We may remember her famed sporty poses in the 1980s, but physical fitness has never before sparked joy for Brooke Shields.

By Brooke Shields as told to Angelique Serrano
Updated May 13, 2020 @ 9:00 am
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I have never meditated before in my life. I’m the person who says, “I’m too busy to meditate!” But when the quarantine began, I went through a period of self-indulgence. I would say to myself, “I’m not going to the gym, so I don’t have to work out. I’m just gonna have that quesadilla and that ice cream and cocktails.” I got in the mindset of going to bed really late and waking up really late. Everybody in my house was like, “You’ve got to get in control because if you’re nervous, we don’t stand a chance.”

So soon afterward, I signed up for a livestreaming meditation led by Deepak Chopra on Facebook. My family made fun of me, saying, “Oh, Mom is going to get all Zen now.” When it came on, one of the questions Chopra asked was: “What do you want for yourself, for life, and for the world?” And I thought, “I just want the absence of fear. Because every time I start spinning out of control, it comes from fear.” So much of what we are experiencing is fear — fear of the unknown — and it’s debilitating. The meditation was maybe 45 minutes long, but it felt like 10.

Before that, I’d never focused on the spiritual element of exercise or the idea of honoring your body and soul. Those were just words before; they didn’t feel realistic. Working out has never been Zen for me. None of the exercising I’ve done in the past has stemmed from me loving it, or from it giving me any peace of mind. When I was younger, it was all ego-based: If you want to be in this campaign, you have to stay fit. If you want to be in this Broadway show, you have to be this fit; you have to dance this much every day. Everything was a goal.

From the day [in 1994] when I joined Grease on Broadway, I was a machine. Then I started getting injured and was having to play catch-up. But the show must go on: Once the adrenaline starts, you don’t feel the pain; you take an Advil at intermission. You have to do eight shows a week. Physically, it’s unlike anything else because there’s no real protection, and there is no rest. I let my body get beaten up for so many decades, and it’s gotten so much older than my chronological age. I had a partial knee replacement recently, and by watching myself get through that and coming out so much stronger, I realized what I’m really capable of.

Now I’m thankful that I’m even capable of working out. I have a trainer who says if you’re stuck at home, you have to get creative. You can do biceps with cans of tomatoes. I have these elastic bands, and if you spend 10 minutes doing squats or side steps with those, you’re sweating! And I try to help my friends with it. They’re calling me, going, “Can we work out together?” And I’m like, “Sure, let’s do a Zoom call!” The camaraderie is so encouraging and inspiring. Social media has been a strange revelation. Before, I would ask my daughter, “Rowan, how do I get the Snapchat on?” I’m not savvy. But by doing these [workouts on Instagram], I’ve gotten such positive responses. People like the community aspect of them. It’s the first time I haven’t felt egomaniacal or self-indulgent saying, like, “Look at me — I’m working out!” There’s an authenticity to it. I’ve never been called a fitness enthusiast, but being in it with people has been the piece of social media that I’ve really appreciated. It’s helped me feel a healthy responsibility to keep it up. I recommend planning on a time of day to exercise. It can bring a sense of control.

People my age can get crossed off at a certain point — like you’ve had a good run, you’ve had your kids, you’ve had your career, you’re done. Meanwhile, in my 50s, I feel physically better than ever. We can really inspire each other right now to do something within our power to feel better. We’re all here to offer support — and I’m not going anywhere. [laughs]

Shields supports Women in Need, an organization providing safe housing and services to homeless families in New York City.

For more stories like this, pick up the June issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download May 22.