Keep calm and Keri on

She plays a spy on tv, but in real life Keri Russell’s biggest secret is how she maintains that hot body. Lucky for us she spills the beans…

Photography Patric Shaw

Wanna know how old the former Felicity star is? Drum roll…she’s 37. Damn, girl! Pretty impressive for someone who’s got her hands full.

She films five days a week for the new TV series The Americans(Mondays, 8.30pm on Channel 10), in which she plays a KGB spy who lives in 1980s suburban Washington, DC with her husband and two kids.

In real life she’s a parent to son River, five, and daughter Willa, one, with her husband of six years Shane Deary. She also stars in the rom-com film Austenland, out later this year.

Here, her secrets to leading a happy, fit and sane life:


Get a jump on the day

Waking up at dawn’s crack ain’t easy – especially for someone like Russell who “loves to sleep” – but since it’s often the only way she can fit in a workout, she generally rolls out of bed at 5am and cycles around her Brooklyn, US, neighbourhood. (She also bikes to work when The Americans films near her home a couple of times a week.)

If she’s on The Americans set till 3am the night before, she’ll give herself a “sleep in”, get River off to school, and do a 20-minute toning routine while Willa naps. “I have this really nerdy workout I do in my walk-in wardrobe in our brownstone. I do a workout video and use my own music – whatever’s inspiring to me at that time, like Alabama Shakes, The Cure or Mumford & Sons,” says Russell.

When she has time, she’ll catch a yoga class. “I feel better in my mind when I work out. It makes everything better.”


Drink your vegies

Russell discovered vegetables late in life and has been making up for lost time ever since. “I don’t think I ate a green vegetable until I was 30 – I didn’t grow up with a mum who enforced that at all.”

Nowadays, to help make sure she gets her two and five, she has a green smoothie for breakfast: blitzed kale, spinach, yoghurt, coconut water and blueberries.

Steal some solo time

Russell doesn’t have the luxury of hours of time out, so she slips in short spurts of chilling out throughout the day. “I go into my [on-set] trailer and shut the door and sit on the couch in silence. It’s very restful for me.”

She also tries to meditate twice a day for 20 minutes for mental clarity. “It calms your brain, and inevitably when I finish, I’m suddenly like, ‘I know where that thing [that I misplaced earlier] is!’”

When she needs to blow off steam, she makes like Robyn and dances on her own – to really loud music. And her favourite leisure time activity: reading. Jeanette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is sitting on her bedside table…


Get by with a little help from your friends

One of the first things to fall by the wayside when you’re balancing work, a relationship and kids is friend time, so Russell schedules it like any other important commitment.

“I love my girlfriends. At least once every few weeks we have a night out, where we have dinner, hear everyone’s stories and drink wine.”

Sometimes she makes friend outings double as exercise. “I got [my friends] all together and I was like, ‘Listen, I’m not going to tell you what we’re going to do. Just be ready, I’ll pick you all up. And wear workout clothes.’ Everyone was like, ‘Whaaat?’ We went to [Krav Maga instructor] Avital Zeisler’s place. She gave us fight training. She showed us how to get out of choke holds. We were laughing so hard.”


Shed the work guilt

Keri often feels pulled in two directions by her career and kids, but she reckons it’s vital for both her and her family that she works. “I quell my guilt by saying I’m a better mum if I’m interested in my own life,” she says. “I like the yin and the yang of both worlds, and I think it would be hard for me to give up either one.”


Beautify before bed

Once upon a time, Russell’s hair was almost more famous than her – her long curls were so beloved that chopping them off during season two of Felicity was blamed for a decline in viewership of the college drama. These days she blow-dries her curls “so it has a little wave, and then I don’t wash it for a couple of days”.

But since mornings are hectic for Russell, she showers and does her hair at night – a pre-bed ritual that also helps her wind down. As far as an anti-ageing routine goes, for Russell it’s all about wearing a hat, sunscreen and long sleeves. And she’s not scared of maturing: “I’m not a complainer about age. I think my girlfriends all look so much better now than they did 15 years ago.” We hear you.


Fight club

In order to play a tough KGB agent, Keri Russell worked out with Avital Zeisler, a Krav Maga instructor who moonlights as a combat consultant. “Working out [this way] makes you feel fierce,” says Russell. “I tend to be very internal – getting on the subway and keeping my eyes down. But I would leave those workouts looking people in the eye, like, ‘Sup’, she says with bravado.

For each of Zeisler’s moves, do 3 sets of 12 reps:

Striking squats Get into a squat with your elbows bent, hands open at cheekbone level and palms facing in. As you stand up from the squat, strike with your left hand and then immediately strike with your right. Return to start. That’s 1 rep.

Elbow-striking abs Do 1 crunch, with elbows bent and hands on either side of your face, palms facing in. At the top of the move, bring your left forearm out and across your body until your left elbow is slightly past the centre line of your chin. Return to start. That’s 1 rep. Repeat with your right arm.

Lunging defensive knees With your hands raised to cheekbone level, lunge back with your right leg until your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Shift your weight forward as you bring your right leg forward, leading with your knee. Return to start. That’s 1 rep. Repeat with your left leg.

Self-defence push-up Do a push-up, then lower your body so you’re lying on your stomach. Roll over, and in 1 movement, bend your knees, lift your hips, and kick your left leg in front of you, leading with your heel. Return to start. That’s 1 rep. Switch sides and repeat.

360 kick Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands at cheekbone level, palms facing in. Leading with the heel, kick your right leg to the front, then side, then back (touch your foot to the floor between kicks). Return to start and do a star jump. That’s 1 rep. Repeat with your left leg.