’t do something well; it’s fuel for our bodies—fuel that should be enjoyed and not abused.

Take it one day at a time. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about making a little progress each day. 

Autumn Calabrese ultimate fix control

(Image credit: Beachbody)
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Ultimate Portion Fix Shakeology Challenge Pack (opens in new tab) for $180, at Beachbody

This 30-day video-based program (opens in new tab) uses color-coded, portion-control containers to take the guesswork out of eating delicious, perfectly sized meals, every time. This program has been improved and expanded to teach you how to feed your whole family healthy meals, eat for performance, and help beat sugar addiction, so it’s easier than ever to meet your goals. 

If I want to jumpstart my fitness goals and only had 30 days to do so, what would be your program or equipment of choice? 

AC: This is the PERFECT time to take on my fitness program, 21 Day Fix. (opens in new tab) It’s three weeks long—just 21 days. The workouts are 30 minutes, and there’s a modifier in case you need to move at a different pace or reduce the impact. Plus, it comes with my nutrition program, Ultimate Portion Fix. 

It’s simple fitness and simple nutrition for fast results. Fitness and nutrition go hand and hand when you’re looking to achieve weight loss—especially in a shorter amount of time. You don’t have to spend hours working out, and you don’t have to starve or deprive yourself. 

Follow the plan, trust the process and watch what happens. 

Autumn Calabrese beachbody 21 day fix program

(Image credit: Beachbody)
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21 Day Fix & 21 Day Fix EXTREME Beachbody Challenge Pack (opens in new tab)for $250, at Beachbody

Lose up to 15 pounds in 21 days with two hit programs proven to get results—21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix EXTREME. (opens in new tab) You’ll get access to the original that started it all, the follow-up program that cranked up the intensity, and the latest 42-workout series shot in real-time and updated for faster progress, plus bonus and doubles options. 

Do you have a favorite piece of equipment that's full-body? Or, is there one major step you need to take to jumpstart your lifestyle change here?

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AC: Dumbbells are the easiest piece of equipment that can be used anywhere even in the smallest of spaces to work the entire body, so that is my favorite piece of equipment. But a very close second is the Control Track that’s part of my new program, 9 Week Control Freak.   (opens in new tab)

It mimics a cable machine at the gym, attaches to most doors, and allows you to work your body in ways that dumbbells don’t.  It’s fantastic for resistance training, cardio training, and core work, and it travels very easily.

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9 Week Control Freak Shakeology Completion Pack (opens in new tab)l Was $189, Now $169, at Beachbody

9 Week Control Freak (opens in new tab) gives you everything you need to get truly game-changing results. Super Trainer Autumn Calabrese will lead you through five workouts a week, three of which will combine density training, strength complexes, and Tabata. 

When 'real life' resumes and we're looking to squeeze more time at home and less time in the gym, what are five quick workouts we can do from home, and what are the items we'd need? 

AC: You can do a cardio circuit that requires no equipment.  Warm your body up for 2-3 minutes with some light jogging in place and stretching, and then do the exercises below in the order shown. Perform two sets of each move, resting for 30 seconds between them.

Try this Autumn Calabrese at-home workout below: 

  • 60 seconds of jumping jacks
  • 60 seconds of high knees
  • 60 seconds of mountain climbers
  • 60 seconds of burpees
  • 60 seconds of squats
  • 60 seconds of a plank hold

How can you use a set of dumbbells to work your entire body?

AC:  You can do a full-body workout with a set of medium dumbbells

Warm your body up for 2-3 minutes with some light jogging in place and stretching, and then do the following circuit, performing the exercises back-to-back without rest. Repeat this circuit as many times as you can in 12 minutes, resting only as long as necessary between rounds to maintain a high level of performance.

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Try this Autumn Calabrese at-home workout below:

  • Perform 12 squat jumps 
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and perform 12 reverse lunges with each leg (24 total)
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and perform 12 shoulder presses
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and perform 15 bent-over rows
  • Lay on your back and do 12 crunches

Is there one universal item — such as a dumbbell —that can sculpt/shape, firm, and maintain our body? 

AC: Yes, dumbbells really can do it all, [but] so can the Control Track (opens in new tab)that I use in 9 Week Control Freak. [It's the perfect replacement] if you are bored with dumbbells and want to try something new and work your body in ways you probably haven’t before, I highly recommend getting the Control Track. 

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Beachbody Control Track (opens in new tab) for $79.95, at Beachbody

Hit your muscles from various angles and heights, so that you’re making the most of each rep. The Beachbody Control Track (opens in new tab) is designed to easily attach to a door or be mounted on a wall, for quick-and-easy use. 

As people start to travel again how can they maintain their at-home fitness routine on the road? 

Having a program and equipment that travels easily is ideal in this situation. That’s why in my newest at-home workout program, 9 Week Control Freak, (opens in new tab) I created a week’s worth of workouts specifically designed to be able to do when you are on the go. 

All you need is my Control Track, which comes with the program and attaches to most doors very easily, and the Core Ball (opens in new tab), which also comes with the program and can be deflated and inflated in a matter of seconds. You can do four total body resistance workouts and a cardio workout anywhere. 

Also having access to an app like Beachbody On Demand (opens in new tab)is perfect because there are hundreds of workouts that require little to no equipment that you can do anywhere—a hotel gym, a hotel room, even outside. Having a plan and a well-designed program that can go anywhere you do is key to staying on track.

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Beachbody Core Ball (opens in new tab)for $29.95, at Beachbody

Get the most out of every workout and your stretches with the lightweight, durable, inflatable 8'' Beachbody Core Ball. (opens in new tab) Surface texture helps provide grip during exercises. Includes a straw for inflation and a plug to close the airhole.

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Beachbody On Demand (opens in new tab)for $99, at Beachbody

Let your journey begin on Beachbody On Demand (opens in new tab)—the only streaming platform where you’ll find the world’s most popular fitness programs, easy-to-follow nutrition plans, access to a free Coach, and accountability groups to help support you and make your goals reality. 

Tell me about post-workout! After a hard one, do you opt for recovery slides or slippers? Is there a routine or regimen here?  

What you do after your workout is just as important as the workout itself. I take several minutes to stretch and cool down. Then I drink my post-recovery shake, which is Beachbody Chocolate Plant-Based Recover blended with water, ice, and a small banana. That starts the recovery process for my body. 

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Chocolate Plant-Based Recover (opens in new tab)for $69.95, at Beachbody

Chocolate Plant-Based Recover (opens in new tab) helps combat exercise-induced muscle soreness and jump-start recovery so you can hit every workout with strength and intensity.

Want more Autumn Calabrese? Check out additional Autumn-approved items below: 

Brittany Romano is a Shopping Editor, based in New York City. From her start as a fashion market assistant at Marie Claire to building a highly profitable commerce vertical at Us Weekly and AMI brands, Brittany has produced award-winning content covering everything from celebrity beauty hacks to must-have items from online sales. She is a graduate of New England College. When she isn’t writing, you can find Brittany indulging in yet another DIY project or cheering on her beloved Boston Bruins.