For Nina Agdal, the key to a happy and fulfilled life can be found in a simple, self-imposed rule: Every day, she makes a point to try something new—whether it’s a workout, a restaurant, or just a street she’s never biked down in her current hometown of New York City. Adventure has always been a driving force for Nina, 24, who was born in Denmark and shot to fame with a 2013 Carl’s Jr. Super Bowl commercial (she has also modeled for Victoria’s Secret, Billabong, and Bebe). In 2014, she hit household-name status when she appeared on the 50th-anniversary cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue alongside Lily Aldridge and Chrissy Teigen—and she has been one of the most fun stars to follow on social media ever since. On her Instagram, she posts everything from behind-the-scenes shots in amazing places to photos from nights out with fellow model friends, like Barbara Palvin and Constance Jablonski. We caught up with her in New York City—where she’s often seen with boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio—to pick her brain about mindful living.
Have you always been really into fitness?
I grew up very active, and my parents made me try every single sport there was. I would pick some of them up, but with others, I’d be like, “I hate it.” So they’d say, “OK, let’s try something else.”
Dancing, basketball, soccer, and tennis. Then, as I grew older, with my [modeling] schedule I couldn’t be part of a team, which was actually really sad because I love team sports and that getting together every week.
What’s your day-to-day workout routine?
I do a bunch of Y7 yoga, which is amazing because it’s dark and nobody’s judging you. I’m not very good at the meditating part of yoga, so I love that the studio has great music. When I really want to push myself, I also do Tone House. It’s athletic conditioning with a lot of body-weight movements and sprints. It’s really hard cardio. I also do boxing, which is great for everything, and I go to Equinox and do the SoulCycle thing. I always switch it up because if not, I don’t see a difference.
RELATED: How SoulCycle Changed My Life Forever
Nina’s wearing (top photo): Chromat swimsuit ($300; chromat.co). Above: Despi swimsuit ($160; southbeachswimsuits.com), Norma Kamali jacket ($300; normakamali.com), Stuart Weitzman heels ($400; bloomingdales.com).
Is there any kind of workout you can’t stand doing?
I hate running. I wish I loved to run, because I’d love to run through Central Park or on vacation on the beach, but I absolutely hate it. I do it for five minutes and I’m like, “Ugh, why am I doing this?”
How do you keep it tight when you’re traveling?
I have my trainer send me what I have to do, or I’ll just make up my own routine. I’ll use the timer on my phone and do 20 seconds of jump squats, and then 10 seconds of rest and 20 seconds of normal squats with a weight or something like that. You just pick three or four exercises and do three rounds of them. And you keep yourself accountable because you have the timer.
That takes discipline. How are you so motivated?
I always tell myself, “There are so many things you regret doing or eating, but you never regret a workout.” I always feel better after a workout. I have more energy, and mentally I’m in a better place.
So there’s an emotional component that’s important to you as well?
Yes, 100%. It’s the only time when I can really relax and focus on one thing. Everywhere else in the day, my brain is in a thousand different places, but when I’m working out, I can only focus on the pain. [Laughs]
Which workout has changed your body the most?
Yoga. When I do a lot of it, I see a lot of tone in my arms, which can be a tough area for me to get really toned in. So even though it feels like you’re not really doing anything, you are.
Any other tips on how to stay in shape on the go?
As much as it’s about being active when you’re traveling, also try to stay away from the carbs. And then find that half an hour or 45 minutes, whether it’s going for a walk or going to the hotel gym and getting it over with.
Have you ever gone on any crazy workout benders?
Yes. I would go on these benders and work out, like, three to four times a day, and be like, “Why is my body not changing?” My friends would say, “You need to rest. You’ve got to let your muscles relax so they can react again.” Sometimes less is more when it comes to workout routines. Also, just because you’re working out more doesn’t mean you can eat more. You can’t be like, “I worked out for two hours today, so I can have that slice of pizza,” because that pizza will still just go on your butt or wherever it goes.
Where do things tend to go on your body if you’re not being really careful?
God, my butt. My friends always joke around because whenever I turn around, I’ll bump into stuff because I forget that it’s there. In stores, I’ll knock over glasses or candles or whatever. Everything goes there or on my face. But definitely down there.
So when you have a shoot, you don’t work out four times a day. But do you ramp it up?
I’d like to think it’s a lifestyle, but I’m just as normal as everyone else. I actually was just on vacation in Tahiti and said I should go to the gym. Well, I went to the gym, like, once. But yeah, I cut down on carbs, and I try not to drink as much, since alcohol is a huge calorie booster.
What is a day of eating like for you? Do you have any go-to healthy favorites?
A normal day would be Greek yogurt with honey for breakfast, and a black coffee—no sugar, no milk. I actually try to stay away from fruit in the morning because it’s a lot of sugar. I know that it’s good for you, but on a regular basis, I don’t like to eat too much fruit. As a snack, I’ll have a Quest bar, or that’s when maybe I’ll pick up some fruit, just to get some energy. For lunch, I love a salad. For dinner, sushi. Because in restaurants, you don’t know how much butter they’re gonna put into cooked food, but if you’re eating raw fish and sushi, you kinda know what you’re getting.
How do you protect your skin while you’re in the sun on swimsuit shoots?
I wear a lot of sunscreen every single day. Also, when I travel, I go without makeup. And then rosewater spray, face masks, and eye masks. I use a 24-karat-gold eye mask from Pro-Nu ($10; amazon.com). It sounds very fancy, but it’s really not—you get them on Amazon!
You have been attracting a lot of attention from the paparazzi. Is it weird, being snapped by photographers wherever you go?
Every time people take pictures of me like that, I’m like, “I don’t really understand why you’re doing it, honestly.” But I just try to not worry too much about it. But still, it’s in the back of your head. You think, “Is someone watching me right now?”
Do you ever take time to power off your phone?
Yes, I’m actually really good at that. On vacation, I would leave it in the hotel room and bring a normal camera with me to take pictures, because that way, you really can’t be distracted. It’s so great. I highly recommend it!
What is your secret to feeling great every day?
I surround myself with positive, happy people. And I always try to balance things that I haveto do with things that I want to do.
Nina in her own words
My must-have workout line is… The Brazilian brand LVE. Fun patterns, and you don’t have to keep pulling up the leggings. And they have a certain amount of extra fabric to kind of cover that little stomach area, which I appreciate!
The last thing I do before bed is… Set my alarm. If I don’t set an alarm, I literally won’t wake up, ever. I can sleep for 18 hours, no problem.
My biggest pet peeve is… When people talk too much about themselves or turn something I say into something about them, instead of just listening.
In the movie of my life, the star I’d want to play me is… Kristen Wiig. I’ve never met her, but I love her.
My go-to fashion indulgences are… Purses and jackets. A good purse can make everything look better, and a jacket can cover everything up.
I feel sexiest… After a workout, a massage, a long shower, and some body oil. It’s a process.