If there were ever to be a real life version of the comic book character Superwoman, we’re pretty sure her name would be Laila Ali. Not only is the retired professional boxer (who hung up her gloves with an undefeated record, mind you) a busy mom, wife, television host and actress, but she’s also set to compete in next week’s Aquaphor New York City Triathlon (that’s a 1 mile swim, 25 mile bike ride, and 6 mile run—in that order!).
We spoke with Ali about what she’s doing to prepare for her first triathlon, how she balances her busy schedule, and what beauty shortcuts she’s mastered as an athlete and on-the-go mom.
ESSENCE.com: I hear you’re preparing for your first triathlon. What has that been like for you?
LAILA ALI: Yes, I am and I’m training hard. The swim is the part that I think will be a challenge. Actually, I think the whole thing will be a challenge. When Aquaphor asked me if I wanted to do it and I said to myself, “I need this.” I need something right now because I’m not boxing anymore and I have five pounds of baby weight I want to loose. I know I’m going to get that weight off if I’m training for a triathlon so that’s my real motivation. It’s just something competitive that the athlete in me wants to do and it’s definitely going to be a challenge for me. I’m not a biker. The running part I can do but I’ve never ran after riding a bike for 25 miles and swimming a mile in the heat in New York. It’s going to be amazing. I’m looking forward to it.
ESSENCE.com: With your strenuous training schedule, what are some of your favorite skin care products?
ALI: It’s really important to have a good moisturizer and a face cleanser. I try to use products that are as natural as possible without a lot of chemicals in them. One of the reasons why I started working with Aquaphor is because I was already a fan of the products. They are good for so many uses and it was a natural fit for me. I like to use Aquaphor for things that some people wouldn’t even think of. In the evenings after I get out of the shower, I will put it under my eyes because it’s so hydrating. I use my Aquaphor moisturizer on everything from my cuticles to my feet and it always works best when you just get out of the shower and it can really penetrate into your skin. It’s a very natural product and that’s another thing that I love about it. Aquaphor is definitely a must-have for me and for the kids.
ESSENCE: Your skin always looks amazing. What are some of your beauty secrets?
ALI: I believe beauty comes from within. Also, what I love is beautiful skin. I love to see skin that’s clear and that’s glowing. I think that comes from taking care of yourself, eating right, drinking a lot of water and then keeping your skin clean. I used to have problems with my skin because I would work out and then I wouldn’t clean my skin properly. What I found works best is when I get into the shower, I let the steam open my pores and then I use a scrub followed by a cleanser. I also like to follow up with a toner just to make sure I get everything off. That’s pretty much what works for me and keeps my skin clear so I don’t have to wear a lot of makeup or anything.
ESSENCE.com: As an on-the-go mom what beauty shortcuts have you mastered?
ALI: I’m one of those people that although I’m a mom and I don’t have a lot of time, I do not leave the house looking any old kind of way. I will always take five minutes for myself. A lot of times people will assume that I have spent more time [getting ready], but when you take care of your skin you really don’t have to do that much. My must-have beauty items are a tinted moisturizer, mascara and a tinted lip gloss. That’s my quick, get-up-and-go, everyday look.
ESSENCE.com: As you may know, some Black women will put off exercise because they don’t want to sweat out their hair. As someone who has always been active and athletic, what is your advice for women who are reluctant to workout because of their hair?
ALI: That’s a big issue for us sisters. I have hair that I can style in a wash-and-go. It’s really curly so I can just wash my hair and it doesn’t have to be “done” using a heat process. Even still, there are times when I have had to make decisions on a workout based on my hair so I do understand but I would never put my hair before my health. That’s the main thing. You have to find something that works for you and make your health and fitness your priority. Get some braids or a weave. Do whatever you have to do [to workout]. Your hair just can’t look it’s best all the time. A lot of times when you see me and I’m not doing TV or a photo shoot I wear a ponytail. My hair does not need to be glamorous every single day because fitness comes first to me. It is what it is.
ESSENCE.com: As a busy mom, what is your advice to other moms who don’t feel they can make time amidst taking care of a family, doing the laundry, helping with homework and carrying such a busy load?
ALI: I do all of those things too and a lot of people are surprised to hear that. It is overwhelming and it’s hard to tell someone, “Oh just find energy to do it.” Even I can go two weeks without working out when I get really, really busy. With my professional life I’m traveling so any extra time I have I’m spending it with my kids and everything else that you do as a mother. By the time my kids go to sleep it’s near 9:00 and yes, I could go out and run but then I would be so tired that I wouldn’t have any energy for the next day. Those times do occur and that’s understandable. For the most part, it’s what you do most of the time that matters. You have to shave out time for yourself and for your workout. Just like you look at doing laundry as a priority or taking care of the kids, you need to make working out and fitness part of your priorities. Maybe you’ll have to squeeze in a workout and squeeze something else out [of your schedule]. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time. You can start with just walking with the kids or get in 10 minutes of activity here or there. It’s so important because what ends up happening is we are overweight, we’re uncomfortable with ourselves, we don’t have the confidence that we would like to have because we’re not taking care of ourselves. You don’t want to let yourself go that far. You’ll feel so much better about yourself and as a woman if you do something for yourself and take care of your health and fitness.
ESSENCE.com: After the race what do you have on your calendar?
ALI: I’m going to be traveling back to LA. I just love to be back home with my family and the kids. I hate leaving them for more than two or three nights, so it’s going to be hard for me to be gone. I had to tell myself they’ll be fine, focus on yourself, take this time to get through the race. Once I get back home I’m looking forward to having a few days off because I’m really busy right now shooting a show that will air this summer and doing the triathlon. Every asks me how am I doing all of this and I don’t know how I’m doing it, trust me. I’ll be back in New York covering boxing for the Olympics on NBC so I have a lot of traveling going on. I’m so excited about it.