For Mary J. Blige, it all started with a karaoke booth at age 17. Nine Grammys later, the 42-year-old is still going strong. Now married to her manager, she’s releasing a new holiday album and vows to stay fit throughout the holiday season by indulging without overdoing it. Her secret? “My main exercise is cardio,” she says in her interview with SHAPE. “The treadmill is fine but running outdoors gives me the best results. I try to log 6 to 8 miles a week. I could be in the worst mood, but when I do my cardio I feel much, much better.”
Her body has changed with age, she admits, and so she’s tailored her workouts to fit. Aside from running, Blige sticks to strength training from her trainer and recently learned to swim to give her cardio plan en extra kick. “At first it was very hard, but once I got in the water and figured out how to breathe, it was so liberating.” Diet, of course, plays a central role in how she looks and especially how she feels. She cut out sugar for three weeks before her cover shoot and sticks to a gluten-free, dairy-free and low-carb diet most of the time.
Another big lifestyle change has been cutting out alcohol, which she did following Whitney Houston’s death. “Others may be able to drink and have a great time, but it doesn’t work for me at this point,” she says. “I haven’t had a drink in a year and three months. I had quit for a long time but started again about five years ago. I’m off it completely once more, and now I feel stronger than ever.”
For more on Mary’s diet, her holiday album, plus a strength routine from her trainer, JR Allen, pick up the current issue of SHAPE, on newsstands and iPads nationwide November 25.