Recently Girls star Lena Dunham sat down with espnW to talk about her attitude towards exercise, sports and health. And, true to form, she bucks the starlet stereotype — there are no liquid diets, endless treadmill runs or plugs for SoulCycle in the whole interview. Instead, she serves up all realness, and we can guarantee she’ll have you nodding in agreement.
She had to overcome her gym class trauma
Sure, there were some kids who excelled in gym, but for most of us it was a mix of uncomfortable polyester shorts, worries about being picked last and the always-humiliating Presidential Fitness Test. Add in some body shame if you hit puberty before or after your peers or if you didn’t align perfectly with the Abercrombie ideal. Lena feels your pain. “I was not an athletic kid. I was the kid who came up with a thousand excuses not to take a gym class. Even now, if I could, I would do all my work from bed,” she said. But she realized that for her health and her career (her character Hannah took up running in the show) she needed to have a better relationship with exercise. Now, she says she has a whole new relationship with an activity she formerly considered “torturous.”
She had to learn to run
For every loping gazelle effortlessly running around your neighborhood, there are likely ten of us with beet-red faces, breathing so hard we sound like asthmatic hyenas. Running did not come naturally at first for Lena either — but that didn’t stop her from embracing the sport. She even took a few lessons from a running coach to get her form down. “I just ran down the street and it felt nice,” she said. “To run with this increased confidence and the sense that I could actually use my body to get places, that was a pretty big revelation considering I’ve already been alive for almost three decades.”
She’s scared to try new things — but does anyhow
A month ago, the actress made waves for Instagramming a paparazzi picture of herself running in a crop top. At first, she said seeing the picture embarrassed her but then she realized how amazing it really was. “Not usually one to post a paparazzi shot but this fills me with pride,” she noted on Instagram. “When I saw that picture, what would normally embarrass me, which is a shot of me in physical motion, made me feel really good. I’m an open person, but that was pretty vulnerable for me. Trying feats of physicality is not my jam. It had taken guts for me to do it, and when I saw the picture and realized, ‘Oh, I don’t hate what I look like doing this,’ that I looked like a person who could run, that was just so thrilling for me.”
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Not usually one to post a paparazzi shot but this fills me with pride. Basically my whole life I have hated running and run like a wounded baby Pterodactyl. It was embarrassing and honestly I did not trust myself to escape a burning building or even move briskly towards a buffet. @jennikonner is directing the season finale of Girls and decided that as Hannah evolved so would her run, so she got me a training session with Matt Wilpers from Mile High Run Club. Within an hour I had a different relationship to this formerly torturous activity. I felt strong, swift and proud. I'm not about to embrace that triathlon life but it's a true joy to continue getting more connected to my body and its powers. (Extra motivation provided by @manrepeller for @outdoorvoices.) #moveforyourmind
She’s a big fan of the runner’s high
If you’ve ever exercised because you knew you’d feel better afterward, this is for you: “I started from a place of, ‘I’m so annoyed I have to do this.’ It was the last thing I wanted to do. When it became something that actually gave me pleasure, I was shocked,” she explained. “Also, endorphins are real. You run with someone for an hour, you feel pretty good. Running for an hour does not make you feel worse.”
She exercises for her overall well-being, not to look skinny
Like so many of us, Lena didn’t start from a place of always loving her body but fitness helped her discover a new part of herself. “My relationship with my body is constantly evolving. I’m going to be 30 next year. I had to learn, as you age, you have to move. You have to move so you don’t die. You have to move so your brain doesn’t atrophy. You have to move so that you look a little bit like a person that you might want to be. There are a thousand reasons why exercise is important, and I’ve had to find ways to make it sexy for myself,” she said. Then she added, “It made me incredibly happy when so many women connected to that idea of getting into it with your body when maybe that’s not what’s natural for you.”
Well, we can say she definitely inspired us! Keep running and rocking those crop tops, Lena — we’ll be right behind you.