Actress, Model and Former Miss USA Olivia Jordan on Running
There was a walk-on track team at my high school that a lot of athletes did during the off-season. I played volleyball and basketball from a young age, but I was always the slowest one on those teams. After a week of track tryouts—where you were supposed to be told what event you were in—I got a note from the coach saying to meet him in his office. He was like, “Don’t you think there’s anything else you can do with your spare time?” I don’t think anybody had ever been turned down before, but I was turned down for the walk-on track team.
In college, I was working as a personal trainer at a gym in Boston. At the time, I was making a plan to move to Los Angeles to act. The whole thing was a little daunting, so I signed up for a half marathon as an outlet. I had never run more than two or three miles in my life, but having set that goal, I needed to find a way get over the mental block.
I read just about every runner’s blog on how to start running. I printed out a training guide from Runner’s World and I just started running. It was very challenging because it was winter in Boston, but I kept pushing and looking for guidance. Once I did complete the half marathon in June 2011, it was like a weight had been lifted. Everything I had ever told myself was impossible or beyond my limits suddenly felt possible. Through that journey of training for and running the Kona Half Marathon in Hawaii, I developed a real love for running.
When I was doing longer runs, I started listening to stand-up comedy. Sometimes I would do a random shuffle and discover all of these comedians on Pandora and, other times, I would listen to a whole hour-long special. It would get me through surprisingly easily, where I’d be like, “Oh my gosh, did I really do six miles today?”
In Kona, I finished around 2:10:00. I wanted to do under two hours at the Williams Route 66 Half Marathon in Oklahoma, but I didn’t accomplish that. I’m a consistent ten-minute miler. I still have not become a fast runner.
When I was in Belize shooting the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, I would wake up and run up and down the street to clear my head for the day. I didn’t have much time, but even getting that short run in would help me go to breakfast without feeling anxious about this huge career goal I was trying to accomplish.
I’ve been told so many times throughout my career that I needed to lose weight. Running helped me accept my body for what it is. I had been taught to hate my butt and to hate my thighs, but running helps me appreciate that they’re strong. They can’t be skinnier or they wouldn’t be able to carry me for two hours across the pavement. My body isn’t just a hanger for clothes. There’s a reason for it. Running has helped me realize my power and strength and helped me gain acceptance.
When I was working out to look a certain way, working out wasn’t making me any happier. Now that I work out to feel a certain way, it’s life-changing. It isn’t about the physical aesthetic. That can be one of your goals, but I don’t think that should be your only goal. Feeling good is the real motivator for me.
Mostly I work out in the morning, so I’m a no-makeup girl unless I’m stuck in traffic and decide to get out and go for a run. (In Los Angeles, you can run anytime there’s traffic. Just pull off, go for a run until traffic dies down then get back in your car.) Then there’s been times where I have realized that people were looking at me differently because I’ve just come from set and am wearing a full set of fake eyelashes. My hair is all done in curls or pins or whatever. I forget once I’m actually moving that that’s what I look like because I don’t want to draw attention to myself. I just want to be able to keep my head down and run.
Jordan is a former Miss USA, and Miss Universe runner-up, and has been featured in national campaigns and in magazines including Cosmopolitan,Shape and Maxim. She will appear in the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, slated for release this June. You can follow her on Instagram@theoliviajordan.