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Page last updated: 07/10/2005

Fitness is Religion - by Ray Kybartis

For his book, "Fitness is Religion", Ray Kybartis enlisted the help of one very special individual to do his introduction for him, and that would be our dynamic diva, Madonna! Read this fascinating excerpt on why Madonna got so into fitness, what motivated her, and what made her enjoy it so much! Straight from Madonna, here is the down-low ;). 

"The first time I met Ray I was in Tennessee visiting my future husband who is now my ex-husband on the set of his movie “At Close Range.” I think I was getting on Sean’s nerves (there’s not a lot to do on the set of a movie even if you’re in it), and he suggested I go for a run with the trainer he had hired to make him look like a hunk in the film. Ray showed up at my hotel as I was lacing my sneakers.

I don’t know how we ended up on the dirt road that went on for miles. We could have driven there in his truck. We could have walked. Maybe we flew. The thing is, as soon as Ray showed up, I forgot that I was about to do something difficult. After all it was the middle of summer and 90 degrees in the shade.

First of all he was so damn cheerful. Second of all he was tan and fit and absolutely radiated good health. And last but certainly not least he was so innocent. About everything. Women, money, the entertainment business. I could go on and on. He didn’t even swear. In the beginning I used to try and bribe him with money to say a teeny tiny four letter word. But he would just blush. He was so adorable. I couldn’t believe he was from L.A.

We talked about women- he needed to have more confidence. We talked about money – I told him to ask for more. We talked about the entertainment business – no free rides, never trust anyone, watch your back, etc., etc. I was feeling very experienced and jaded.

Then he picked up the pace. I had to work hard to keep up with him, and I was definitely sucking air, but he made me laugh so hard with his silly anecdotes that I didn’t realize I was suffering. We finished the run, and I felt invigorated. That’s when I first realized that it was possible to exercise and enjoy myself.

Ray and I worked out a few more times, and I went back on the road to finish a tour. Eventually I returned to L.A. and decided I wanted to get a trainer full time. I tried several, but none of them made the impact that Ray had. None of them made me laugh. None of them motivated me the way Ray did. I picked up the phone, dialed his number, and I’ve been training with him ever since.

Some days we run forever. Some days we ride bikes. Some days we swim and run stairs. Some days we do weight training. Some days we have a pancake breakfast, and lately we’ve been doing lots of yoga. He makes working out fun and encourages me to rest when I’m burned out. The important thing is variety and adapting it t my lifestyle.

There are no rules. All you need is dedication. That’s where the whole church thing came into our fitness vocabulary. I don’t know who started it, me or Ray, but we were in Indiana filming “A League of Their Own.” Once again it was the middle of summer, and I had to look like I played baseball for a living.

We were training like maniacs. Filming started at 8 a.m., so we had to get up at 5 to get a workout in. It would still be dark out. The phone would ring, and I’d hear Ray’s voice cackling like a witch at the other end of the line, “Evilsky, are you ready for church?” You have to imagine Boris Karloff after too many cups of coffee to get the full effect. Sometimes it was so dark we’d run into telephone poles or trip on fresh roadkill. We’d make ourselves feel better by exclaiming that nobody else had “the religion.”

There were lots of other movie sets and concert tours that we’ve been together on, and I give Ray a lot of credit for keeping my spirits up and injecting levity into working situations that inevitably became grueling experiences. I will always be indebted to him for keeping me in good shape and teaching me about proper nutrition, but more important, for keeping my head in a good place. Whether we’re doing windsprints uphill or sun salutes in my living room, the goal has been much more about peace of mind than having a perfect body.

Physical beauty is ephemeral, but the self-confidence and emotional strength one builds from achieving difficult things and accomplishing goals is the most beautiful thing of all.

The important thing is to have fun while you’re doing it. To enjoy the journey. That’s what life’s all about."


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