By Erin Bried, Self Magazine, June 2008, Photographs by Mark Abrahams
Actress, mom and avid cook Liv Tyler has discovered the best ways to take care of her body. And, yes, sometimes that even means cheeseburgers!
"There's nothing like that feeling on your skin after you've broken a sweat," actress Liv Tyler says, explaining why she loves to work out. "The only other thing you can compare it to is after sex. It's that feeling of... you know." And while both pursuits produce flushed cheeks, a pounding heart and a sensation of euphoria, it wasn't the one she engages in with her husband of five years, musician Royston Langdon, that helped Tyler, 30, get in the best shape of her life last year. It was the one she does with her trainer, David Kirsch.
Tyler trained with Kirsch to prepare for her role as action heroine Betty Ross in The Incredible Hulk, which hits theaters on June 13. "I got really strong and fit and actually lost more weight than I had in a long time," says Tyler, who estimates she dropped "an extra 5 or 10 pounds" during the training and while filming the movie, for which she performed many of her own stunts. "I'm not an athlete. I can't even imagine that! But I'm strong, and I have a lot of stamina. For The Hulk, I spent 12 to 20 hours a day running, screaming, kicking, fighting my way out of helicopters. And I did a movie before that, a horror movie called The Strangers," she says. (It arrives in theaters a couple of weeks before The Hulk.) "I had to run almost all day nonstop. And crawl. I'm barefoot, running and sreaming and covered in cuts and bruises, and I'm out of breath. And I made it. I'm here to tell the story. It was really interesting to see how spoiled we are in our lives and how hard most people in other countries have to push their bodies."
After The Hulk wrapped in late October, Tyler's focus shifted from fitness to her family, which, in addition to Langdon, includes their 3-year-old son, Milo. "The holidays set me back a little bit," she says, without a trace of guilt. "I just wanted to be a super normal mom, cooking, eating dinner with my family, relaxing and not going to the gym. But I'm getting back there slowly."
Now, when Tyler is not busy promoting movies, shooting ad campaigns for Givenchy or taking Milo to the park near their home in New York City, she squeezes in a session with Kirsch and is rewarded by almost-instant results. "After only two days, my whole body changes. I feel taller. My posture improves. I feel better about myself. It's good to stretch and move and let out some physical aggression, like, 'Rawrrr!' We don't use a lot of weights. We do different kinds of squats, push-ups, sit-ups and medicine ball moves," she says. "But the thing David likes to torture me with the most is the rowing machine. In the middle of the workout, we'll do a couple of spurts on it, or two minutes on the elliptical or a quarter mile of running. I need to do more cardio, but it's hard!"
Tyler, who is 5 foot 10, is the first to acknowledge that staying slim doesn't necessarily come easily to her. "I've never been a gym bunny or crazy confident in my body in that sort of 'Hey, look at my muscles' way. That's a full-time job," she says, and one she doesn't often have the time - or, frankly, the interest - to pursue. "I've always enjoyed life too much!" Besides, she adds, "With the kind of body I have, I can literally gain 5 pounds in, like, 48 hours. I've always sort of been that way. So it's hard work for me, but at the same time, I don't want to be a rigid, miserable, hungry person all the time just because of my job. I think that's so silly. I once read a great comment from Julianne Moore, who said that actresses are hungry all the time. I thought that was really brave and funny, because so many women are, like, 'Yeah, the weight just rolled off of me after I had my baby, and I eat like a pig.' And then you meet them, and they don't eat like a pig! If you want to be really skinny, then you have to exercise a lot. If you want to lose weight, then you have to burn more calories than you consume, in a healthy way, which is tricky."
Although Tyler Admits to having turned to diet fads in the past ("I've tried all sorts of things," she says. "I think every woman does"), Milo's arrival at her dinner table has reinforced her healthful eating habits. "I love to cook with him, and I always want to make him healthy, delicious things," she says. Lately, she has begun trying to use as much straight-from-the-local-farm food as possible. "I'm a bit obsessive about it, trying to get fresh eggs and everything," she says. Luckily, she's got connections with a certain gentleman farmer - one who just happens to prefer zebra-print spandex to denim dungarees: her father, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler. "My dad has chickens, and I always bring the eggs home. I try to take as many as I can," she says. "It's, like, 'Lay an egg, please!' I stand there trying to get every last one." That said, if a craving for something a little less wholesome strikes, she submits. "If I feel like having a cheeseburger, then I'm going to have a cheeseburger," she says. "I'm not crazy strict."
On the other hand, she says, "When I'm working or I have an important photo shoot coming up, I'll try to be more careful." But she doesn't stress too hard about it. "The night before the SELF shoot, it was a Sunday and my only day off in over a week," she says. "So I went to Milo's best friend's house with a whole bunch of kids and moms. I made popcorn, another mom made cookies, and we ordered Chinese food. And they're wine connoisseurs. The husband brought out the most insane wine in the world, and I never drink before a photo shoot, but there I was, three glasses later! I woke up that morning just like a beached whale, thinking, How could I do that before a cover shoot?!" she says, laughing. "But I was happy. It made me happy. And I felt more relaxed at the shoot because of it, and I had a beautiful time."