Exclusive: Shay Mitchell on How She Motivates Herself to Workout at Home

She's trading eating in bed for this four-week fitness program.

Shay Mitchell

Shay Mitchell/ Design by Cristina Cianci

Shay Mitchell can now add fitness influencer to her growing list of accolades. The Pretty Little Liar alum recently announced a timely partnership with Openfit, a digital fitness platform that includes live classes, personalized instruction, and nutrition plans. I hopped on Zoom with the actress and entrepreneur to discuss her new partnership, as well as see what her routine is like these days in the wake of a very tumultuous year. Mitchell was warm and open, down-to-earth with a knack to make you feel automatically at ease and empowered at the same time; if I had to choose a virtual workout partner, I’m officially sold on Shay Mitchell.

Ahead, we chat about her new partnership with Openfit, the evolution of her personal fitness journey throughout quarantine, and what keeps her motivated.

You’re teaming up with Openfit to launch a new fitness program called Four Weeks of Focus. Can you share what it is all about?

Four Weeks of Focus is a four-week fitness program where we all exercise together for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. It’s curated and led by Kelsey Heenan, a really great trainer who does a lot of intense workouts from home. Kelsey, in combination with this program, makes working out seem less daunting—only 30 minutes a day seems very attainable and that’s what really got me. 

What makes this program so unique? 

Usually, people see highly produced workout videos after they’ve been heavily edited, you know? Four Weeks of Focus gives people the opportunity to see the workouts live and go behind the scenes the whole way through with us. It’s going to be really raw and unedited and is going to allow me to jump on social media to talk to and encourage everyone who is doing it with us. To be able to be like, "Wow, that one really hurt, right?" Or get to ask people how they felt about a workout is such a cool part of the program that I’ve never seen done before. 

The accountability piece is super important. Back when we were able to physically go to studios, it was so easy to go with a workout buddy to make sure you both were checking each other. Now that we are at home, we’ve lost that part. 

Totally. In the past, I’ve always needed somebody else like a trainer or a friend to get me to that workout and hold me accountable—now I feel like I have a bunch of friends who are able to do it with me while we go along so that’s really cool. 

How do you keep yourself motivated?

I truly believe, and this is what has happened at least for me before, that when I maintain healthy routines and stay active for four weeks straight, that’s when I’m like, "Okay, I got this. Let’s continue it." Because you feel good! What gets me through is knowing how good I’m going to feel four weeks from now. That light is at the end of the tunnel—it’s not three months, it’s not six months, it’s not even a year from now. It’s only four weeks from now and that’s enough time to see a change and that’s exciting. 

Okay, I have to ask—any funny or embarrassing work out stories to share? 

Oooh, yes. When I first started working out at home, I was exercising with a friend of mine who was cycling with everyone on a live Zoom workout. I had my camera on the whole time and didn’t realize it because I was only focusing on her. I only realized after when screenshots got sent to me from my friends who were doing it too. I definitely learned quickly after that to turn my camera off every time and to double-check that it’s actually off. 

And truthfully, there are so many stories I have like that but I think they are all funny when we look back. Nothing can ever be that serious. Fortunately for me, it takes a lot for me to feel quite embarrassed because I know there are things we all do as human beings that can be perceived as slightly embarrassing, but you just gotta roll with it. If it’s going to be something I laugh about in a little while from now, let’s just laugh earlier about it! 

I love how that mentality ties back to that sense of community you are cultivating through this program. You find your pack that you can laugh about these things with and that allows you to show up as your authentic self, to give it 100%, and to have the courage to let little slip-ups happen. 

Exactly. Plus, it’s obviously been a very isolating time for so many people right now—especially if you live alone or haven’t been able to see your friends and family. For so many of us, going to the gym was a way to see our community and our friends on a regular basis. It’s been so hard not to have that anymore. 

So even if you join the Facebook page and you just want to chat and need to get amped prior to starting, then join it. At least you can get connected to other people on there and see how they are while doing the program. You can stop and go at your own pace. We are all in this together and the community aspect is what I love. I'll definitely be active on the Facebook page and I’m excited to have that online community support as well. 

Switching gears to your own personal relationship with fitness and wellness—how has it changed or evolved since we’ve been in quarantine?

I think people who have followed me for a while know that I’ve been really active over the years. I genuinely do enjoy working out, I’ve been pretty healthy over the years. But last year was definitely not one of my best—I was admittedly intermittent, which in and of itself was challenging for me because I always feel my best when I’m healthier and taking time for myself by working out or getting a sweat in. At points last year, I’d get myself into a good routine then fall off a day later. One day off would become two days off, then it would turn into a week, then a month, then I was like okay, let’s just wait for next year to happen.

So my 2021 is about integrating small changes that I know I can stick to instead of trying to implement this big sweeping change. Little things like waking up in the morning and starting my day by drinking water with a lemon squeezed into it. That’s a small change that I can add to my daily routine that will pay off later and make me feel better. Then after that, I’m going to try not eating in bed so I don’t just fall asleep with a plate in my lap. You know, ask myself, mmm...maybe let’s not do that anymore, let’s eat in the kitchen and try to do it a couple of hours before I go to bed [laughs]. That’s also another small change that I can do that’s very simple but will make me feel so much better in the end. And I think when you start adding those little changes up slowly but surely, all of a sudden you’re going to be like, whoa, this a really good routine that I can stick to.

We all have those days where we just aren’t feeling it. How do you stay motivated through days like that?

It definitely can get tough. I mean there are some days where I feel more motivated to eat a lot of pizza and junk food and stay in bed [laughs]! But fitness is hard and obviously, there are days that are harder than others to make it a priority. I just always have to bring it back by reminding myself that I feel more energetic when I take that time for myself. I always, always feel better afterward. I promise you, no one has ever said, "I don’t feel better after that workout." Everybody does! Getting a sweat, boosting endorphins, dopamine comes up, you just feel better. 

You’re an actress, an entrepreneur, and a mom—how do you balance it all while finding time to prioritize fitness? 

Some days I’m running around with my hair completely frizzed out, trying to get through a single email while my kid is half-clothed. And other days, we’re a little more put together and I feel like I’m superwoman. Balance is being in grace with yourself and things just change from day to day. If you have a bad day, be easy on yourself and then go harder the next time you get a good night of rest. 

You never feel like you’re perfect every single day—and you shouldn’t! That’s not what this is about. It’s having those up and down days that make you appreciate when you do crush it. And regardless of that, if you’re putting in the effort to take care of your child, yourself, and your family the best way you can, you can never be upset with yourself. It may not always go exactly as you planned it or how you want it to be, but if you put in the effort then you did what you needed to do. And I say high-five to that.

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