Mindy Kaling Finally Discovered the Joy of Working Out. This is How.

For Mindy Kaling it took a major mindset shift to finally find joy in her workouts. Now at 42 she’s overhauled the way she thinks about exercise.

“I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been,” she tells SELF. “I love it.”

As an actor, writer, director, producer, comedian, and mom, Kaling knows all too well about the difficulty of setting aside time for herself. But carving out time for movement—and keeping it fun and interesting—makes her better at everything else she does, she says.

“I am funnier, more focused, and centered when I incorporate movement into my life,” says Kaling, who recently partnered with Propel Fitness Water’s #ShowYourJOWO campaign to help more people discover joyful movement.

Her relationship with exercise hasn’t always been this positive. In her 20s, Kaling saw working out as a punishment. “[I was] waking up before dawn, before I had to get to set at The Office, going to my gym, sitting on a treadmill for 45 minutes, trying to run as fast as I could, hating it,” she says. “Hating it was very important.”

Over the last few years, however, Kaling has pivoted. As she began incorporating less formal forms of movement, like walks or hikes with friends, and exploring L.A. fitness classes, exercise became something different. It became interesting, fun, and downright joyful. Now it’s something she legitimately looks forward to daily.

Wondering what it takes to go from dreading your workouts to legitimately loving them? Here’s what works for Kaling. 

Reframing workout “success”

During The Office years, Kaling believed exercise had to follow very strict parameters for it to count as working out.

“In my 20s, I thought working out was only effective if it was very punishing, you hated it, and it was kind of solitary. And you had to look a certain way after doing it,” Kaling explains. Now, she says, “It doesn’t have to be this thing where I was sedentary the whole day and then I had an hour of a burst of activity.”

Today she sees value in shorter workouts that don’t necessarily leave her panting and exhausted—and it’s been a total game changer. She considers any workout that gives her a chance to move her body a win, regardless of the duration or the sweat factor. (Bonus if it takes place out in the sunshine or with a friend.)

Having broadened her idea of what a successful session looks like, Kaling realizes every little bit makes a difference in improving her state of mind—and it all adds up. For example, following her interview with SELF, her movement break later that day was slated to be a 15-minute walk.

In fact, Kaling says she often notices the cumulative effect of these “little ‘secret’ workouts,” as she calls them, on her fitness tracker at the end of the day. By taking a walk while getting some fresh air or making a phone call, she often ends up logging three to four miles a day.

Changing it up

With a workout repertoire that includes elliptical sessions, walking, running, weight training, hiking, yoga, and group fitness classes, Kaling makes a point of varying her routines.

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