She doesn't feel like she's putting herself through a workout when she's riding waves.

By Renee Cherry (reporting by Mary Anderson)
Photo: Zack Dougan

If you caught Leighton Meester's recent Shape cover interview, then you know IRL Leighton is less like the vindictive upper East sider she's best known for playing and more like her character Angie on Single Parents. For starters, her current workout of choice is very un-Blair Waldorf: Meester has been crushing waves surfing. (Related: Leighton Meester Is Supporting Hungry Kids Across the World for a Very Personal Reason)

Her husband (Adam Brody) grew up surfing and taught her how to ride waves, Meester told us. While she'll still occasionally take hikes or hit the gym, surfing has essentially been her only form of exercise over the past six months. One reason she loves the water sport is that it forces her to take a mental break. "Being in the ocean, there is something about it that makes you feel connected to nature and peaceful," she says. "You're not out there on your phone, you do not have to listen, and you're not in traffic listening to a podcast." The same can't be said for gyms, which tend to be abuzz with TVs and cellphones.

Another reason she loves surfing is that she actually finds it enjoyable, something anyone who's ever forced themselves through a tedious workout will appreciate. "Surfing is an amazing workout that you don't even realize you're getting," says Meester. The combination of having to stay engaged-by watching out for other surfers, using her core, etc.-and the meditative aspects of surfing take up all of her focus. "It's such a spiritual experience that you forget about the physical," she says. "You don't realize you're improving your heart and lung strength, which is a really great benefit." (BTW, surfing burns major calories, and works your arm, back, leg, and ab muscles.)

As she's leaned into surfing, Meester's fitness goals have shifted. "I have found that when I don't have a physical result in mind when I'm exercising-it's not just about getting sore or getting abs or burning fat-I feel much more confident," she says. "I'm working on a skill, and that is so fulfilling to me."


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