Michelle Yeoh on exercise: ‘You have to get past the first 5 mins, then adrenaline kicks in’

Michelle Yeoh is in the running for an Oscar nomination for Everything Everywhere All at Once. I liked the film, didn’t love it, but I do agree with Michelle getting a nomination. I thought she turned in a great performance. I usually enjoy Michelle on screen, which is why it surprised me to learn that she still worries how her performances will be received. I guess EEAaO was a bit of a departure for her, which is why she worried about it more than some others. But it ended up exposing a whole new generation to her. What’s fantastic about all of this is that while Michelle is amazing in mainstream films like Crazy Rich Asians, she’s heralded as an action star. And when you are as agile as Michelle is, you get to keep being an action star in your 60s. So how does she do it? Michelle told the LA Times that she knows how to look after herself better now than when she was young.

On aging in film: You know, you get to be my age and you can see it literally slipping through your fingers, because you are no longer that prime age. The worst is when people think, ‘Oh, she doesn’t look like she did in her 20s, so she can’t physically do the same things.’ What they don’t understand is that I’ve learned some things over the years, and I’m more clever and smarter in how I can sustain my stamina. I’m as fit as I was before, because I know how to look after myself much better than when I was younger.

What she wants people to take from EEAaO: You know, older women can still have these crazy adventures! If people learn nothing else from this movie, I hope it’s that!

How she starts her day: Before I even get out of bed, I start meditating and I do my mantra. I wake my body up slowly. I’ve had injuries over the years, so I have to rectify them. It starts from within. I tell my body, ‘I’m sorry. Forgive me of all the things I’ve done to you. And thank you.’

She advises to push past the pain: You have to get past the first five minutes, and then the adrenaline kicks in and you get into a groove.

On being cool at 60: Teenagers will come up to me at the supermarket and say, ‘You’re cool! Can we have a picture with you?’ Outwardly, I’ll smile and say, ‘Of course!’ But inwardly, I’m pumping my fist, screaming, ‘Yes! Finally! I’m cool!

[From LA Times]

In the article, Michelle gives an idea of her daily workout: stretching, core exercises and, if possible, a hike. If not, the elliptical machine. I love the moment when the adrenaline kicks in and exercise becomes therapy. It’s harder now, though. Mostly because I don’t go as hard as I used to. Plus I’m finding it takes so much to shut out the noise of life while working out these days. Maybe if I did Michelle’s mediation and apologies, I could go into it with a clearer mind. However, I do agree with Michelle that it takes a mental push to get through the exercise, whether it’s five minutes for adrenaline to kick in or a Just Do It attitude to get to the other side. Because there will be days you can’t wait to hit the treadmill and other days you wish an earthquake would topple a bookshelf on it.

I love what Michelle said about how much smarter she is about her body at 60. I think this is something that’s not focused on enough. We do know so much more about what we need, when we need breaks – both physical and mental – and what we can and can’t do after 40. The sad thing is that’s treated as a frailty because we ‘indulge’ in rests and recouping as a result of this knowledge. When truthfully, listening to our bodies makes us so much stronger. Just look at Michelle, she’s living proof.

And honestly, Michelle has been cool her whole life. Teenagers are just catching up.

Photo credit: Getty Images for Netflix, Instagram and Blaine Ohigashi and Jeffrey Mayer/Avalon

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20 Responses to “Michelle Yeoh on exercise: ‘You have to get past the first 5 mins, then adrenaline kicks in’”

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  1. Veronica S. says:

    They colloquially call it “runner’s high,” and I’m unfortunately here to tell you that it’s entirely a genetic lottery whether or not you benefit from that effect. Exercise is a slog from start to finish for me. I do it because it’s good for my body and keeps me stronger, but I don’t enjoy it. It’s harder after developing thyroid disease, and it’s downright annoying after I developed chronic hives and break out in itchy rashes every time I do it, even with allergy meds.

    I can’t afford to not take care of myself, so I do it, but I absolutely see why people with more serious medical issues let themselves go. There’s a point where it’s just one more physically demanding chore to put your body through. Count yourself lucky if you’re somebody who gets to enjoy it lol.

    • SpankyB says:

      Yeah, I’ve never gotten that runner’s high either. I hate exercise and working out. I’ve found if I have an obligation to someone, either a trainer or just hiking with a friend, I’ll do it, no problem. But if I have to do it alone I most likely won’t. I hate it so much I actually called an Uber to pick me up in the middle of a hike/walk once.

    • Sealit says:

      That totally stinks. I’ve never heard it’s genetic and not everyone gets it. It’s the best part of my morning. I feel like my biggest obstacle is getting out of bed at 5 to go running. But once I’m up, I’m good. It’s such a habit now after 40 years, I’m kind of lost if I miss my run.

      • Emme says:

        I feel better at the end of an exercise session than before it, despite crippling osteoarthritis, so agree with Michelle. But it’s not after the first 5 mins…..it’s usually after the first 50 mins!
        Utterly adore that dress in the header pic. Classy and gorgeous.

  2. Becks1 says:

    this is a very timely article for me as I”m literally sitting here at my desk trying to muster up the motivation to go downstairs and get on the bike. I’m already dressed, I just literally need to….go downstairs, and I don’t wanna lol. But I know I’ll feel better after I do.

    i don’t ever get runner’s highs, but after the first 5-10 minutes of almost any workout I do feel better and get into the groove. When I try a barre class I always start out thinking “no way can I do this” and then I do it. There’s a saying, never judge a run by the first mile, and I try to think of that when I’m working out in whatever way.

    But there are some days when it just sucks and I just finish and i’m like well, that was bad, lol.

    anyway I love Michelle Yeoh!

  3. Mcmmom says:

    I *love* her – she’s been an inspiration for years. I first saw her in “Tomorrow Never Dies” and then adored her in “Crouching Tiger.” I thought “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was an odd film, but I loved the cast. She makes me feel good about aging.

  4. Lady Esther says:

    I am so rooting for Michelle to win her Oscar for what was for me my favourite movie of the year and one of my all-time favourite movies. So deep philosophically, so creative visually, and it’s told from the POV of an older woman AND an Asian which is so damned rare! And hilariously entertaining to boot. The movie was *chef’s kiss* and I will be there on Oscar night hoping she wins (second place, Noomi Rapace in You Won’t Be Alone, or Florence Pugh in The Wonder, both were crazy good).

    On exercise, there was a good thread here on Celebitchy a week or two ago which discussed this in relation to menopause (heartfelt thanks to the CBer that recommended Vitamin E for hot flashes, I think it’s working well). I totally agree with Michelle, as you age you just have to take things slow. Find some exercise you love to do and that will motivate you more than the “I want to be thin” stuff you worry about when you’re younger. When I found swimming, everything changed. Now I can’t wait to get into the pool and I’m grumpy when I can’t. I love her suggestion for meditation and positive body self-talk in the mornings, I’m totally going to try that…

    oh and runner’s high is the BEST. So amazing. I have to sit down and enjoy it for at least an hour…brain chemistry is an amazing thing lol

    • JJStephie says:

      Same! I loved her since bond/crouching tiger and am so thrilled to see her finally get some attention — and that movie was my favourite of the year, if not the last five years. Tho I guess it hit me especially hard because I’ve been someone who is good at a lot of things but never felt a true calling, and also have a queer teen daughter who wrestles with the same things, this film felt made for me and I both cried so hard and laughed so hard.

      I’m curious to try swimming again as we have a pool just down the block, do you do classes or laps? Do you ever feel awkward?

      Want to try her wakeup ritual too…

      • Lady Esther says:

        @JJStephie I do it on my own, I used to swim a lot when I was a teenager and did competitive diving so I just had to get back in the saddle, to mix metaphors. I read online about it, watched a bunch of YouTube videos and found a technique I love and can follow, it’s basically all about making yourself as aquadynamic as possible, to cut through the water cleanly and create as little resistance as you can. Here’s some info about it:

        I do about 30-40 minutes of laps alternating crawl, breastroke and backstroke a few times a week and alternate with weights or elliptical at home the other days. Laps suit me because I’m an introvert but my mother loves her aquagym classes, she’s met lots of nice people and has lots of fun.

        But it took a LONG time, yes I felt completely awkward and self-conscious at first (and fat as hell in my middle-aged swimsuit) but then I realised that most of the people in the pool were olds like me and no one cares how YOU look, they’re all concentrating on themselves. I’m not going for the Olympics lol and I have to be careful with my left shoulder so I don’t overdo it…Michelle’s advice is spot on. And I’m liberal with the ibuprofen if I need to be!

  5. Yup, Me says:

    I love working out with a buddy. Mostly my husband because he pushes me and encourages me (and knows how to use all of the machines) but lots of people make great gym buddies.

    If I don’t have a buddy and I need motivation, I turn on a YouTube talk by some of my favorite fitness teachers (the folks who are talking about scientific approaches to meeting your gains goals while keeping your body healthy and injury free).

    I’ll be using that gentle awakening and talking to my injuries approach from now on, too.

    Great article and inspiration.

  6. Mash says:

    Personally I’ve noticed it kick in for me at the 15 min mark when I’m at the gym

  7. teehee says:

    The harder part for I think anyone, is actually going out to do it.
    Thinking about things makes them seem harder than they ever really are.
    Don’t think, just do!

    Once I hit the trail moving, I am on a cloud, so …. I usually have to stop myself at some point cos I just like to keep going

  8. Luna17 says:

    Michelle is a goddess and I just love her. She was the best part of Star Trek discovery and I hope she gets the spin off at some point.

  9. RMS says:

    God forbid any of the wonderful celebitchy folks gets cancer, but if that awfulness happens, let me assure you that making time to exercise every day will make ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Usually antidepressants are one of the first drugs oncologists prescribe, pain meds if you’ve got a particularly uncomfortable cancer. Next to proper hydration (especially on chemo days), exercise will help you stay away from those two additional medications. Even for the 8 months I was on a walker, I swam, rode the stationery bike (once I was allowed), or even walked around the neighborhood on that damned walker. It helped me to sleep, it helped me to survive the expensive poisoning, it kept co-morbidities at bay, it helped silence the voice of frightened desperation in my head. Making a habit of it before you get ill makes it easier to stay in the groove. Every doctor will tell you that if the benefits of exercise could be distilled into a pill, it would be a miracle best selling drug.

    • Lady Esther says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. Your courage is inspiring – I will hold the image of you walking around the neighborhood in your walker in my mind and heart – and it is tremendous motivation for getting my butt in gear no matter how I’m feeling!

  10. Petra (Brazen Archetyed Phenomenal Woman) says:

    For me is more like 10 minutes, and it has to be in the morning before work. I’ve tried to exercise in the afternoon or evening with no luck.

  11. DeluxeDuckling says:

    She deserves the oscar for it.

  12. Kirsten says:

    That yellow velvet dress is so good, and she looks great in it.

  13. Nicegirl says:

    She’s amazingly beautiful, talented and so dang cool!

    Love her so much too in Memoirs of a Geisha 💕