Don’t tell Sarah Rafferty, 40, one of the stars of USA Network’s hit drama Suits and mom to two daughters, ages 5 and 2, that there’s no time to exercise during the day. The busy wife, mom and actor sees the entire world as her gym. And uses it in all sorts of ways to stay fit and looking great in her role as the confident and witty paralegal Donna on Suits.
Here’s a look at how Rafferty stays looking – and feeling – great.
Rafferty acknowledges that trying to stay fit and healthy is one of her top priorities. “Who isn’t trying to be healthy and fit? But I think it’s also important to find some balance and enjoy the better things in life, too,” she says.
That means no deprivation diets. “I don’t think it’s good to totally deprive yourself. And I’m not good at fasting or anything like that; I always get too cranky and exhausted. And having two kids means being exhausted during the day isn’t an option.”
Instead, Rafferty relies on moderation and whole foods to maintain her svelte figure. “I feel better when I eat healthy foods so I stay away from a lot of processed stuff. Sure I’ll eat a piece of cake at the holidays or a birthday, but I don’t have to resist going to McDonalds because that food doesn’t make me feel good,” she says.
But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t indulge in a little junk food now and then. She just opts for healthy junk. “I make crispy kale chips when I have a craving for something fried or salty. I still give in to the craving for junk food, but I make good junk choices.”
Rafferty avoids hunger pains that might have her hitting up the vending machine or sweet table on set with protein shakes. “I’ll put a protein meal powder, almond milk and other healthy goodies in a blender and that way I know I’m getting protein which is great sustaining energy. It’s a quick and I trick myself into thinking I’m having a milkshake. It’s great when I’m on set at 2 a.m.”
She also stews up healthy soups for her family to eat during the week.
“Every week I make a few vegetable soups and have them on hand for when we only have a few minutes for a quick meal. My husband adds brown rice, pasta or potato to his which is why soup is so great. It’s pleasing if you want something light or hearty.”
Pre-kids, Rafferty says she could while away the hours at the gym.
“I’d take a class, do cardio and then lift weights. It was nothing to spend two hours or more at the gym.”
But post-tots, things changed.
“Now I never have a two-hour window to go on regular basis.”
So she’s changed her expectations for exercise and looks for pockets of productive workout time that will energize her and make her feel good.
Her trick: Mini-boot camps. “It’s an endorphin rush to spend 20 minutes running up and down a hill playing tag with the kids,” she says. “I look for ways to have little bursts of fitness like pushing the kids in the stroller uphill.”
Rafferty’s fitness regimen is also a family affair. “I let my older daughter pretend she’s the trainer and we create fun circuits in the yard, at the park or on a walk or hike. I’ll do step ups on a bench at the park while they’re playing just because I can’t do big long, indulgent workouts anymore.”
The combination of stretching and strengthening in Pilates class are also appealing to Rafferty. “The stretching is restorative. I used to jog and run. But I’m too tired to do that, and the pounding on my body is rough.”
Rafferty’s least favorite aspect of fitness: core work. “I always hated sit-ups, and really anything for your core. Ick!”
She relies on a tricky trainer to get her to tone her tummy.
“I won’t do an ab workout unless someone makes me do it. There’s no way I’ll get on my back and do crunches,” she says.
So instead she cuts herself some slack and looks to activity that she enjoys.
“I’ll do Pilates that also works out your core without realizing it. So I think I’m doing something for my arms but I’m also working out my core”.
Rafferty and her husband often use date night as the backdrop to fitness. “My husband and I start date night with a hike. We both tend to have hectic weeks that make it tough to have time together, but when you go for hike together, it’s a way to talk and connect and unplug while still getting some physical activity,” she says.
And a creative way to squeeze in fitness, too!
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