From cold showers and vitamin smoothies to husband Chris Hemsworth (AKA Thor)’s special dinner dish, Elsa Pataky shares her insider tips on looking and feeling great...
When it comes to health and fitness, Spanish actress Elsa Pataky is one woman who knows how it’s done. Together with husband Chris Hemsworth and their three children, Elsa is vocal about the importance of prioritising a healthy diet and regular exercise and clearly, it’s working (have you seen those abs?). Here, the Global Ambassador for wellness brand Swisse (she’s also the author of fitness bible Strong: How to Eat, Move and Live with Strength and Vitality and launched lifestyle app Centr with husband Chris) fills us in on everything from lockdown at the Hemsworth’s to her passion for Krispy Kremes …
How has lockdown been for you?
Well, in Australia it hasn’t been that hard. I have lots of friends in Europe and Spain and it’s been really hard for them because they couldn’t get out. We weren’t completely locked in – we could still go out and we have a garden which the kids can play in. It was easier for me than I felt it was for my people in Spain, I can’t complain. They never closed the beach here either, which is the most amazing thing, especially with kids. I understand how hard it must be for everybody in cities, especially if you’re in an apartment with your kids and unable to go out.
You’re known for your love of fitness, how would you describe your attitude to your health?
It’s hard to define my exact philosophy but in general, I think it’s important – especially with exercise – to get out of your comfort zone. When you’re not moving or doing anything it’s hard, but when you break that and see how good you feel after exercise, that changes something inside you. I think our thoughts and beliefs are what move us forward but they’re also what hold us back. Sometimes I think, ‘OK, I’m going to get out of my comfort zone today even if I really don’t want to work out because I know how it feels when I do it’.
Does that mean you struggle with motivation too?
Oh of course, we all do. Some days you just don’t feel like exercising and it’s hard – like if you haven’t had a great sleep or if the kids are being crazy. Or maybe you don’t have time or feel low. It’s hard to make the effort when the world feels tough but the endorphins you get when you exercise give you that power, like, ‘I can do this!’. Exercise gives me that energy to keep going.
What time of the day do you work out?
I prefer to work out in the morning. I usually take the kids to school and do some exercise. I’ll go to the gym, or go outside. I often go out with some other mums here – we’ll do a little hike to the lighthouse which has steps you can run up. Or I might feel like a surf on days I don’t want to go to the gym. I just try and do something. If you don’t feel like doing a workout in the gym, just go for a walk or go outside and do something that makes you feel better.
That’s a good point – exercise doesn’t necessarily need to be structured, does it?
Yeah exactly. It can be just moving a bit, or going to the park. A lot of my friends say they don’t have the time but even when you’re going to work on the bus in the morning, just get off a few stops earlier or if you can, walk to work. Make it part of your routine. It’s so good for your brain as well, exercising in the morning. I sometimes take the kids for a surf in the morning and the difference in them is amazing.
How important is having a workout buddy?
It’s good to have friends you can train with because the day you don’t want to do it, your friend will be like ‘Come on, let’s do it!’. You push each other and that’s great. Having a partner to work out with can push you to be more competitive and it becomes something that’s much more fun.
Have you always been super active?
Yeah. My dad loved to exercise and he was into sports and I’d always go with him, he’d take me everywhere. I grew up with it. I think it’s important for kids to be around exercise, because then you grow up with it too. I think’s part of me, which is nice.
What’s the first thing you do each morning?
What’s really important – and I think this is true for women who don’t have kids too – is to have a good routine in the mornings, because when you have kids that goes out of the window! I always wake up before them and my ideal morning would include a cold shower. It’s really good for you and gives me energy in the morning – I know it’s hard in the winter, but it’s such a good thing! Then I love to have a few moments of breathing or mindfulness getting ready for the day, or even two or three pages of a book instead of going straight to your phone. I don’t have my phone close to my bed – I try to wake up and not just go straight to it because then you fall into everybody else’s agenda, instead of organising your brain and goals for the day.
Do you and Chris always do your own workouts, or do you ever turn to YouTube or personal trainers?
We usually do our own because we know what’s good and I know my body so well and how I feel. Sometimes my body feels like it needs something different, like cardio or weights, and I think it’s important to know your body and what feels good. So we usually do our own, but sometimes you get stuck in your own routine and want to get out of it and do something different. So videos – or having somebody to train you – can be amazing for that, to push you more.
You’re a fan of meditation, how often do you do it?
Yeah, I love it. I think mindfulness is one of the most important things for your body and being healthy. I think it’s good to do it as often as you can, even for just 10 minutes. I’ll do it at least three times a week. If I could, I’d do it every day but things like kids, life and work gets in the way. Sometimes finding the time to train, meditate and do all these things is hard but I feel much better when I do it. Sometimes I’ll put the kids to bed and just before I go to sleep, I’ll meditate as part of my routine.
Can you tell us three things that make you happy?
Being with my family and going to the beach with them for the day, I love it. Or going into the mountains or forest for the day, camping in nature makes me really happy. Then my hobbies – I think it’s important for everybody to have their own hobby. I love to horse ride, but Chris has it with surfing. Finding something that is just for you and you don’t depend on anybody else for. Or just sitting reading a book in a quiet place, I love to do that too.
If you could only choose one activity, what would it be?
Horse riding is probably my favourite. I love surfing too, but I’ve been horse riding since I was really young. It gives me that focus and I really enjoy the adrenaline because with a horse it doesn’t all depend on you. It’s like surfing – it depends on the ocean and the waves, you know? So yeah, I think horse riding would be my favourite thing to do when I’m not with my family.
Can you tell us something we didn’t know about you?
I’ve always been such a sweet person, I love donuts and ice cream. We don’t have chains like Krispy Kreme here, but every time I go to the Gold Coast there’s a gas station that has them and I have to have one. I’m glad it’s not here as I couldn’t control myself, but I love – just once in a while – going there and having my donut and enjoying every part of it.
Well, denying yourself what you want only makes you crave it more, right?
Absolutely. I need to have a treat at least once a week or at the weekend. At the weekend I eat what I like and enjoy it, then just take care of myself for the rest of the week and eat a little bit more healthily. I feel like you need that for your own happiness.
Are you a good cook?
My favourite thing to do is desserts, I’m really good at desserts. Chris is actually better and enjoys cooking more. He does really amazing vegetable soups that we love – he just puts everything in. And especially now it’s winter here, it’s just the best thing. I think he loves it whereas I’m good at things I know how to do, but it’s not really a hobby for me.
What’s your all-time favourite dish?
My favourite thing – and I miss it a lot because we don’t have it here that often in Australia – is ham and tomato bread. It’s toast, a little bit of garlic and tomatoes, then a bit of Spanish ham on top. And that’s my favourite thing, when I go back to Spain I have it for breakfast and lunch!
Do you take supplements?
Yeah I love all the Swisse vitamins and supplements, they’re amazing – especially in certain periods of life where maybe you feel you’re not eating all the nutrients you need. The beauty ones are amazing, I feel it’s been helping my hair and skin. Then I have vitamin C every day – the strawberry one and orange – and I’m giving it to the kids, too. You have to know what your body needs and make sure it has it, even just for short periods in your life. I’ve been putting the women’s vitamins in my smoothies – every time I have a smoothie I’ll put them in. They also have magnesium to help you sleep, which is good.
What’s the advice you wish you’d known growing up?
Despite everything that happens in your life – the difficult moments and everything – never, ever give up. I remember hearing Churchill say that when I was younger. I’d tell young people – and a younger me – don’t lose confidence in yourself. When you feel confident, you can do so much in life and it gives you that energy to just keep going when things get complicated and hard. And even though things happen that aren’t good, there’s something you can learn from them. Whatever has happened to me in life, I try and see it as a life lesson – you have to experience it to get to the next step. I’ll say that to my kids, too. Just keep going, there will be better times ahead and everything will pass.
Swisse launched in the UK this month and is now available on Amazon.co.uk