Nina Dobrev Shares The Workout That Gave Her Visible Abs

Nina Dobrev Shares The Workout That Gave Her Visible Abs

by | Dec 19, 2018

Nina Dobrev needs a spoon. She has a fresh matcha latte in her hand and nothing to stir it with. Suddenly, she leaps across the room and starts rummaging behind a bar. “Will you think less of me if I use something that’s not meant to be a spoon as a spoon?” she asks. She bounds back with her makeshift utensil: a corkscrew. “I really hope it’s clean.” She laughs, then goes for it, plunking the metal wine opener into her cup and swirling it around in the pale green foam.

Nina has been at NeueHouse, a members-only coworking space in Hollywood, for all of two seconds, but it’s clear she gets what she wants—and gets it in the nicest way possible. There’s no artifice on display: She’s in minimal makeup, shiny black workout leggings, and a gray sweatshirt with a teddy bear on it. She’s dressed casually, she explains, because she came from the CBS studio lot in Los Angeles, where she has been shooting the new multi-cam sitcom Fam.

That last bit might come as a surprise, seeing as how Nina, who turns 30 on January 9, is best known for playing Elena Gilbert on the hit supernatural show The Vampire Diaries. Fam is the first time in three years that she will be back in a lead role on television, and it’s a far cry from bloodsucking demons.

After leaving Vampire Diaries in 2015, Nina had something of an existential crisis. “I was like, ‘Why am I here? What am I doing? Is it making me happy? What can I do to make me happier?’” Worried that she might end up pigeonholed (she doesn’t say the name of the show out loud, as if to dissociate from it), Nina pivoted toward comedy. That is, she got as far away as she could from weepy high school heroines.

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At first, Nina didn’t get the reception she wanted from prospective bosses. “They were just like, ‘Oh, she was on a [teen] drama. She’s not funny.’” But with her trademark determination, Nina pushed forward, approaching the problem “like a math equation,” she says. She took Improv 101 classes: “I probably sucked. But I got better.” She pitched a sketch to Funny or Die. She even wrote a feature-length comedy.

Then, in early 2018, after having thought for a while about moving to New York City, she got serious about it and made an offer on an apartment. The next day, she landed the Fam job. “I was extremely thrilled about the show, obviously, but part of my heart and my soul really wanted to experience the city because I’ve never done that,” she says. “[It] was the universe telling me that it wasn’t my time to [live in New York].”

Her reason for taking the Fam role fits squarely in with one of her core philosophies: If it seems terrifying, head straight for it. “The live-audience aspect scared me, so naturally, I had to do it,” Nina says. While the sitcom may have kept Nina from New York, it did give her a schedule that she calls “the most consistent that I’ve had so far in my career.” Because of that, she’s been able to stick to a regular workout regimen. This is a significant benefit for Nina, a former competitive gymnast and natural athlete who actually sounds as if she means it when she says, “I just love working out.” (Her zest for keeping active led to a recent partnership with Reebok and Les Mills.)

Nina’s current fitness obsession involves what she likes to call a “workout cocktail”—a mix of yoga, running, weight training, boxing, and group classes, depending on the day. For the first time in her life, she has visible abs. “I’m getting older and more conscious of what I eat and how I eat it and what I do,” she says. “Doing something different [each day] has been the most fun, and I’ve seen the most benefit because you shock your system.” She’s strong and lean now, as opposed to “skinny fat,” which is how she felt when she was doing only hot yoga years ago.

On a typical morning, Nina gets up several hours before her call time so she can walk her dog, Maverick, work out, relax in the steam room, and shower. “I need to sweat every single day somehow, even if it’s just in the steam room,” she says. “Some days are better than others, I’ll be honest with you. Some days, Maverick gets a shorter walk than she probably deserves, if I’m running late or don’t have it together or press the snooze button 18 times too many.”

Her partnership with Reebok has led to multiple perks, like the shiny black leggings she’s wearing now, and an introduction to trainer Lissa Bankston, who also gave Nina an education in nutrition. These days, Nina takes in more calories than she used to; she tries to eat every two hours to keep her metabolism stable. “I feel healthier,” she says. “You’re happier when your body is full, your brain functions better, and you’re a nicer person. I would get hangry, I think, because I was so busy running around that I wasn’t the best version of myself.”

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It’s easy to see how Nina could get too preoccupied to eat. A few days after our NeueHouse meeting, she is on a soundstage in Studio City, learning new dialogue in front of a live audience while waiting for the cameras to start rolling. Nina bites her lip, seemingly worried about nailing her lines. She mouths her part from memory, then reaches to double-check her script, which is hidden behind a pillow on the sofa she’s sitting on.

As Clem, a former party girl who is trying to impress her fiancé and his parents, Nina is in front of the cameras for pretty much the entire episode. There’s hardly any time to snack, let alone get a full meal in, during the four-hour evening shoot. 

After the episode wraps, Nina enthusiastically greets several friends, including former Vampire Diaries castmate Kayla Ewell. She leads them back to her dressing room for drinks, a ritual on live taping days.

The door to her dressing room has a sign on it that reads “Warning: Viciously Cute Dog Inside.” As soon as Nina opens the door, Maverick, her collie-Aussie mix rescue, who is truly the most beautiful dog you’ve ever seen, starts hopping up—as if her hind legs might be on tiny springs—to say hello.

After a quick change out of her costume into jeans and a T-shirt, Nina offers drinks to the group: “I have tequila…and tequila.” Her assistant, doubling as bartender, mixes Nina’s preferred spirit with pamplemousse La Croix and Honeydrop lemonade (the charcoal and unicorn flavors are her faves) and hands out cups. Maverick lands on what seems like every lap in the room to offer kisses, but Nina holds everyone’s attention, dishing gossip from the set and telling a story about how she once very awkwardly introduced herself to Samuel L. Jackson. She is the obvious alpha, the ringleader, the life of the party.

Other people start to trickle in, and the room quickly reaches capacity. Nina runs out to peek into her costars’ dressing rooms. “Guys, we’re winning the party competition!” she says. With so many people around, Maverick starts to get more vocal. “Go home!” Nina sternly says to her, pointing to the dog’s pretty white puppy-size teepee. Maverick obeys, going inside the tent and quieting herself. Again, it’s clear that Nina gets what she wants.

Having a dog is almost like having a child, Nina says, or another full-time job (Maverick has her own Instagram account with nearly 400,000 followers), and that’s been another kind of training ground for Nina. Eventually, she wants to get married and have a family—and she’d like to act, write, produce, and direct at the same time. And why shouldn’t she?

“I can and will definitely have both [career and family],” she says.

“I’m still working on me. When I do have a family, I can focus my full energy on that, but I’m not ready for it yet. In 10 years, hopefully, I will be—for my mum’s sake. My mum wanted me to have a baby 10 years ago. She gets me baby clothes for Christmas every year. She’s like, ‘Hint, hint, nudge, nudge!’”

The focus right now is on sticking this landing. Once Nina conquers comedy—something she looks poised to do—she’d like to go on to star in a period piece, a biopic, and an action film. “I sort of want to do everything,” she says. “I know for sure I am capable of it. Because people know me a certain way, it’s been a process to change minds and show everybody else that I’m capable of it too.” So far, mission accomplished.

This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.

RELATED: How Nina Dobrev Completely Overhauled Her Eating And Exercise Regime

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8 Of The Best Exercise Shorts That Will Power You Through A Summer Of Movement

It’s official: Shorts Season is officially here. While lockdown has seen many of us realise that activewear is less something to be worn for a workout and more a uniform we choose to do any and all daily activities in, when the warmer temperatures roll around, that favourite pair of sweatpants and leggings sometimes don’t cut it. Sure, they might be a staple in any wardrobe, but the Aussie sun doesn’t listen to reason, no matter how comfortable or cute it might be. And when it comes to summer, working out in leggings can feel like being trapped in a sauna, the sweat pooling at your ankles and around the waistband – as well as those other areas we won’t mention here. 

But as we transition from leggings to shorts, it becomes clear pretty quickly that not all shorts are created equal, and certainly not all shorts are fit for a workout. Take it from us at Women’s Health HQ, we’ve been there, tried it and lived to see the consequences. From the shorts that look cute but ride up to show your undies on the run, to those that feel like being strapped into a harness that’s digging into your hip bones. Then there are the fabrics that can cause chafing – a big no – and those that basically shine a spotlight on any area you might be sweating. 

Thankfully, a number of brands are here to cater to your exercise needs with innovative materials, fabrics and sustainable options to see you through a summer of movement. Regardless of your workout preferences or daily activity, we’ve selected the best shorts that will ensure you feel good in your body, shorts that get you excited to embrace the day and attack it with energy, that make you want to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, whether it be walking, running, or socialising in the park. Here are our pick of the best bike shorts below. 


Uptown Biker, $240

What says summer more than a pop of orange and the sleek shape of these Nagnata biker shorts? With its mid-length and horizontal raised rib side detail, these are shorts you can wear both for a workout and out to meet the girls. Made in Australia with a technical knit fabrication, the double-layer jacquard provides gentle sculpting qualities for the body, making it an excellent choice for light to moderate fitness activities like yoga, pilates or barre. 

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New Balance

Q Speed Fuel Short, $70

We love the colour of these shorts from New Balance which are cut with a sleek, speedy look that also helps to elongate the legs. Featuring NB DRY moisture wicking fabric, these are the shorts you want for high intensity exercise or long runs, keeping you comfortable and dry. There’s also an interior brief for added comfort and a stash pocket to keep your essentials. 

All Access

Ultra High Rise Zip Front Biker Short, $78

Yes, the colour is amazing but the fit is equally sensational on these All Access shorts. For those who love a high-rise fit and wide waistband that holds you in at the waist, look no further. The sleek, shiny look offers mid-compression and the fabric is moisture-wicking, so you can stay comfortable even during your sweatiest workouts. 


Nike x Naomi Osaka Utility Short, $90

Few things are worse than heading out the door for a run and realising your shorts offer no pockets for those essentials you need. You’re left to hold your iPhone, keys, and anything else you might need in your sweaty palm. Thankfully, Naomi Osaka knows what we need when it comes to exercise shorts and these utility shorts from her collaboration with Nike offer all that and more with a relaxed fit and elastic waistband. 


Session short Tights, $72

When it comes to bike shorts, you want to feel supported and held in but you also want to be able to breathe. These Tracksmith session short tights are exceptional in offering support while still ensuring comfort remains a priority. Forget about chafing, these shorts won’t ride up and down and the fabric offers more coverage and support against the body. 

Outdoor Voices

Relay 3” Short, $48

Who said summer shorts have to be boring? Outdoor Voices brings fashion-forward style and playfulness to their collections with fun prints and exciting colours. We love the relay 3” shorts for their ultralight, quick-drying fabric that also happens to be made from recycled polyester. But more importantly, we love the print and Poppy Swirl is as good as it gets. There’s even a hidden pocket for your valuables, too. 


Align High-Rise Short 6”, $69

If you’re familiar with the buttery-soft feel of Lululemon’s tights, you’ll want to get your hands on a pair of their shorts, too. Made with the same Nulu fabric that their tights are known for, these shorts feel weightless and super soft. They might be our go-to staple for any workout, but the feel is so second-skin that it’s hard to not wear them for every other activity, too. 

Spiritual Gangster

Seamless Biker Short, $112

These biker shorts from Spiritual Gangster move with you, thanks to a three-tiered compressive waistband that offers a flattering high waist that hugs you in all the right places, without proving constrictive. They offer medium compression but are built for all day comfort, and the colour is a true summer staple because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love tie-dye?