Carrie Underwood is hanging off a rock-climbing wall as though she is auditioning for a part in Free Solo–and nailing it.
FWIW, this isn’t an activity she frequently does:”I went rappelling once as a kid and freaked out,” she says.
But hesitation is nowhere in sight today as Carrie supports her body at a set of challenging poses without breaking a sweat.
When I first met Carrie, she’s walking back from brushing her teeth in the bathroom (What can I say, not every minute of a photoshoot is glamorous.) But from the minute she shakes my hand, I can tell–hello, grip strength–that the CALIA from Carrie Underwood designer arrived prepared to put on a series. The 5’3″ singer is so powerful. The type of strength that makes dangling out of a vertical face look simple. The kind of power that makes her seem as though she had been born singing her heart out while commanding a stage. “I swear I use butt muscles to strike notes occasionally,” she says.
That strength didn’t occur by accident–and also for its 36-year-old, it did not happen overnight. She recalls the exact moment she pledged to quit eating beef: once she was 13 and watched the calves, she had grown up with getting neutered.
Her first dedication to a plant-based diet has been more about animal welfare than wellness. Carrie didn’t pay much attention to nutrition or fitness until she struck online message boards during her winning stint on American Idol in 2005.
“I shouldn’t care what other people think about me,” Carrie says. But she also understood the quesadillas and pasta she’d been residing were not making her feel best. “I was exhausted, and I kept buying larger clothes,” she remembers. “I knew I might be better for myself, and I allow my haters to be my motivators.”
After she won American Idol, Carrie and the other contestants went on tour. She started reading labels, counting calories, and logging time on the elliptical. At first, she felt great. “I was sleeping better, and I had more energy to our grueling schedule,” she states. So she decided to take it further. If that is working, she concluded, would not it be better to work out more and consume a bit less? A few days, she consumed as few as 800 calories.
By the time she attended her first CMA Awards in November 2005, her strategy was starting to backfire. Sure, she’d lost weight, but she was also finding it almost impossible to follow her strict diet. Her periods of restriction were almost always followed by overindulging. “I’d’ fall off the wagon,’ then feel terrible and repeat the cycle.” Her newfound energy levels were starting to dip. “Your body is screaming out, I want more calories, so I want more carbs!” She states. Instead, she feels she lacked the understanding to create parameters that worked for her.
Now, with her first book, Carrie has created the guide she wishes she had back then, Find Your Course: Honor Your Body, Fuel Your Spirit, and Get Powerful With Fit52Life, accessible today. Together with her coach, Eve Overland, and nutritionist, Cara Clark, Carrie provides a framework to help women make smart choices year-round. (Stay tuned to your app this spring)
What exactly does Carrie’s current version of fresh look like? It is ordered, but in a way, which enables her to appreciate the occasional piece of cake. “I love principles,” says Carrie. “This is how I feel good about myself, and that is how I operate.” On this note, she monitors calories and macros (that the amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fat she consumes daily) about the app MyFitnessPal. Her peaceful location: 45 percent carbs, 30 percent fat, and 25 percent protein.
A typical day of eats for your star starts pre-workout, with tofu or egg-white scramble, Ezekiel carrots, berries, and java. At lunch, she’ll have a sandwich with Tofurky, avocado, tomato, red onion, lettuce, and mustard. Then for dinner, she will create roasted veggies and a piece of beef chicken or a tofu stir-fry. It is very good for the heart, ideal?!” she laughs. She likes to unwind with a glass or two along with The Bachelor.
While Carrie does not leave much to chance in terms of her diet, she’s learning to roll with the punches when it comes to her workouts, now that she’s the mother of two sons, Isaiah, 5, and Jake, 1. “If I could work out seven days per week–which does not occur, but when I could –I’m going to,” she says. “Since the next week, I might have two days.”
Her trainer, Eve, travels with her if she is on the road. (Check out Carrie’s Instagram to peep the impressive mobile gym she built for tours.) But at home, Carrie mainly comes up with her routines, which she maps out in a diary. “If I walk in and do not have a plan, I usually walk out,” she says, nodding in solidarity as I acknowledge I usually do the same as if we were two workout friends measuring gripes from the locker room.
Carrie credits Eve for getting her hooked on lifting–and for crafting the regular responsible for her exceptionally sculpted legs. Caution: It’s not for the faint of heart. Carrie’s leg workout consists of six supersets of 3 moves, each completed for three or four sets. Steps include tuck jumps, Romanian deadlifts (with 30- to 35-pound dumbbells), walking lunges (using 20- to 25-pound dumbbells), and also raised sumo squats (using a 50-pound dumbbell!). I am sore just thinking about it.
In between crushing leg days, Carrie runs out when it’s warm or crafts mini challenges on the treadmill. “I must set goals for myself:’Every 15 minutes I will reach 1.25 miles, then by the end of the hour I will have run 5 miles,'” she says. She’s also hard at work on her pull-up match –she is up to eight.
The dedication to work out and clean eating may seem extreme, but it’s refreshing to speak to a celebrity who is honest about what it takes to keep her body ready to own the stage–in constant movement no longer –for two hours a night on a five-month trip. Not to mention these evenings when she’s walking a red carpet, camera-ready. She puts in work–and understanding she could pull it off with just two kids, and a 24/7 project makes me feel that I could get the motivation too.
While Carrie’s got her health regularly on lock, she admits she can improve when it comes to self-care. She calls for exercise her anti-depressant and antianxiety medicine –and says when she falls out of her routine, both her and her husband notice a shift in her mood. When I ask if she has learned other techniques to maintain her balance when she can not work out, she scrunches her face and says without hesitation, “No.”
Later, she elaborates: “That’s a part of my character I need to be better with. I want to sit in a bubble bath, but that’s not going to happen. My self-care is my gym, and that’s a stress reliever for me.”
Carrie’s certainly been through some tough times in recent years. Before the birth of her second son, she underwent three miscarriages. When we talk about it, tears come to her eyes. “For my entire body not to be doing anything it had been’supposed to do’ was a difficult pill to swallow,” she states. “It reminded me I’m not in control of everything.”
She states opening about the miscarriages felt like a”weight lifted off my shoulders”–and ever since then, women tell her tales. “It is not a dirty secret. It’s something many women go through,” Carrie says.
Her relationship with her husband, former NHL player Mike Fisher, can also be a source of energy even though it may seem like a case of opposites attracting. He wears a jersey; she loves sequins. She’s vegan; he eats meat. The list continues. But the fitness center is their common ground. They work out together when they can or swap childcare duties, so the other can sweat.
They’ve got a similar approach at home. She buys markets, makes dinners, packs, lunches, etc.. When it is time for her to work? Mike takes over. “We’re a good group,” she says.
While not all the pieces fit perfectly, Carrie has a structure set up to guide her on her (very active ) path. And despite the new book, her activewear line, and plans to work on new songs, don’t expect her to roam. “Physical fitness makes everything else possible,” she states. Carrie is a woman who knows where her strengths lie and are not afraid to use them.