- Nathalie Emmanuel #Make1kwet
To say that Nathalie Emmanuel’s acting career has taken her places would be putting it mildly.
At the young age of 10, she played Nala in the West End production of The Lion King, while in 2006, her début television acting role in the British soap opera, Hollyoaks, saw her character dealing with hard-hitting themes and storylines. After a short stint at presenting for the BBC, her next major acting role took her to the fantasy world of Westeros, to play Missandei in the hit series, Game of Thrones. Not one to be pigeon-holed into any particular genre, she is also known worldwide for her role as computer hacker Ramsey in Furious 7, as well as Harriet in the Maze Runner film series.
Recently, we caught up with the inspirational English actor to find out how she manages to keep healthy in body and mind, how her career impacts on her health and fitness, and how swimming has helped her to improve her fitness.
Your career means you’ve got to be fit to cope with the demands of the various characters you play. How do you achieve that?
Well, I do lots of things to stay fit, physically and also mentally. I like running as well as doing interval training, and in the last few years I've done boxing training too – all of which are really tough on the body! This is why yoga is so important to my routine; that’s not to mention the low impact cardiovascular benefits that yoga provides! Like swimming, it can be great for fitness and preventing injury. Also, I find this moving meditation incredibly relaxing, and it keeps my stress levels at bay with the demands of the job: Travelling, filming, doing press... it keeps me centred, when my life can be a little chaotic. It is also an opportunity to take an hour or so a day for myself and see what is going on with me.
In terms of diet and nutrition; I chose four years ago to eat a vegan diet. I had already cut out dairy products because they gave me migraines, but I started to look at the connection between diet and disease. I try to eat organic produce as much as possible. Also, try and steer clear of processed food. My goal is to eat nutritionally balanced, healthy meals.
You’re passionate about running and yoga, what was it that inspired you to consider adding swimming to your fitness regime? What additional benefits do you think swimming can bring to your fitness?
I considered swimming, first and foremost, because I had an acting job where I had to swim. I learned that I had to confront many fears: After an incident as a child, I had been nervous of swimming, but then I read an article that talked about the benefits of swimming. I saw it as an opportunity to further my physical goals – how it helps sleep, prevents injury, is a full body workout and increases stamina – but also face some fears.
Recently, you learned to dive for an upcoming film: Was this difficult? How do you prepare mentally and physically for the constant new challenges which different roles require?
Sometimes overcoming a deep ingrained fear is really difficult... just taking that first leap can be terrifying. I remember my first lesson with the diving and I was scared to put my face in the water! So, over a number of lessons I submerged myself a little more each time and then eventually I was sitting on the bottom of the pool. Then I learned how to dive into the pool... and throwing myself head first into water was my idea of hell. It took me about 10 minutes of me bottling it at the last second, but then I got frustrated with myself and started telling myself I could do it... purely out of pride. And I did it. And after doing it once I let go of so much fear that I had attached to the act of diving in. And then I kept doing it... and I gained a little more confidence each time.
Sometimes, just telling yourself you can do things is your most effective tool in facing new challenges. Also, trusting in yourself and the people who are instructing you, that you will be just fine.
As part of your role as Speedo’s ambassador for the #Make1KWet challenge, you got some swimming tips from Annie Emerson, and got in the pool for a masterclass with international swimming champion, Florent Manadou: What was that like, and what did you learn from it?
It was great to learn from these guys! They gave me pointers on my technique, and helped me with my confidence by telling me the good things I was doing. They are also both really patient and very cool, so I didn't feel any pressure to perform any higher than where I was at. That is an attitude I am often used to adopting in yoga and life and they helped remind me I can apply it to swimming too. Also, that progression will come with practice.
As a vegan, you’re obviously conscious of what you put into your body; how important is balancing your nutrition with your fitness workout (including downtime and any guilty pleasures!)?
Because I am so active, I have to make sure I eat enough. I also supplement with plant protein and other superfoods. Eating balanced meals is imperative. My guilty pleasure seems to be chocolate these days! Usually once a craving is fulfilled I can move on pretty quickly. What’s your next fitness challenge, either for your career or personally?
I'd like to run a marathon one day, but my next challenge is obtaining my teacher training qualification in yoga. This can be pretty intense, and you have to absorb a lot of information in a short period of time.
In terms of career, I am looking to do some smaller, character driven dramas where I can challenge myself as an actress and also tell everyday stories that people can relate to.
Nathalie Emmanuel took the #Make1KWet challenge: Discover how it can help you push your fitness further with our swim training plans!x
Discover how Nathalie has taken her fitness to the next level with our #Make1KWet challenge. Shake up your fitness routine by trying to swim 1k in the same time you run 5k or cycle 10k, and discover the benefits for yourself!