For ‘Vikings’ actress Jessalyn Gilsig, workouts are Job 1 each day

Jessalyn Gilsig
“Vikings” actress Jessalyn Gilsig says she likes high-intensity workouts.
(Manfred Baumann)

Actress Jessalyn Gilsig barely has a moment of downtime. Between being a single mom to her 7-year-old daughter, taping her role on the History Channel’s series “Vikings” and doing guest appearances on other programs, the 42-year-old has to fit in workouts whenever she can. Determined to stay fit and active, though, she regularly makes time for exercise that keeps her focused, energized and alert.

What is your daily schedule like?

No two days are ever the same. If I’m filming or have meetings or that kind of thing, I have to get up and face the day with that kind of face. If it’s a day where I don’t have work commitments, I get up and the first thing I do is exercise. I like to exercise in the morning — I like to get up and immediately get into my workout gear.

What do you do to work out?


I like high-intensity workouts — Spinning, boxing, cardio barre. I also run, and I have a Spin bike at my house. I find these exercises more meditative too. I think it’s important to get healthy, but I like the high-intensity workouts where you can’t allow yourself to think about what needs to be done and conversations that you coulda, shoulda, woulda had. I really try to find something that’s like a little vacation from my brain.

And since no two days are the same, and I feel like I don’t have a particularly structured life, it’s easy to feel like I’m falling behind. Exercise is the moment when you feel like you actually can’t fall behind, because you have to just be there.

Have you always been active and fit?

I did a lot of team sports as a kid; I was on the cross country team, and I played hockey, and so I think because of that, I have a little bit of that need to be active. I’m happy to go out and play basketball, a game of pickup soccer — I’d almost rather play a team sport if I could find time for that.


Does exercise help you in your creative work?

[In my line of work], you have to maintain your energy so when you’re called on to deliver, you have the energy for it. So I do think some kind of maintaining a baseline of health and energy is really important.

What kind of diet do you maintain to support a healthy lifestyle?

I basically don’t buy prepared food. My mother was a really good cook, and somehow she drove it into my head that you never really know what’s in the food you’re eating unless you take it from its most original form and prepare it yourself. I don’t buy prepared food or processed food, and we eat a lot of salads and beans. I cook a protein once a week.

I grew up with very healthy parents—– my mother made everything, from yogurt to bread — and I think it rubbed off on me as kind of the only way I know food.