Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model Nina Agdal shares 'other side' of 'glamorous' industry: 'It’s very lonely'

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Nina Agdal is still in awe that she’s made it this far.

The 29-year-old, who grew up playing basketball in her native Denmark, has appeared in six Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues. According to the outlet, she made her first appearance in 2012 and earned the “Rookie of the Year” title. In 2014, the model appeared on the cover alongside Chrissy Teigen and Lily Aldridge.

Today, Agdal wants to encourage her followers to feel their healthiest, happiest selves. She recently launched her own fitness app The Agdal Method and partnered with SkinnyDipped for those seeking some inspiration. 

Agdal spoke to Fox News about her SI Swimsuit success, her healthy habits and her take on self-care.

Models Chrissy Teigen, Lily Aldridge and Nina Agdal attend the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 50th Anniversary Party at Swimsuit Beach House on February 18, 2014 in New York City. 
(Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage/Getty Images)

Fox News: Many fans recognize you from SI Swimsuit. Looking back, how did that experience change your life?
Nina Agdal: Oh my God, it completely changed everything. After I appeared on Sports Illustrated, I remember I would walk down the street and people would recognize me. They would say my name. In Denmark, where I’m from, it was a huge deal. SI Swimsuit has this incredible power of putting someone on the map. 

They gave me the confidence and the power to build something for myself. We’ve seen so many powerful women appear in that magazine who later become entrepreneurs and so much more. I truly think it’s just the secret, spicy ingredient that I will always carry.

It put my name out in such an unexpected way. It also gave me this incredible boost of confidence. Like, “If I can achieve this, what can I do next?” And [editor] MJ Day is such a powerful force in uplifting women. SI Swimsuit has become such an incredible vehicle for diversity in the modeling industry. It represents women who are empowered and confident from all different backgrounds. It certainly continues to empower me.

Nina Agdal has appeared in appeared in six Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues. 
(Photo by Michael Stewart/Getty Images)

Fox News: What was going through your mind when you saw yourself on the cover for the first time?
Agdal: I remember I was in Joshua Tree shooting for a client. I saw it on Skype and I just kept thinking to myself, “Oh my God, this is crazy.” I moved to the U.S. in 2010 to try out modeling. I really didn’t have any idea how it was going to go. I didn’t really know if this is something that would ultimately work out for me. I remember when I was leaving [for the U.S.] I was going up an escalator and just waving goodbye to my parents.

I was traveling five to six days a week just constantly. During that whole time, I didn’t see my friends or family. A lot of people don’t realize that when you see a girl on the cover of a magazine. Everything looks so glamorous. But there’s a whole other side to modeling. It’s very lonely, a lot of work, constant traveling – it takes a toll both mentally and physically. But when I saw myself on the cover, I just felt like I was on the right path. It was time to keep building. It was very surreal.

Nina Agdal recommended seeking fun fitness routines that won’t feel like a chore.
(Associated Press)

Fox News: How do you physically prepare for something like a swimsuit photoshoot?
Agdal: In terms of my fitness and nutrition philosophy, I don’t encourage people to just find easy solutions before something. I’m often asked, “Summer’s around the corner, what do you do before?” I think there’s something extremely triggering about just that whole idea, you know what I mean? I think as women, we’re often told, “Summer is in two months, you’ve gotta get swimsuit ready!” or whatever it is. I think that can be very stressful and you won’t really want to work out. It becomes a form of punishment. It no longer becomes, “I’m doing something good for myself.”

Nina Agdal said consistency is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle all year long.
(Photo by Gotham/GC Images/Getty)

Even if I have a swimsuit shoot coming up, it’s not so much about working out. I’m more focused on things like, “Am I drinking enough water to stay hydrated?” “Am I eating the right foods to nourish my body to feel good and strong throughout the day?” 

For me, working out is about being consistent. It’s a part of my lifestyle and how I live. Even if I didn’t have a swimsuit shoot coming up, I would still be working out. But on a regular basis, I work out three to four times a week. Sometimes it can be five times a week. But I think it depends on the week. Sometimes it’s five minutes, other times it can be 40. I truly believe that when it comes to working out, it’s all about consistency and movement. You have to keep moving.

Fox News: What are some of your favorite workout routines that help you stay consistent?
Agdal: For me, you have to listen to your body on that specific day. I used to be, “I have to work out 60 minutes a day.” Or, “I had a pizza for dinner last night, today I have to work out for an hour and a half.” Now, it’s more like, “What does my body feel like doing today?”

Nina Agdal has a fitness app called The Agdal Method.
(Associated Press)

Sometimes I want to put in a really great workout, but I have a million things to do that day, so all I can really do is go for a walk. And that’s OK too. I think people often focus on how long the workout is, how sweaty you are when you’re done and how tired you are afterward. The thing is, if you overdo it, you’re probably not going to want to do it again. And then you won’t stay consistent. Find things that you enjoy doing and try new things, too. Some days you’ll want to go cycling, but on another day your body really wants a good yoga stretch. You’ll feel great afterward and it won’t feel like a chore.

When it comes to fitness, Nina Agdal said she’s not a great swimmer, but she’s willing to boost her agility with running.
(Getty Images)

Fox News: On days when you don’t feel like your very best, what do you do to boost your confidence?
Agdal: We all have those days, right? Especially in the past year. I think it’s extremely important to acknowledge that you’re feeling that way. And when you feel a bit off, take that day a little bit slower. Do things that make you feel good. For me, I like to have a simple morning routine. So for example, I won’t go straight to my phone or immediately jump on those emails. I know everyone says to avoid that when you can, but it’s true. It honestly makes a huge difference. 

Instead of doing that, make your bed or tidy up your space. Take a shower, do your skincare, have a nourishing breakfast, write in a journal, maybe go out for a walk. Maybe just sit down with a warm cup of tea with lemon, ginger and honey. I like to start my day with a positive headspace so I feel prepared to handle whatever life throws at me that day. But really, we all have those days. It’s OK to slow things down and instead, do something that makes you feel good. That way you can end your day in a different place than when you started it.

Fox News: Are there certain workout routines that you’re just not a fan of?
Agdal: I dread running *laughs*. I always hear about this runner’s high and how people just fall immediately in love with it. I felt like I needed to learn to run and enjoy it. But instead of forcing myself to do something that I just didn’t like, I would go on a power walk. 

Nina Agdal revealed some of her favorite skincare must-haves.
(Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

I focused less on the time, like “How long am I doing this?” and just kept going. I think that helped to build my endurance. But now I can try it and it’s not so terrible *laughs*. Sometimes I just feel like walking and that’s great in itself. I’m also a terrible swimmer. My friends are always like, “Let’s go for a swim!” and I’m the one going, “I don’t want to.” *laughs*.

Fox News: What are some of your go-to tips to stay as healthy as possible while traveling?
Agdal: I think nowadays, airports are definitely adapting to offering healthy options on the go. I know years ago when I was traveling, it was more difficult to find good, healthy options, especially if you wanted to snack on something. 

But I always say plan ahead and bring your own snacks and bars. If you decide to buy something, I always like to look at the ingredients list. I would definitely stay away from anything that’s super processed. I think looking for whole, clean ingredients is key. And if you go to a restaurant, you can always ask for the dressing on the side if you’re eating a salad. And when it comes to protein, you can go with grill instead of fried. 

Nina Agdal said she loves to stock up on whole, clean ingredients to prepare fun dishes at home.
(Photo by Gotham/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

Fox News: If we were to go through your fridge, what would we find?
Agdal: When it comes to protein, I love having eggs. They’re so easy to make and you can get a meal super quickly from them. You’ll definitely find a lot of avocados. They’re perfect for having a filling breakfast or lunch. You can have some chicken with avocado for a quick lunch, especially if you’re super busy and need something that’s convenient and simple.

I also love chickpeas. They’re so easy to prepare and you can add them to almost anything. I love having berries and coconut water that I can use for a tasty smoothie. And I’ve got to have my nut butters. I love having plenty of greens that you can pair with some brown rice and avocado. For me, I like things that are filling, but easy to prepare and delicious, of course.

Fox News: We hear you love cooking. What are some of your favorite healthy meals to prepare at home?
Agdal: Oh my God, where do I start? *laughs*. I love curry, like a vegetarian curry, with ginger, lemongrass and coconut milk. I love a fresh piece of fish that’s grilled, especially during this time of year. I love a big, fresh salad. I’m very fortunate that my boyfriend’s mom has an incredible garden in the Hamptons where you can find all of these delicious, fresh ingredients.

Nina Agdal is grateful for the success she achieved with the help of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit.
(Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage/Getty Images)

My favorite thing to do is to pick up the tomatoes, leafy greens and cucumbers and whip up something with balsamic vinaigrette. When it starts getting colder. I love curries and soups, especially butternut squash. Anything warm and nourishing that makes you feel good. For me, it’s all about real, whole ingredients, not anything processed or already made for you. When something is in season, I love to stock up on it and get creative in the kitchen with them.

Fox News: What’s your skincare routine like?
Agdal: I love oils. A lot of people are afraid of oils, but I’m personally not. I feel like the right oil can brighten your skin and give you that glowy, healthy appearance without applying so much makeup. One of the products I’ve been loving this year is Youth Watery Oil. It’s on the pricey side, but it’s such a great investment when it comes to skincare.

Every time I apply it, I feel like I can visually see that something is happening here. My face looks more hydrated and glowing. That’s what I’m always looking for. Barbara Sturm is a big name right now and she’s the real deal. Her face cream is just incredible. And I love Caudalie. I always have their facial spray. I’ve been using it for years now and it’s just my go-to. It feels truly magical when it’s a really hot day and you can just spray yourself with it *laughs*.

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