Supermodel Candice Swanepoel leads a small nation of 4.7 million Instgram followers. Sporting sprig’s best performance –inspired looks, she tells us what she does to stay hot and happy.
On any given day, long before the sun shines into your window and rouses you out of bed, it’s likely that Candice Swanepoel has already been hard at work for hours. “I’m up and on-set pretty early, usually by 5 a.m.,” says the 26-year-old Victoria’s Secret Angel, who routinely shoots for 12 hours a day, often seven days a week. “I do a lot of swimwear, so for the best light, we try to get the sunrise and sunset.” Afterward, when everyone else goes home to relax, Swanepoel hits the gym for a full-body workout. “I’m an athlete,” she says. “I use every single muscle, especially my core and arms, when I pose. It’s so important for me to feel strong.”
Such discipline and dedication come naturally to Swanepoel, who grew up on a beef-and-dairy farm in South Africa. “ I saw may dad wake up at 4 every morning to milk the cows. I’d put on my overalls and gum boots and follow him around,” she says. “Growing up surrounded by so much life and death and realness shaped my personality. Africa is not for wussies. It’s in our culture to be hard workers.”
That may be way, after being scouted at a local flea market at age 15, Swanepoel took the brave step of moving to Europe, alone, to pursue her new career. She spent the next two and half years walking runway shows for major designers, including Dolche & Gabbana. And yet, despite her early success, she remembers that period in her life as difficult. “ It was the loneliness,” she says. “ Every day, I was working with different people who were speaking different languages, so I was never able to form any relationships. I just wanted to go home.” During that time, she was also told that she needed to lose weight. “ I was so used to people criticizing me for being too thin that it was shocking to me,” she says. “I was crying.”
By age 17, Swanepoel was ready to quit modeling altogether. That’s when Victoria’s Secret called, and everything changed. “My agent said, “They want to see you. If you get the show, will you move to New York? I said, ‘If I got Victoria’s Secret, I’d do anything.” She landed the gig, mowed across the world, found an instant community and rededicated herself to her work – and her workouts.
Her willingness to always put in extra hours on-set – and extra stets in the gum – has certainly paid off. Now, eight years after almost walking away from her career, Swanepoel has become one of fashion’s reigning superstars, and one of its hottest bodies. You can see the results of her hard work in the tightness of her legs, the firmness of her butt and the flatness of her abs. “When I have a show or specific shoot coming up, I train for it full on, like an athlete would train for a game,” she says. Of course, given that she always has a big show or shoot coming up, she’s always training, four to five days a week, year-round. “There’s no time to slack off,” she says. “It’s just not worth it.”
To get that enviable body, both strong and lean, Swanpoel cross trains. Every week she does a mix of boxing (“ a good way to blow off steam”), trampolining (“ it tightens up everything”), resistance training (“ as I get stronger, the weights get heavier”) and pilates (“ for when I’m tired, because I can lie down”). No matter the workout, her goal remains the same: “To build muscle, rather than burn it,” she says.
Staying sculpted instead of just skinny has always been Swanepoel’s body challenge. “If I’m nervous or stressed, I can eat almost anything and still be losing weight. That’s just my metabolism,” she says, “but I don’t like to feel skinny.” To maintain her shape and stamina, she follows a simple eating philosophy: Have a big breakfast to avoid midmorning crashes. “If I’m shooting swim, I’ll have scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, coffee and a croissant. Otherwise I’m ravenous by 11 a.m” For lunch and dinner, she gets plenty of protein, like a grilled-chicken salad or salmon witch rice and beans. “I just eat everything in moderation,” she says. “People do crazy things, but anything in the extreme is bad for you. I don’t believe in juicing. I don’t even get why you’d want a soy latte. Listen; just give me some whole milk! When you over think what you’re eating, it starts to affect you.”
Swanepoel’s commitment to staying balanced, despite the ruthless nature of her industry, has been the key to her happiness. “Modeling has really changed in the past few years. Now there’s so much more money at stake, and it’s more work as well,” she says. “It used to be that if you had a swim shoot, you’d go away for two weeks and spend the first four days getting a suntan. Now we work 12 hours a day, every day, and I can be on a plan every two days. It’s almost like a chess game, where we’re the pieces. You’ve got to juggle everything and make the right moves.”
That pressure makes her downtime all the more important. “You’ve got to take care of yourself,” she says. Swanepoel does that by trying to block off a week every month or so to unwind. “I’d rather work in waves, so I have time to travel and rest,” she says. Her goals are a mix of professional and personal. “I want to design my own line of swimwear,” she says, “and I want to see more of my family and have one of my own one day, too.” But for now, she’s just trying to enjoy every moment. “I love living this dream,” she says. “And sometimes I also just like to chill, have a glass of wine, watch a movie and be normal.”
HER TOP MOVES
Swanepoel and her trainer, ModelFit’s Justin Gelband, share there exercises that make her feel and look her best.
Micro-Squat: “I like to focus on my thighs and bum, so I do a lot of squats,” Swanepoel says. Stand with feet together, arms extended, and squat, lowering two inches per count for three counts. Hold, then rise on a three count. Repeat, first with feet shoulder-width apart, then with feet together, then apart again. That’s one rep; do 10.
Leg Pulse: “The smaller the motions, the better the results,” Gelband says. Lie on left side, left arm bent under head, left leg extended, right leg perpendicular at hip. Use your glutes to pulse right leg up and down 20 times, moving it slightly toward left foot with each rep. Switch sides; repeat.
One-Two Punch: “When I punch, I use my arms and core,” Swanepoel says. Stand with feet hip-width apart, left leg just in front of right, fists at chin, elbows in. As you rotate and pivot right foot, punch right arm across body until arm is 75 percent extended. Return to start. Then throw a left hook by raising left elbow to shoulder height, arm bent 90 degrees, rotating through hips. Return to start; do 15 reps. Switch sides; repeat.