'Gossip Girl' actress: Own your body

Staff - chicagotribune.com - 01/27/2012
Success Stories

Sheila Kelley is a seasoned actor currently in "Gossip Girl" on the CW. She also had roles in ABC's "Lost," which ended in 2010, as well as in "L.A. Law" and "Sisters."

Her acting career mixed with physical fitness in 2000's "Dancing at the Blue Iguana," a film in which she played a stripper. She had to learn to dance with a pole, and today continues what she calls "burlesque fitness."

This mother of two and founder of S Factor, a fitness program, will be at the Ritz-Carlton in Coconut Grove from Feb. 11 to 14 to lead "Soulfully Sexy," a retreat billed as a "spiritual and fitness journey for women."

Why do you keep fit?

It's a whole philosophy. I'm a movement lover, since I was a kid. Danced, ballerina, every kind of dance and fitness and running and sports. Keeps me inspired, very good mood. I love endorphins, being light on my feet. To me, sitting behind a desk or watching TV while sitting, it's depressing. It sucks all the energy of life out of you. Life is about living in this body so you got to move it. It's very emotional. I guess the physical is rolled into the emotional. Your body should be your work of art.

What's your workout routine?

S Factor is a feminine workout. It uses the rippling principle of movement, organic movement. Comes from the feminine body, from the curves, the hips, the legs. Circular movements. When witnessed by the male eye, it's extremely provocative sexually. That's why we do it in private.

People try to describe it as a feminine version of yoga and Pilates. The point of the movement is not getting anywhere, but to allow your body to move to the furthest expanse, stretch ... If you've ever watched an underwater creature move, it feels like that.

Any "traditional" workouts?

When you say traditional, I call that the masculine or yang workout to balance my ying/feminine. For so many years, we've encouraged women to work out like men, to be mini men. But when you unlock the feminine body, you feel so much more clear and happy in spirit.

I do masculine workouts, love to for equal balance. Elliptical, weight training, running. I've tried CrossFit. I've stuck with weight training, but my philosophy is not pushing for a result but pushing for the experience.

When I was doing aggressive running, I pushed beyond the limit of my body, my feminine body. But now that I've learned this rippling philosophy, never been injured in 11 years.

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, I do my S, a two-hour workout. I do elliptical and weights every other day.

If I'm traveling, like in New York shooting "Gossip Girl," I'll do S in a studio three days a week. And I will do Bikram yoga maybe once a week, and then I'll do some street running or elliptical.

What's the toughest physical role you've ever had as an actor?

The last season of "Lost," a lot of running on the beach and mountains and carrying guns. It was crazy hard. Josh Holloway had to tackle me full speed. I've had a lot of falling and carrying, getting my throat slashed.

My role in the film, "The Blue Iguana," introduced pole dancing to the world for fitness. I had to learn this movement. It's burlesque fitness.

Can you describe burlesque fitness?

Burlesque fitness, the stripper pole have infiltrated so many types of fitness. The pole helps you elongate your body. It's elegant, graceful, sexual, slow fluidity, femininity.

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