Okay, I’ll admit it. I have a new celebrity crush: Alison Sweeney, the host of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, Days of Our Lives heartbreaker, and Prevention’s February cover model. I’ve always thought Sweeney was adorable and loved her anyone-can-get-healthy-and-lose-weight attitude, but it wasn’t until last Saturday, when I met Sweeney at Prevention’s On the Run Event in San Diego, that I realized just how awesome this marathon-training, totally down-to-earth mom of two actually is. My reasons: She met us at 6 a.m. with a smile on her face—despite the less than sunny weather. She also took time to have a healthy breakfast of oatmeal before joining the other 1,000-plus racers at the 10K starting line. Plus: She walked out of the hotel that morning rocking the same exact pair of sneakers I was going to wear! (Sneakers are a fitness editor’s high heels—I have to pack more than one pair.)
The best part: Sweeney, whose new book The Mommy Diet just came out in paperback, is full of great ideas for making exercise fun and effective—even when you’re busy. Here, her tips for getting your best body ever, and loving every step of the sweat-filled, heart-pumping journey, too.
Team up with a tough trainer
"Stop being so dramatic! Give me a break! Leave the soap opera acting on the stage!"
This is how Biggest Loser trainer Bob Harper speaks to her when she takes one of his spinning classes. "Sometimes he doesn't think I'm putting enough resistance on the bike," she admits. "And I want to kill him for yelling at me. But he likes making me mad, because he knows I'm really competitive, and that if he calls me out, he'll get my best effort. He always thinks that I can give him more."
“I recommend that people try new stuff or take new classes all the time. It’s important to mix up your routine, not only for your body, but also for your mental state,” says Sweeney, whose workout mix runs the gamut from running, yoga, and hiking with her kids to weight lifting and spinning at New York City’s SoulCycle and LA’s Made in LA Fitness. “It’s good to challenge yourself. I like to mix it up.”
Kick it up with cardio
“I do a lot of cardio,” admits Sweeney. “I think it’s super important, especially for women. I don’t have a tremendous amount of time to work out, so I find myself cramming in a cardio because that’s all I can fit in. I think that if you don’t have a lot of time, that it’s the cleanest way to burn a few calories.”
“I’m addicted to a really tough workout,” says Sweeney. “I like to be drenched in sweat when I’m done because I feel accomplished.” This is why Sweeney loves spinning. “It’s 45 minutes, and I know I worked as hard as I possibly could in those 45 minutes—and I have the wet shirt to prove it. “
Ditch the idea that your gym needs to be glamorous
You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to get a good sweat. “I’m a more private, quiet, hole-in-the-wall type,” says Sweeney. “I also work out with DVDs at my house and in my backyard.”
“Yoga is my luxury workout,” says Sweeney. “If I’m on vacation or I have a day off, I love a 90-minute class. It’s a really strong workout, but it takes a little bit longer.” The stretching, paired with the calming stillness, keeps her coming back. “There’s something really Zen about it that I like.”
Take active vacations
“My dad is a pretty athletic guy, so when we were kids all of our family vacations revolved around sports of some kind—waterskiing, snow skiing,” says Sweeney. Her six-year-old son, Ben, is already snowboarding. “When I was on the mountain with Ben I sent my dad a picture of us because I wanted him to know that I’m totally paying it forward—I wanted him to know what an impression he made on my whole life and that he taught me to appreciate being physical and to enjoy it.”
Set a good example for your kids
“We’re a really active family, and that’s one of things that my husband and I focus on,” she says. “We like to set a really good [example] for our kids, how important it is [to be active] and how much fun it is.” As for what this family of four does to stay off the couch? Just about anything and everything. “We have literally been in the pool every single day all summer long for hours,” says Sweeney. “We go hiking. We go for walks with our dogs. We go on little weekend adventures together as a family all the time.”