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Rachel Brosnahan On Why She's All About Pushing Herself Out of Her Comfort Zone

Wrestling—yes, wrestling—is one of Rachel Brosnahan's many talents. "I was on my high school team," the 28-year-old actor says. "I'd always been curious about it. Then in my freshman year, when I didn't get a part in the musical Beauty and the Beast, I was devastated, and wrestling was there for me. I loved it! I won some matches; I lost some. I remember wrestling someone who was 119 pounds (I was 112) and getting pummeled. But I enjoyed how difficult the training was and watching my body change because of the work I was putting in."

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Photo: Ben Watts

Rachel relishes anything that pushes her out of her comfort zone. Take her role as Midge Maisel, a 1950s housewife who becomes a stand-up comic after her husband announces he's leaving her for his secretary. "What I had to do to play this part is something I never thought I could do—namely comedy," Rachel says. "I'd been told I wasn't funny, and that just felt true. This job has been immensely intimidating, especially in that department. But I have learned from Midge that it's so important not to tell yourself you can't do things." (Our go-to motivator and trainer Jen Widerstrom is also a big believer in the power of change. Here's why she says change is the ultimate way to upgrade your life.)

That confidence has led to opportunities she never could have imagined. Rachel, who just won her second Golden Globe for the role (she won an Emmy award last year), turned into a star almost overnight. "Nothing has changed, and yet everything has changed all at the same time," she says. "My life itself has stayed the same. I still live in the same apartment in New York. What has changed is that now I'm sitting in the same room with people I've long admired and been inspired by, like Steven Spielberg and Sarah Paulson. I have the opportunity to converse with and seek advice from them. Doors are opening for me that I never could have anticipated."

To navigate this busy new world, Rachel makes sure the rest of her life stays balanced. She has smart strategies and relies on them to be energized, strong—and ready for anything

Work Out Your Own Way

"Exercise keeps me focused and clearheaded. These days, I find it difficult to have any kind of set routine because my schedule seems to be constantly in flux. So I'm working out where I can and when I can. It's hard to hold on to a gym membership because I travel so much, but I've had fun finding new classes wherever I am. I like to take yoga or Pilates or Spinning. Classes are my preferred method because I have trouble self-motivating. If I'm left to my own devices in a hotel room or in my apartment, I probably will choose an extra hour of sleep. It's harder to skip a class you've signed up for. In truth, my most consistent form of exercise when I'm home is taking really long walks every day with my two dogs. I live in a fifth-floor walk-up, so I also get a lot of stair action in." (BTW, science says there are major benefits to taking workout classes instead of exercising alone.)

And Know When to Give Yourself a Break

"Sometimes I find that the best thing for my body is to just take that extra hour of sleep and not work out. I'm good at making time for self-care when I get overwhelmed. I read a book or take a bath or snuggle with my doggies and watch Survivor. I'm a Survivor superfan. Or I have coffee with friends. One of my favorite things is to spend the time catching up with someone doing nothing but drinking coffee with them for hours and hours."

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Photo: Ben Watts

Fuel Your Body with What It Needs

"I start a typical day with a green smoothie in my NutriBullet, or I eat a piece of gluten-free toast with a poached egg and some avocado. For lunch, I have a salad or a sandwich with some kind of protein—like salmon, chicken, or quinoa—and lots of vegetables, and I really like roasted root vegetables with fish for dinner. I'm not a great cook, but I can do simple things. I just try to change up the spices. My stay-healthy secret when I'm working 14- or 15-hour days on Mrs. Maisel is bone broth. For the first season of the show, I was feeling very tired. And because I have a fast metabolism, I felt like I was dropping weight in an unhealthy way. Bone broth has collagen and fat in it, along with all kinds of vitamins and minerals, and I really think it helped me. I was the only person on our set who didn't get sick that season. I have to credit the bone broth."

Remember: Family Is Everything

"When you lose someone you love [Kate Spade, Rachel's aunt, died last June], you search for ways to commemorate and honor them and keep their memory alive. This past year has obviously been very challenging for my family. Katy inspired me greatly as an artist and a human being, which is why I have partnered with Frances Valentine, the fashion brand she created, to celebrate her life and legacy and the impact that she and her work had on so many people. Spring was Katy's favorite season, and I love it too, so it felt like a perfect fit to be featured in the spring campaign wearing her beautiful collection."

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Photo: Ben Watts

You Can Make a Difference

"We're living in a moment when there are so many challenges we're facing as a country and in the world, and we all have a part to play. I've been a member of the board of Covenant House for the last two years, and I'm deeply inspired by the work it does. The organization serves homeless young people in 31 cities across the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. (Related: 9 Women Whose Passion Projects Are Helping to Change the World)

I got involved with them six years ago through an event called Broadway Sleep Out, in which you spend a night on the pavement in front of Covenant House to raise money and awareness about homeless young people. It was really special—I got to meet some of the residents, as well as some of the staff, who are incredible. It was one of the most moving nights I can remember.

I was so struck that these young people were my peers. With a very small shift in circumstances, we could be sitting on opposite sides of the table. Youth homelessness is such a huge problem in this country, and we do have the ability to solve it. We just have to allocate our resources better. In the meantime, this organization serves thousands of young people across the country every year, and I am so grateful to be working with them. Individually, we may not be able to solve the world's problems, but united, we can accomplish a heck of a lot."

 
 

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