If you haven’t been watching HBO’s Game of Thrones, then you are really missing out. If you’ve read the books and watch the show, then you know what I mean about there being great casting. One such excellent casting decision was choosing Sibel Kekilli, who plays Shae, Tyrion Lannister’s concubine. She is both sexy and tough, just like the character in the books.
And she is fond of the TRX, a suspension training system invented by a former Navy SEAL.
“I don’t really like to do it,” Sibel told me. “I have to do it. It’s not my passion to wake up at 6:00 in the morning to do my exercises. Sometimes I really hate it. I’m lazy.”
OK, so maybe “fond” wasn’t the right word to use there. “My back hurt because of the traveling and carrying my suitcases, and because I’m a girl, I have a lot of shoes,” she explained about the weight of said suitcases. “I told my trainer I needed something for my back and my arms and my legs. The TRX was his recommendation.”
I have a TRX in my basement, and it’s pretty cool. I also have a full gym, so for me, the TRX is generally about finishing things off after a lot of free weights, but for those with limited equipment space or looking to save money, it makes for a fairly comprehensive home workout. As I mentioned, it was created by a Navy SEAL who was looking for something he could use to stay “mission fit on the road.”
So if it’s good enough to keep a SEAL fit enough to fight bad guys, then it can keep an actor in shape for looking good on-screen and carrying suitcases full of shoes. And, no, I’m not on the company’s payroll. I just like their product. Sibel Kekilli is an example of someone who needs a push to be active. This push comes in the form of Hollywood pressure, and a less-than-sympathetic personal trainer. She’s never been much for athletics, even as a child.
“I wasn’t a competitor,” she said. “I would play outside with my friends, but not really anything like ballet or soccer. I tried to play soccer and it went badly.” It was once she turned 18 that she developed concern over her fitness. “I began swimming and jogging. When you are a young girl, you want to look good, so that was why I started it. I hadn’t started to gain weight. I just wanted to stay the way I was.”
And all that stuff you hear about pressure to look good in Hollywood. Here is the “Well, duh.”
“Actors travel a lot and work long hours, and sometimes you eat at odd hours, so I have to work out to keep my weight at the same level. This morning I woke up at 6:30 a.m. to do my exercises with my personal coach. And it’s after midnight and I’m still up.”
When we spoke she was in Germany -- her home country -- filming Tatort, which she explained is like a German version of CSI, in which she plays an investigator. It’s a more physical role than Game of Thrones (get your mind out of the gutter), meaning that she has to go all tough cop some of the time, even doing fight scenes. So the workouts she uses to stay lean help.
And being an actor in Germany is a little different than life in Hollywood.
“The pressure in Hollywood is bigger to look good than in Germany,” Kekilli said. “In Germany we are more forgiving. Having a personal coach in Germany is not nearly as common as in Hollywood. In Hollywood, I think everyone has a personal trainer.”
Considering how many people out there claim to be a “celebrity fitness trainer,” I think she may be right.
“I became an actor when I was 22,” Sibel told me. “I was really lucky that I didn’t have to worry about what I eat when I was younger, but at 32 now, it is getting difficult to keep the weight off. I have to make sure I don’t eat too much chocolate. You can’t imagine how hard that is for a German to not eat chocolate.”
She also enjoys the odd pint.
“I started to like beer about a year ago, and I like wine with dinner. Alcohol is another thing I have to watch out for with my weight.”
But a big part of looking good for the camera is working out, and Sibel is putting her time in so you Game of Thrones fans can fantasize about what it’s like to be Tyrion Lannister.
“Every woman actress is somewhat vain, and I am, too,” she said. “You really have to take care of yourself. You have to watch your weight. That’s why I have a personal trainer.” The trainer brings the TRX to her house, and if it’s nice out, they use it outside (they can be suspended from sturdy tree branches).
But it’s not all TRX. “I do some weightlifting and use medicine balls as well for balance for my core. I want my stomach to look flat. I have to.” And many fans are glad she works hard. Even if she does suffer for it.
I know that for a lot of people, working out is hard. It shouldn’t be surprising that the vast majority of people don’t exercise. So I understand why Sibel struggles with exercise motivation. Still, she’s found her motivation through using a good trainer who pushes her. For others, it can be something like a workout buddy, even a dog.
Improved health and performance are powerful motivators for exercise and healthy eating, but vanity can be too, as long as you’re smart about it.
And I’m cool with vanity as a fitness motivator, especially when the results of it can be seen on what I think is the best TV show ever created. The season finale for Game of Thrones is June 9th.
Don’t miss it.