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How Exercise Keeps Ellie Kemper in Unbreakable Shape

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Actress Ellie Kemper is smart, funny and adorable—and crazy about fitness. In fact, she’s a little like Kimmy, the character she plays on Netflix’s hot new show The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. “Kimmy is strong and determined, but she has a childlike wonder about everything because she’s been underground trapped in a cult for fifteen years,” says Ellie, 34. Since the show debuted on Netflix, Ellie will likely become a household name, but don’t expect her to go all Hollywood. Her workouts, she says, help her keep it real. Ellie exercises five to six days a week, and she mixes up her routine with running, indoor cycling, and barre classes. Here are 8 health and fitness secrets she shared with us.

Workouts take her to her happy place.“If I don’t do some sort of exercise in a day, I do get in a terrible mood. That’s always been true. But I think when I was younger, maybe 10 years ago, I’d be exercising for the sake of maintaining weight and appearing a certain way. But now it’s more about the overall, the whole peace of it. I want to have a lifetime of good health, so it’s about keeping the whole thing in balance.”

She’s nuts about SoulCycle.“Depending on the instructor, it can be the best part of my day and it motivates me. It’s such a good workout. I mean, it’s just the best cardio that I do.”

She’s got tons of energy.“It manifests in different ways. Sometimes it’s anxiety, sometimes it’s enthusiasm. I think doing some physical activity helps to calm things down, which is good. But I’m a worrier. I can make a good thing into a bad thing very quickly. A piece of good news will arrive and I’m happy for about a second, or maybe a minute, and then I’m all, ‘Well what if this goes wrong? What if this happens, or that?’”

She likes to push herself ….“There are days where it’s like, it took so much effort just to put the running shoes on that once you’re on the run you don’t feel like pushing yourself that hard. I think that’s OK. You made some effort. But I would say on the whole, I’m pretty good about pushing myself to the point of knowing that I really can’t work any harder. I feel like I can do that so long as I know there is an end goal. So for the next two minutes, it’s going to be very awful, and then it’s going to be a breeze.”

…but she’s not a masochist. “No! The good part is when it’s over. In Bar Method I think they say “embrace the shake” and think of it as pleasure. Well no, no, no! I could never associate being in so much pain as pleasure. It’s like, HARD! But I think that’s what’s great about it: You know it’s going to be hard and then it’ll be over. That can translate to life.”

A few extra pounds won’t send her over the edge. “In college I gained the Freshman 15. That was because of the frozen yogurt machine. And I would have Cap ‘n’ Crunch and I would mix that with Cracklin’ Oat Bran as an amuse bouche before lunch. My first big break was on The Office, and the show is about normal-looking people. I think if my first thing had been Gossip Girl, where it was all about looking sleek, that would have been harder.”

There must be ice cream her freezer. At all times. I always have ice cream in the house. I have a bowl of it, and then a bit more. One of the greatest pleasures in my life is going back and getting a second half-bowl. The first bowl is just the prelude. It’s been harder, though, the older I get. My body can’t process it as well. I feel a little too full and bloated. But it’s not enough to keep me from it.

She has actually laughed so hard that she’s peed in her pants. It happened once on The Office—well, twice, but only once that people knew about. We were filming this scene where we were all on a bus and John Krasinski and Oscar Nunez were doing this thing…I don’t even remember what it was, but they were doing something so funny and I just started laughing and I realized, “Well, I wet my pants.” You can’t hide something like that on a bus. So I said, “I’ve accidentally wet myself.” It’s so funny: the women were like, “Uh-oh, you need a new pair of pants.” And all the guys were grossed out.

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