‘Empire’ Cast Stuntwoman and Trainer Shares Food and Fitness Tips For a Rockin’ Body

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(Photo: April Sutton)

A stuntwoman, celebrity trainer and Empire regular, April Sutton is officially an inspiration to all of us mere mortals who can barely remember to throw together a smoothie before running out the door.

With an unwavering dedication to fitness (she made it her life’s work, after all) and a fearless attitude that took her from homeless and hopeless to one of the most sought-after stuntwomen and trainers in the biz, Sutton has accomplished difficult feats on her path to success. With Empire returning Wednesday on FOX, it seemed like the perfect time to get in a few questions with this fit lady.

While Sutton is living her dream now, it wasn’t long ago that her future looked murky. Six years ago she was living out of her car, chasing a dream to train and be in films, uncertain as to whether it would ever pay off. Still, Sutton was upbeat and unapologetic.

“Always believe there is something great beyond the hardship and continue to always move forward,” she says about her M.O. at the time. “When you start from the bottom, the only way is up.”

Sutton’s Instagram is equally inspiring, which stands out in a sea of #fitspo and protein shakes, but that’s just part of her unique motivation style.

“I read a lot of books to clear my mind of negativity and fill it up with a lot of positivity and optimism,” she admits. “I decided to read so much that I stopped watching TV. It really does help to feed your mind with knowledge; that will help improve your outlook on life.”

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While switching off the TV may be an uncommon practice for a woman who appears as a stunt double on one of America’s hottest shows—Sutton does stunt work for Grace Gealey who plays Anika on Empire—it certainly seems to be working for her.

Though she also trains celebrities (including another Empire name: Serayah McNeil, who plays Tiana), Sutton admits that working as a stuntwoman is her favorite role. “[Stunwork] is more rewarding because I challenge myself, and at the end of the day, [I] find a lot of gratification in [achieving] what seemed impossible to others on the crew.”

If just picking a workout routine and sticking with it sounds impossible, Sutton has some tips for you.

“I incorporate my workouts into an AMRAP ('as many reps as possible') format that includes my MMA drills, strength training, HIIT and core exercises... So I normally choose five to seven exercises to fit in an hour. I don’t do this workout every day, but I do it at least twice a week...normally on the days I don’t feel like working out!”

This mix of exercises allows April’s workout to feel fresh and exciting. But for those who shy away from the concept of strength training, this trainer has some knowledge to drop: “Strength training will help give shape and confidence. Studies have shown that strength training decreases body fat and increases metabolism. I get a lot of compliments on my body, and I tell women it’s from strength training,” she says.

April has written about strength training's benefits extensively on her blog. She says the stigma of strength training as “masculine” is just an emotional hurdle keeping women from building their best bodies.

What else contributes to April’s amazing figure? Some of our favorite foods, actually. She snacks on unsalted almonds, berries, grapefruit and Rx protein bars. “Even dark chocolate and almonds have been my go-to snack if I’m craving desserts," she said. "I love blackened salmon with roasted asparagus or brussels sprouts.”

But above all, Sutton says, “Athleticism tends to improve self-esteem.” Even in her work with celebrities, the evidence is clear. “[Serayah McNeil, one of her clients] exudes a lot of confidence in her role [on Empire]. I think the more athletic workouts help her for that role.” Sutton encourages people to incorporate fitness into their lives just for themselves, not as a way of measuring against others, and we love her for it.

Her upbeat attitude brings positivity to the fitness world both online and IRL... and proves anyone can find a way to make fitness a part of their lifestyle.

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