A Sports Illustrated Cover Girl on Why She Hates the Gym

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Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Hannah Davis is on the cover of this year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in a photo that was racy enough that the Today show censored it. (Davis told them they made the image appear naughtier than it was.) She grew up in the Virgin Islands and was a champion on the Caribbean National Tennis Tour. She has a close relationship with her horse and boyfriend, Derek Jeter. She talks to the Cut about hating the gym, staying lean, and her cheat days. 

How I start my mornings: I go to Starbucks and get a red-eye, then go to straight to the gym. To be honest, my morning routine is probably not as healthy as it could be. I don’t really like to eat breakfast and don’t like to work out on a full stomach.

How wellness changed for me as I got older: I started modeling when I was 14. I was a teenager and ate whatever I wanted while playing on the Caribbean tennis circuit. I was keeping busy, so I never had to go on a diet. I went to New York Fashion Week and had pizza for lunch every single day.

But as your body gets older, you can’t do that. When I was 18, my body started to change. I probably wasn’t working out as hard or frequently as I did when I was training for tennis. And now, when I’m traveling and not in the gym, I have to be more careful since my workouts aren’t as intense.

How I sweat: I hate the gym, like most people. But it’s one of those things where you feel good when it’s over. When I’m in NYC, I use the gym in my building. I do the elliptical and lift weights on it for about 40 minutes, trying not to fall off. If you were to see me, you would be like, She’s really multitasking! But really I'm just trying to get it done as quickly as possible.

When I’m traveling, I bring my running shoes. It's a cool way to see the city if you’re in a new place. I walk a lot. In NYC, I try to not take cabs. In the Virgin Islands and St. Thomas where I grew up, I did hiking, paddle-boarding, swimming, and things like that, so I would rather be outdoors than at the gym.

How I eat: I try to be as healthy as I can and stay away from carbs and sugar during the week. I go to a few juice places and get the greenest juice I can find — one that doesn’t even contain fruit. It tastes terrible but I feel like it gives me a lot of energy. I probably do that three to four times a week, after a workout. I eat a lot of kale salads — I feel like I get more energy from those than romaine or spinach. I’m not able to juice for more than a day without feeling like I can’t go work out. I’ll sometimes replace dinner with a juice, but only when I have to buckle down and lose a little water weight.

I don’t want to deprive myself with my friends and family on the weekends. I don’t want to go to a birthday  party and not eat cake. When I’m alone, I try to eat as clean as possible so I can have a blast on weekends. I get two cheat days — although technically it starts Friday night for me.

On Instagram: When my sister was doing Paleo, we would look up recipes and go on Instagram. I have Googled a few booty workouts. When I’m  cooking for friends, I’m not going for healthy. I want my friends to enjoy themselves so I'm looking for real recipes, not ones where you’re using coconut milk instead of whole milk. Haylie Duff, Hilary Duff's sister, has a site called Real Girl's Kitchen, which I go to sometimes.  

On exercise: When you switch things up, your body doesn’t get used to a particular exercise and it’s more fun. I try to do a little bit of everything. A few years ago, I was really into boxing and did that for a straight month. One week, I’ll be running and then a yoga or Pilates class. Some days, I play basketball with people in my building. Other days, I go swimming in a pool.

I’m always looking online for new classes. I did a hip-hop dance class, and the next day I was sore in places I never felt sore before. I did SLT, which was one of the hardest classes I have ever done but not enough cardio. I tried ballet, but I felt like a dude in class — I don’t have delicate hands and fingers. But the one thing I have not yet tried is burpees. No flipping tires for me.

My wellness cheat: I can’t work out twice a day. It’s not realistic for my lifestyle. The last two weeks before a big job is when I amp it up. I don’t crave the foods I would normally when I’m working out really hard, so I'm usually eating better anyway. 

On staying lean: When I was boxing, I was doing a lot of squats. Because of the short, compact movement, it didn’t lengthen my body. I have to stay long and lean, so I have to do a lot of cardio. I don’t use heavy weights. I do a lot of reps. Instead of using an eight-pound weight, I use a two-pound weight and do arm exercises until my arms feel like they’re about to fall off. 

On cover scrutiny: Regardlesss of the cover, there’s going to be scrutiny every year — it’s too sexy or not sexy enough or too much skin. But it’s a swimsuit magazine. It’s supposed to be sexy! Hopefully most people think it was done in a tasteful way. 

This interview has been condensed and edited.