Why Mindy Kaling works out: ‘I need to live a long time because I’m a single mom’

Mindy Kaling gave a completely charming interview to Byrdie to promote a new sponsorship. Personally, I love that Kaling consistently looks to get involved with corporate sponsorships and partnerships. I find it cool that businesses want to get in business with Mindy Kaling. Propel Water went to Kaling and asked her to become the spokesperson for their Joy of Working Out campaign. She’s a great spokesperson for that kind of thing, as evidenced by this interview. Mindy talks about how she actually loves to work out and try different things, even if she knows she’s never going to really look ripped. The point is the “joy” of it, the therapy of it, the mental and physical health of it. Some highlights:

Why she’s doing this campaign: “I was so thrilled and surprised when Propel wanted to work with me. I love working out, but I think that is a surprise to people because I look like the average American woman. Many people like me are largely left out of the narrative of people who work out because I don’t look like a personal trainer. But I work out four or five times a week, and it’s like my replacement for therapy. I find it completely joyous.

Fitness isn’t about how you look: “I used to look at fitness as, like, It’s not successful unless you look a certain way at the end of it, and I’m never going to look a certain way. I used to think there was no point if I wasn’t running for 45 minutes five times a week and then doing an hour of lifting. But, the point is that I feel so much better mentally if I’m in better cardiovascular health. I think a lot of it was helped by the fact that I had kids. Working out means I can avoid things like diabetes, hypertension, and other things I am at high risk for. Now that I have kids, it isn’t just about looking hot because I’m an actress. I need to live a long time because I’m a single mom. Now I’m like, Okay, there’s different levels of fitness, It’s not something profound, but it was something that I needed to learn. I honestly used to be embarrassed to say, “Yeah, I work out four or five times a week,” because I didn’t look the way some people thought I should. But working out makes me feel joyous, centered, and focused.

What workouts work for her: “I’m that person who loves trendy things. I had a friend who was like, “Let’s do Pilates on a reformer machine.” I did it, and it was so hard, but I loved it. I did a class where I was on a plate that shook, and you would do strength exercises on the plate. I’m just into trends. I love going to new fitness studios and seeing how they set up their lockers. I love seeing people in their workout gear. I love the culture of working out.”

Her morning routine: “The first thing I do is drink an enormous amount of water with lemon against my will. I never feel like doing it, but I don’t drink coffee, so the water wakes me up. Then I put sunscreen on my face and hang out with my daughter before taking her to school. When I come back, I work out. I feel like you have to earn your shower, so I have to bring my kid to school, come home, and work out. Then, I’m like, Oh, I earned my shower.

Writing shows about young women: “I feel so lucky that I get to write shows about young women. Every day, I am struck by how brave and authentic the young women I’m working with are. I was kind of repressed and not comfortable in my skin when I was their age. They are courageous activists and not ashamed of being that way. They love their bodies, and they’re still quirky. Writing for young women keeps me young. People underestimate young people a lot, and I’ve learned so much by doing research for all these shows. It’s a blessing.”

[From Byrdie]

Wow, she makes great points. I’m also don’t look like someone who is active and enjoys working out, but I am that person. I love long walks and hikes. I walk four-to-five miles six days a week. I lift weights (sometimes). But I don’t look like it, and at this point in my life, I’m not doing it so that I’ll fit into a certain size or whatever. It is about just wanting to feel good, and wanting to get outside or zone out on a treadmill. The only thing I don’t like about Mindy’s answers is… “earn my shower.” WTF? I can’t just go for hours in the morning without taking a shower. I don’t have to “earn” it. I shower to start my day.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Instagram.

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32 Responses to “Why Mindy Kaling works out: ‘I need to live a long time because I’m a single mom’”

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  1. Emmi says:

    Oh yes. I’m a runner but I don’t necessarily look it. I don’t care anymore. Cardio used to be all about calories and the scale and that’s over. I’m over it and now I’m just happy and proud when my doctor tells me I’m healthy and my bloodwork looks excellent. When I sleep well and my digestion is good. I’ve seen so many people around me deal with serious illnesses and/or the effects of a life without exercise plus processed foods so my goals have changed dramatically in recent years.

    • Maggie says:

      I totally get the shower thing. It is a motivator I used when I started working out because I also dislike sweating. I would hold off on the shower until the end of the workout because that was my reward for doing it. If I took a shower first…….I would not want to sweat!

    • It Really Is You, Not Me says:

      I am a runner too and there are a lot of us who don’t look like it, especially distance runners. I put on 10 lbs every time I run a marathon because I am just hungry all the time with the higher mileage. Losing weight is about what you eat more than how much you exercise. A lot of people who are cardiovascularly fit (made up a word there) don’t fit the slender Caucasian female stereotype. Good for Mindy for being open about that.

  2. Kokiri says:

    I get what she’s saying.
    It is good to work out, to be healthy & try.
    But I was diagnosed with hypertension at 46. Nothing I can or could do about it, I eat well & work out, blah blah, but I’m on meds for life.
    Sometimes life happens & throws it at you, regardless.
    I hope she’s prepared for that, because she sounds a bit “head in the sand”.

    ETA: the “I’m trendy” is strange, to me. Really, if all you ever did was walk consistently, you’d be doing a great service to yourself. All the fads, her need to fads, reminds me a bit of Oprah? Always searching for something that they can’t & wont ever find in workouts (or food). But she does sound a healthier attitude than Oprah, I think.

    • OriginalLaLa says:

      this is 10000% true – my friend’s mom, lifelong vegetarian, healthy eater, never smoked or drank, regular exerciser..had a heart attack last year. She survived but it was a huge wake up call that lifestyle helps reduce risk but certainly doesn’t get rid of all risk — you can’t out-exercise your genes.

    • Chica says:

      Some people don’t like doing the same thing over and over, so perhaps that’s why she has an affinity for trends. Having novelty for working out, could be a way that keeps things interesting enough to not get bored by something you enjoy.

      • Kara says:

        Exactly. I get bored easily with working out, and just going for a walk doesn’t get me the sweat I want. I’ve settled in on Pilates reformer as my favorite workout, but I’m always on the hunt for something new to try, I’m a Mindy!

      • anne says:

        @kokiri She sounds the complete opposite of “head in the sand” — she knows she’s at risk of certain medical conditions, so she’s doing what SHE can do to help minimize the risks. She doesn’t say that working out is the cure or will 100% prevent health issues. If you ask medical professionals and look at any studies, they all support the notion that exercise can help you feel better physically and emotionally.

        At the end of the day, the “best” workout for someone is one that they’ll do. If she wants to try every trendy workout there is, good for her. At least she’s DOING something and not forcing herself to do a workout that she considers a chore or boring.

        That’s basically the (brilliant) value proposition of Classpass — you pay to be able to take classes at different studios/gyms that you never would have tried before because you might find that you love something completely new and different.

    • North of Boston says:

      So true! Genetics are incrediblely powerful. Doing what you can to ward off or delay onset of stuff like diabetes or high blood pressure or cardiac disease is great, as is being aware of the medical history of your family so you can keep an eye on early warning signs and get things treated sooner rather than later, or adjust your lifestyle habits based on what’s going on in your particular body.

      But it’s also good to be aware that some stuff is just baked in based on your family history, and it’s not a failure, you are not bad if you develop those conditions at some point ex – BL trainer Bob is not a bad person or someone who failed to live an active enough lifestyle causing his massive heart attack, he just couldn’t out run, out meal plan his genes. So you can avoid black/white thinking about it, work towards overall or even incremental benefits instead of going all or nothing, and have more compassion less judgement for people with those conditions… including yourself if it comes to that (there’s a great Ted talk from a former ER doctor- super fit healthy living marathon runner- who was scornful of a ER patient who was suffering issues due to Type 2 diabetes… he thought “this lazy person brought this on herself and doesn’t deserve to be treated like a human being” Not long after he developed Type 2 diabetes himself, despite having “done everything right” and was like hang on, wait, what? And then felt awful about how horribly he viewed and treated that patient. (He also went off on a exploration, research tangent about the real causes, contributing factors for developing Type 2 diabetes and how to best manage it to avoid bad complications))

      But good for her for what she’s doing, sounds like it’s working for her in a lot of ways.

    • Thinking says:

      I think she’s more or less pointing out that exercise for her isn’t just for the benefits of looking like a model, which is why she was embarrassed to tell people that she works out 5 days a week. Overall, imo, that might have been her larger point, not necessarily being unrealistic about the possibility of other things happening out of her control.

  3. ShazBot says:

    Having kids totally increased my anxiety about dying and made me want to live healthier, so I get it.
    And YES to you can be healthy and fit and still not “look like” someone who is because we have such a warped culture of fitness and health.

  4. OriginalLaLa says:

    I had to basically stop working out for a bit, and I’m in the process of re-developing a relationship with exercise that doesn’t revolve around punishment and negative feelings towards my body (like Mindy, no matter how much I exercise or eat right I’m just an average gal). I started going for long walks just for the fun of it (no step counters etc) and I’m slowly trying to find exercise that I enjoy but that doesn’t make me obsess about my body, calories etc.
    It’s a journey.

    • Kokiri says:

      I wish you the best on your journey, because it’s not easy.

      I wonder about Mindy here too, her idea that a shower is earned. Rewards for basic needs (food, hygiene, etc) is usually indicative of deeper issues, or at least an unhealthy balance somewhere.

      • Mimsy says:

        I think I get what she she means – for me, once I shower I am not planning to workout that day. That is how I read it, like habit stacking , where you do the thing you have to do before the thing you want to do.

  5. Mila says:

    I love Mindy she killed me on the office and I’ve been watching the Mindy project- I got the DVD set- I love it so much. I struggle with weight/body stuff too I’ve been on a journey all year it’s very tough

  6. Bettyrose says:

    Word. I do Pilates 3x week. I do that to keep my body in shape for running and hiking. I’m training for a half marathon. And I weigh more now than I ever have. Exercise is great for your body and mind. But I burned 2000 calories on an intense hike last weekend. Which is enough calorie burn to drop *one pound*. And then I was sore and rested for two days. So that pound came back. Age has absolutely fked my metabolism but I intend to be running marathons in my 50s and 60s. My medal 🏅 rack is already overflowing.

    • SusieQ says:

      @BettyRose: I adore Pilates! I started a Pilates routine last year since I now WFH full-time. And oh my gosh, it makes me feel so good! Jessica Valant Pilates is fantastic. I live in a semi-rural lake area, so there aren’t a lot of gyms close to my house. I can do Pilates during work breaks, and it has been seriously amazing for me, mentally and physically.

      • Bettyrose says:

        I wish I’d started Pilates younger. In the last six months it’s made such a huge difference. My posture is better, my balance is improved, and my arms are so much more toned!

    • TwinFalls says:

      Same. I went on five mile hike up and down a mountain with my kids last weekend and I was so thankful to be in the shape to do it. Being outside, being active, being with my kids are my favorite things in life. Daily exercise is so I can continue to do things like that, not fit into a certain outfit anymore.

      • bettyrose says:

        @TwinFalls – Exactly! It’s also the best therapy. And when I see elderly people on trails, I’m so inspired.

    • Mila says:

      I’m actually starting Pilates on Monday I’m excited

      • Bettyrose says:

        Yaaay! Enjoy it. I’ll say this though if you’re doing a reformer class (which is what I do) it can sometimes be hard at first. I was queasy from the motion of the machine for the first couple classes, I got over it though. Someone recommended YouTube videos that help with realigning a thingy in your ears to control dizziness.

  7. manda says:

    Exactly. If I exercised bc I thought it would change the appearance of my body, I would have given up a long time ago. It’s all about trying to take care of my heart and my bones, and keeping moving bc my mom never moved, and now she’s 85 and can barely walk.

    The iphone health app has a thing that will assess your gait to tell you if you might have mobility issues in the future! Except my phone is too old to have that, but when I upgrade, I will check that out 🙂

  8. Beenie says:

    I love Mindy. I like and respect the message of this interview (exercise is important for all bodies and ages). And I’m happy she’s talking about health in a reasonable, achievable way.

    But I hate single use plastic bottled water 🙁

  9. SamC says:

    I used to think it had to be all cardio and weights but also finally accepted that I’m never going to look like a super fit buff person. Added yoga and barre to the mix and love trying new activities, even if I don’t pursue.

    I’ve also unfollowed my gym on social media, and am debating changing, as it’s moved from a very inclusive, community type vibe to where all they promote are the super hard core classes/members, with text like “this class will kill you.”

  10. Sealit says:

    I’ve been running, playing sports and working out since I was 8. Now almost 40 years later I’m coming to terms with the fact that I will never look like I did at my peak athlete days in college. Back when my coach would end practice with the “suggestion” we meet on our own time later to do some conditioning. My whole life has been centered around fitness, sports and having a certain look. I have to remind myself I need to work out to be strong, not skinny.

  11. Andrea says:

    I workout with a personal trainer 2 times per week and try to walk 10k per day (on really hot days I don’t). I also do Pvolve 2 times per week in the winter. I am overweight, but have more energy than I did when I was 50 lbs thinner and am the tonest I ever have been. Doctor found my b12 was low, so I take a supplement for that and honestly feel like I have the energy of a 20 year old at 41. It isn’t about the scale, but how you feel.

  12. Malificent says:

    Assuming that Mindy is also a sole parent, rather than an unmarried co-parent, there is an extra level of primal fear that comes with knowing that your children will be orphans if something happens to you.

    • Christine says:

      Yep, I completely relate to Mindy with this one. I am fortunate enough to have two brothers, both of whom are fantastic fathers, so I know my son won’t be left unloved and alone, but still, it’s terrifying.

  13. Lou says:

    I love Mindy! And I love her view on fitness here. I am the same (with the same short, stockier physique) and she is so relatable. She’s gorgeous without being long and lanky, and I love it. Go Mindy!