Lucy Liu's Stay Motivated Secrets
Lucy Liu is known for kicking butt in such flicks as Charlie's Angels and Kill Bill. But offscreen she's more likely to be getting her butt kicked — by her Pilates instructor.
"Pilates introduced me to muscles I never even knew I had," says Lucy, who stars as Dr. Watson on the hit CBS show Elementary. "Soon I started to feel longer and leaner. Ten years of Pilates has really changed my body for the better."
In fact, at 44 the actress says she is fitter and healthier than ever. "I'm smarter, stronger, and more confident than I was in my twenties," Lucy says over lentil soup at ABC Kitchen in New York City. "I know who I am now, and I'm more accepting of myself." Read on to find out how she got to her happy place — and how you can too.
You always play fierce female characters. What's the toughest training you've done?
Charlie's Angels, because it was eight hours a day, five days a week. I thought I was fairly fit when I started, but I wasn't. The kind of moves we were doing with all the kicking — oh my god! I couldn't even lift my legs afterward.
You work 16-hour days shooting Elementary. How do you fit in exercise?
I don't always, but I can do Pilates at home with a ball and I have a treadmill. I run while watching Downton Abbey, and I increase the speed a little at a time, decrease it, and then raise it again. Each time, I say, "Just another 0.2 mile." I've found that running is the fastest way to lose weight.
How She Lost the Last Five Pounds
What does working out do for you?
Pilates and running help to clear my mind, and they really strengthen me. Pilates has engaged my core and made me feel more confident in that area. I don't have long legs, but through the combination of Pilates and running, they look longer and feel better than they ever have. And if I have time — which I don't these days — I'll take a yoga class, hike with [my chocolate Lab] Apple, or go for a swim.
How do you stay motivated?
A group of five of us — friends and friends of friends — got an e-mail chain going, and we all set goals: an ideal weight, inches we wanted to lose, eating habits we wanted to adopt. We would e-mail, saying "I ran today" or "I ate this," and we'd share recipes. Then we would celebrate by going to a show or taking a Pilates class when each of us reached our goal. We also celebrated mini milestones along the way to keep our motivation up.
What was your goal?
To lose the five extra pounds I've had for years, which I did. It may not sound like a lot, but for my height, it makes a big difference. And doing it with a support group of my girlfriends made it easier.
Do you feel pressure to be a certain size?
Part of being an actress is that people are going to judge you whether you gain or lose weight — it's just sort of a given. But I've never had issues with food. When I was growing up, my family didn't have a lot. So if there was food, I was going to eat it!
How do you stick to a healthy diet when you're working crazy hours?
When I'm exercising, I'm not as likely to eat sweets and junk food, because I tend to feel really good about myself and my body, so I don't want to ruin it. I have only juice before noon, usually made with bananas and berries. If I'm really hungry I might have a breakfast burrito with spinach, a fried egg, and tomatoes. For dinner I have fish with steamed vegetables or a salad. But I also eat veggie pizza or pasta, because when you're standing all day, it's a workout, and sometimes you need to carbo-load.
You seem so zen despite your hectic life. What's the secret?
I've been meditating twice a day for about two years now. It's helped me so much! It gives me a feeling of comfort and safety, and makes me feel as if I'm part of a bigger plan.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, March 2013.