How I move: Miriama McDowell on mixing up her workout routine

Actor Miriama McDowell feels at her best when she does something active every day, so she mixes up running, yoga, gym workouts and paddleboarding with her family.

How do you choose to move?

I’ve been doing a lot of stand-up paddleboarding since I moved to a house that’s right on the water in Te Atatū Peninsula, Auckland. We’ve got a little fleet of paddleboards. Me, my partner and my two girls, 10-year-old Talanoa and four-year-old Hero, all get out on the water. Tala got a paddleboard for her birthday, so we’ve got three paddleboards and then a two-and-a-half-person kayak and Hero comes in the kayak. I lived in London for about three years and I always thought, “When I come back to Auckland, I want to make sure that I live by the ocean and really make the most of living in this beautiful city, with the bush and the moana right there.” But, of course, it’s actually really hard to achieve that, because everyone wants to live by the sea, so you can’t afford it. It’s taken me 12 years to finally do what I wanted to do and now we get to take our paddleboards out really often, it’s amazing.

What other exercise do you enjoy?

I have been a Covid runner. I started running again over the latest lockdown. It was such a great opportunity to get back into it, because it is quite a time commitment starting to run again. I was a runner in my twenties, so it’s really nice in my forties to come back to running again and kind of feel that my body remembers it, although you do get a few more aches and stuff. I’ve done yoga my whole adult life and I know that it’s the best thing for me and my body. I used to do Bikram [hot yoga] when it was really trendy. In London, I loved it, because it was so cold there, so every day I’d get in a warm room and take my clothes off. But now I’ve discovered Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. I like having an à la carte menu. If I wake up with sore shoulders, then I pick an Adriene class for shoulders; it’s just so easy. I also joined a gym this year for the first time since I’ve had children because I was having neck troubles. I’ve got this amazing trainer who really helped me to build strength around the issues, rather than just going to acupuncture and dealing with the inflammation.

How do you fit in exercise with work and motherhood?

I think, especially as a parent, it’s really hard to carve out time for your exercise. When Tala was still a toddler, I would do CrossFit training in the park with my friends and we would run with the prams, then we’d let the kids run around while we did our sprints up the hill, and that really worked for a certain part of my life. I do think the key to exercising is being really realistic about what works.

Were you an active child?

We did Saturday morning sports and I umpired netball as well from age 13. My dad was always cheering me on. He said I could have been a Silver Fern, but I was in the G team at Auckland Girls’ Grammar. I always tell people I was MVP though! We weren’t really a sporty family. My dad was a fisherman, so we were out on the water quite a lot. I definitely grew up in a culture of, “Get out of the house, go for a walk or go to the park.” I was taught that you must be active every day and I try to do that with my kids too.

Why do you think it’s important to say active?

I think that as an actor, I’m really in touch with my body. I understand on a deep level that if I don’t move then I become unwell and that’s in a physical way and in a spiritual way. I can’t even sleep at night if I haven’t had a good burst of exercise during the day.

Miriama McDowell (Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi), plays younger Dame Whina Cooper in the film Whina, opening in New Zealand cinemas on June 23, 2022.


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