All that zombie fighting she does on The Walking Dead isn’t much different from how our January/February cover girl takes on a workout: The woman goes in for the kill
Lauren Cohan does not like to miss a workout. Her days on set can start as early as 4:30 a.m., and still the exercise diehard gets in a 20-minute (at the very least) sweat session beforehand, even if it means going to bed at 7:45 the night before. “When I don’t exercise in the morning, it’s a completely different day than when I do,” explains Lauren, 33, who stars in the horror movie The Boy, hitting theaters on January 22. “Working out gives me endorphins and makes me happy. I need it!” Lauren has five other rules she lives by, all equally designed to make her fit and healthy. You’ll want to listen in.
Move. Then move some more. “I am the queen of exercise variety. This week I was in L.A. and I took a Pure Barre class, went to Burn 60 [an interval workout class] twice, ran the track at UCLA, made it to the gym, and took a yoga class. I also really love to dance. I dance through workouts that aren’t even about dancing! At home, all my furniture is pushed to the edges of my living room so that I can dance around the room. Working out is harder when we’re on set. We film in Georgia, and I can’t go to classes. So I do exercise DVDs that have a lot of leg lifts, kicks, arm lifts—things that don’t need equipment. And I move all the time. I take the stairs, I do press-ups between scenes, and I do sit-ups before I eat lunch.”
Rely on fast food. "On Sundays I chop up tons of vegetables and make three or four Mason jars’ worth of dressings, and I throw dishes together at random during the week. With my schedule, it makes it so much easier to have things ready to go in my fridge. I eat healthy. But I splurge, too. My favorite is Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. I’m obsessed with them!”
Never go the easy route. “I like a challenge. I get such a sense of satisfaction when I push myself beyond what I thought I could do. That’s what any HIIT or interval training does for me. If I sprint at 9.5 for two minutes, I feel really good.”
Body shaming: Don’t tolerate it from anyone—most of all yourself. “I was very skinny as a kid, but when I was swimming and playing field hockey and just having fun, I never worried about how I looked. In my teens, though, I started to be more aware of my body, and I didn’t like being skinny. People made fun of me for it. So when I got to college, I ate a lot of junk and I gained weight. I loved it because I didn’t stand out as a bony girl anymore! Eating became a way of not getting attention for looking too skinny, but it was also self-sabotage. In the last few years, I’ve gotten back on track with exercising for fun and eating right, and now I’m in a happy place with myself.”
Know when you need to just do nothing. “My brain is hyperactive; I probably would have been diagnosed with ADD as a kid if that had been a thing back then. I can also be really hard on myself. So every once in a while, I need to do a 10-day meditation retreat. I go to a place where you don’t bring your phone and you don’t talk to other people—you just meditate. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but it’s so worth it. It helps me chill out, stay in the moment, and stop worrying about the future."
For more from Lauren Cohan, pick up Shape's January/February issue, on newsstands January 1.