The boxing champ and daughter of Muhammad Ali has teamed up with the USTA to promote a healthy lifestyle and staying fit through tennis
Laila Ali may be the daughter of the ultra-famous, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, but she’s also made quite the name for herself over the years. Not only is the gorgeous, fit mom an undefeated, four-time world champion boxer, she was just named NBC’s first female boxing analyst. She’s also a clean-eating advocate (who is also a big fan of cheat days!), an exercise enthusiast, one of our 15 fitness muses to inspire your workout, and a spokesperson for the United States Tennis Association's (USTA) Youth Tennis. In fact, she’s not so bad with a racquet herself!
Recently, we caught up with Ali to find out her tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle (amidst a super busy schedule), what she thinks about the #LikeAGirl campaign, and what else she does to stay in shape now that she’s put down her gloves. Need some fitspiration? Read on!
Shape: What’s one thing everyone should know about a boxing workout?
Laila Ali [LA]: Even though you’re focusing on the upper body, it’s a full body workout. With a good instructor who encourages you to use proper technique, you’ll use your lower body, back, and core. Your stance and power come from your lower body—not from throwing your arms. (It's actually the Best Workout for a Knockout Body—pun intended!)
Shape: What does your go-to workout consist of?
LA: I’m really liking circuit training these days. In the gym, I’ll warm up on a heavy bag for 15 minutes; do a treadmill workout, which is usually a lot of sprinting or high incline work for 15 minutes; I'll go on the elliptical for a workout there; then lower and upper body work—lunges, squats, and upper body high-rep exercises with 10 pound weights. It’s fast-paced. It makes you sweat. It makes you burn. Usually, it’s a 45-minute workout, but some days I’ll do 90 minutes. If I don’t go to the gym, I’ve been enjoying tennis.
Shape: How’s your tennis game?
LA: Well, I played growing up. I liked it, but I got frustrated with it and didn’t continue. Going back to it has been an easy transition—they’ve made equipment changes like smaller racquets that make tennis more fun for me and my kids. My kids know the importance of being active—and that’s why teaming up with the USTA was such an organic fit for me. They are making strives to get families outside—and using tennis as a way to get kids to stay active. (Are Your Parents to Blame for Your Bad Workout Habits?)
Shape: Who would you challenge in a tennis match if you had the chance?
LA: (Laughs.) Knowing that I would lose, I would go for Serena. She’s somebody that makes me wish I had stuck with tennis—if I had, I could have hung in with her!
Shape: Going back to your kids, what’s your best advice for squeezing ing a workout and sticking to a healthy lifestyle, even with a busy schedule?
LA: It has to be a priority. I have to get a workout in in the morning. Once my day starts, I’ll have the best intentions and it still won’t happen: one of the kids needs to be picked up somewhere, I have to hop on a conference call, or I’m just tired. So I get it done in the a.m. But give yourself leeway! I’ll choose rest over working out sometimes—it’s just as important. I am consistent and I know I’ll get right back on it, so I do allow myself to rest without feeling guilty.
Shape: What’s the best thing your dad ever taught you?
LA: My dad lived by example. I lived by watching him. I watched all the great things he did and said. I try to walk that talk for my children.
Shape: We saw you recently you became NBC Boxing’s first female analyst—congrats! You’ve obviously made a name for yourself fitness-wise and professionally. Amidst the #LikeAGirl campaign and other struggles for women’s rights, what would your advice be to women on pushing the boundaries and showing their strengths?
LA: First of all, don’t be afraid of the power from within. Be the best you can be and never worry about 'dumbing it down' or intimidating anyone. Own it! And don’t be discouraged by what others say—everyone has opinion. All that matters is how you let that affect you. You have to be focused and know your game plan, but stay strong. Some people’s main purpose is to discourage others because they haven’t reached success. Steer clear of those people. (Find out what other Professional Athletes Think of Always' "Like a Girl" Campaign.)
Shape: Any sweat-proof beauty tips?
LA: I think ladies need to take the makeup off before going to the gym. Everyone wants to look cute at the gym, I get it, but you don’t want to clog up your pores with makeup then go run errands. Eat clean. Drink a lot of water. And try steamy showers to open up your pores.
Shape: What are three foods that are always in your fridge?
LA: Greens, or stuff to make a salad; some sort of almond milk or coconut milk; and fresh fruit.
Shape: Do you believe in cheat days?
LA: Oh yeah. I have a cheat day once a week, and when I cheat, I cheat with sweets—like a good baked peach cobbler à la mode. (Psst! Try this under-300 calories Sweet Peach Cobbler.) I believe in eating clean throughout week, but I tend to indulge. What has changed is that I’m not always eating junk when I splurge. I might get a sweet made with almond flour instead of regular flour—it’s not as unhealthy, but still not something you’d eat every day. The more you educate yourself about why the bad foods are bad, the less you want to indulge in them anymore.