Ask most celebrities about how they stay in such great shape, and they give some lame answer like running after their kids or walking their dog. (Yeah, right.) But not Hilary Swank.
The 43-year-old actress has a strong, sculpted physique that would probably make an American Ninja Warrior jealous. And no, she didn’t earn it from chasing a toddler at the playground. How do we know this? Because Swank documents all the hard work that goes into staying in shape after 40 on her wildly popular Instagram account. What’s more, she does it with an upbeat, no-nonsense attitude that’s both infectious and inspiring.
Here’s a look at the no-fail tenets she stands by—and encourages her fans to remember on their fitness journeys. Spoiler alert: You’re 100% going to start following her before you finish reading this.
She’s all about the mission statement.
It’s no secret that being motivated makes it easier to make it through your workouts. But just wanting to look amazing in your jeans doesn’t always cut it. You need something that runs a little deeper.
Swank knows this, which is why she regularly asks her followers about their real reasons for staying in shape. So think about what truly drives you, and try to frame it in a positive way. Do you work out to feel strong and connected to your body? To stay healthy for your family? There’s no wrong answer, of course. But having a mission statement will give you the motivation to make fitness a permanent part of your life, says Ariane Hundt, MS, clinical nutrition coach and personal trainer.
She knows getting fit doesn’t just “happen.”
Big goals like losing 30 pounds or running a marathon aren’t accomplished overnight. Nope—you’ve got to show up every day and put in the effort, Swank says.
That means making your dreams big, but focusing on taking actionable steps that can be part of your routine—and that’ll add up over time. Setting micro-goals can help, says Ramsey Bergeron, founder of Bergeron Personal Training. Think about what you ultimately want to achieve, and break it down into the smaller steps you need to take to get there.
She embraces strength training.
Most of Swank’s workout posts involve her doing resistance exercises like pulling heavy weights or doing pushups. And for good reason. After 40, it’s harder for your body to build and retain lean muscle mass. While cardio can accelerate that decline, strength training helps to fight it, says Rui Li, owner of New York Personal Training.
She has fitness buddies.
Bringing a pal along doesn’t just make your workout more fun. It’s also a sneaky way to hold yourself accountable. “Whenever the thought of canceling crosses your mind, you have to think about the fact that you’re canceling on a friend, too,” says Li. As a bonus, your companion might inspire you to try new things to keep your fitness routine fresh. Rock climbing or salsa dancing, anyone?
She goes out of her comfort zone.
Yeah, lifting that kettlebell looks pretty tough. But Swank knows that pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is a must for growing stronger. The key is not pushing too hard. “Those last few reps that are challenging is where you get results,” Bergeron says. “But if it’s painful, you should stop. Pain is usually sharp and immediate, while challenging is a gradual buildup of fatigue.” (In the market for new fitness gear? One writer tried dozens of workout leggings to find the best of the lot.
She makes room for treats.
Swank doesn’t post pictures of greasy pizza or frosted donuts every day. (And we’re willing to bet she doesn’t eat them every day, either.) But every once in a while, she indulges in something really delicious. And you should, too. Enjoying an occasional treat doesn’t mean you’ve blown your diet for good—and in fact, it can actually help keep you from feeling deprived and going overboard, Hundt says.
She takes time off.
Check out Swank’s feed on a Sunday, and you’ll probably see her doing something totally chill. Smart lady! “Your body and mind both need a rest day to heal and recover,” Bergeron says. Give yourself at least one workout-free day a week and use that time to do something restorative, like reading or taking a long, hot bath. Come tomorrow, you’ll be ready to get right back in the game.
She does what she loves.
Swank’s a big proponent of the motivational quote, and this one seems to sum up her whole philosophy in a single sentence: Live your life to the fullest by doing what you love and don’t waste time on stuff you don’t. It’s good advice in general, but especially when it comes to fitness. Stick with the activities you enjoy, and stop doing the ones you dread, Li says. You’ll be more likely to stick with them for the long haul—and reach your fitness goals.