Former 'Baywatch' actress back for a swim

Alexandra Paul has starred in many TV shows and movies, but may best be known for her role as Lt. Stephanie Holden on "Baywatch." On June 23, she was back in the water -- one of the competitors at the 36th annual Swim Around Key West.

Certified as a real-life EMT and junior lifeguard before she even joined "Baywatch," she competed in the Ironman Triathlon in 1997 and swam 11 miles between Fiji islands in 2009.

As part of her training for the 12.5-mile race around Key West, she worked out six days a week, sometimes twice a day, and eats a high-protein vegan diet. But she cheats on it daily.

Q: Why did you decide to do Swim Around Key West?

A: I hadn't swam anything over 11 miles and wanted the challenge! I had to stop running about 10 years ago after knee surgery, so I began swimming more. I have never been fast, but I enjoy seeing if I can go farther and farther. I only pick warm-water races, as I get cold easily and don't enjoy wearing a wetsuit.

Q: Did you train in South Florida before the race?

A: I came to Key West in March and did a 5-mile swim.

Q: How was open-water swimming off Key West compared with elsewhere?

A: The ocean is a lot warmer and clear. In L.A., we can only see 2 feet in front of us and it's cold. But the chop [off Key West] was pretty calm.

Q: What's your workout routine?

A: Right now, I am doing more swimming than usual, but normally I work out six days a week with at least one hour of cardio: either swimming, the StepMill or the stationary bike at the gym. I also have a yoga routine I do for 45 minutes at home three times a week. And I lift light weights twice a week.

Q: How long do you work out per session, and where?

A: To train for this swim, my husband Ian [Murray], who is a triathlon coach (, fashioned my program like I were training for a marathon: shorter, more intense workouts during the week, with a progressively longer swim on the weekend. Due to a shoulder injury, I never swim two days in a row, and I have had to cut out interval training to protect them, which is unfortunate. But keeping my shoulders healthy is the priority because I want to be swimming when I am 95!

Q: The average body fat level for a woman is 25-31 percent. What's yours?

A: It's 14.6 percent. It is a more accurate measurement of fitness, isn't it?

Q: Ever take long breaks from working out?

A: No, never. I used to work out every day, but my nutritionist Matt Mahowald convinced me that taking a day off is better for me all around. I might stretch or lift on that day, but I don't do cardio.

Q: What was your toughest acting job physically?

A: I was shooting "Detonator II" with Pierce Brosnan in Amsterdam, and I got pretty bruised up doing a fight sequence. I had to run, steal a bike, ride that bike along a canal, crash, get up and jump over a bridge onto a passing boat and knock out the bad guy. No stunt double on that one.

Q: What competitive sports have you played?

A: I played a lot of sports as I grew up in rural Connecticut. Since my mother forbade TV, our entertainment was sports or reading books. I played soccer, basketball and softball at school and was not good at any of them — no hand-eye coordination for me! I swam on the local swim team until I was 15 and ran cross-country in high school. Always a very average athlete, but I was enthusiastic.

Q: Does your family keep fit?

A: My husband coaches triathletes, and he competes in triathlons and bike races. He also did the 10-mile Maui Channel Swim and beat me by an hour.

My mom did several 100-mile bike rides when she was 66. Now at 76, she still rides 30 to 40 miles with her bike group in Ashland, Ore.

My twin sister, who was a total jock in high school, was on the national luge team and became a firefighter. She goes on kayaking and mountain bike trips and works out regularly in the gym, but she prefers weights to cardio.

My brother started running five years ago and did his first marathon a couple years later.

Q: You mentioned a shoulder injury and knee surgery. Any other physical problems that hinder exercise?

A: I have chronic lower-back pain, which is why I do a yoga routine three times a week to keep me pain-free. I had knee surgery because I wore away the cartilage from running.

Q: Do you smoke or have any other health vices?

A: I have never smoked, drank alcohol or taken drugs … I have had two glasses of wine in my life. That is all the alcohol I have ever consumed.

Q: What's your typical daily diet?

A: I am a vegan. For breakfast, I have 1/4 cup of oatmeal with 25 grams of Vega Sport Performance Vanilla Protein powder and flaxseed. After my workout, I have that again. I eat 100 grams of protein a day and about 2,000 calories a day. My nutritionist wants me to up my calories, but I find that difficult. I was able to eat 2,700 yesterday since I ate a lot of chips and guacamole at a Mexican restaurant last night, but I don't think that was the diet he had in mind! My challenge is to stay away from sugar. Sugar is definitely addictive.

Q: Do you ever cheat from your diet?

A: Yep, daily. Vegan chocolate chips are my weakness. I never have a perfect day, so I have opted to not stress so much about that and aim for better workouts and to be a better person. I do write my food down daily, so I can remain accountable. There is nothing like writing down what you eat to really keep you on track. For anyone wanting to improve their diet, that is a must.

Q: What do you drink?

A: Water. The raciest I get is hot water with lemon. On race day, I will put electrolytes in my water bottle, and Pedialyte will be added to my almond milk/almond butter/banana shake.


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Alexandra Paul

Age: 48

City of residence: Los Angeles

Height/weight: 5 feet, 10 inches; 131 pounds

Occupation: Movie and TV actress

More on Paul:

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