W.O.W! Working Out With Alysia Reiner



Photos by Casey Steffens

Fans of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black know Alysia Reiner as the assistant prison warden, Natalie “Fig” Figueroa, one of those antagonistic characters you love to hate on a show. Though probably most recognized for this role, this busy actress and producer has a plethora of other current roles to her credit as well. Alysia stars as Sunny on the new F/X show Better Things; District Attorney Wendy Parks on How To Get Away With Murder; and Lilian Izikoff on Rosewood, just to name a few. She was also one of the stars and producers of the acclaimed 2016 Wall Street film Equity. Other television and film appearances are far too numerous to list, but reading her IMDb page, it kind of seems like she’s been in everything. And to top it all off, she just launched a new fashion line, Livari.

So how does this over-achieving actress, producer, designer, wife, and mother find the time to workout? For Alysia it’s a daily priority and has been since she was a teenager. We first met at SoulCycle, where she is a regular, but HIIT classes, yoga, and Patricia Moreno’s IntenSati are a part of her weekly fitness rotation – the latter to which she brought me for this installment of “W.O.W! Working out With”.


Patricia Moreno is a legendary instructor who has been on the forefront of the fitness industry since the late 1990’s. She started her career at the famed Jeff Martin Studio, and then made her home at Equinox for over 20 years. Patricia’s story deserves a feature in itself, but to share it succinctly, despite being one of the most popular, successful, and well-known fitness instructors, she struggled with her weight and an eating disorder her entire life. On every crazy diet from the age of 10, she became an expert at losing weight, but was never able to maintain it. It was in one devastating moment, outed for her weight gain by the producers of a morning television program on which she was the fitness expert, she realized if she was unable to succeed, how could anyone else? She made it her mission to figure out what was missing and how to create sustainable change.

IntenSati was born in a eureka moment on a 2-year journey of self-discovery. The name itself is a combination of “Intention” and “Sati”, which means mindfulness. Patricia’s revelation came through the teachings of “Self-Concept”. Simply put, you are what you say you are. The class combines dance cardio with repeated positive affirmations, expressed loud and proud by all throughout the workout. By repeating these mantras while exercising, Patricia’s theory is you are training your mind, as well as your body, to make them so. Like any class it requires conditioning, and the more you repeat those affirmations the stronger the positive neural pathways get. While it may sound hokey, Patricia’s class is packed with people sweating and shouting joyfully such phrases as, “I am done complaining, I am now appreciating. I am a magnet for success, so I lay my fears to rest”.

This is where I found myself with Alysia Reiner, a long time student of Patricia’s and Intensati devotee, at Limelight Fitness — the former church, turned nightclub, turned gym – where Patricia has now set up shop.


STYLE OF SPORT: So let’s talk about that class!

ALYSIA REINER: I started taking Patricia’s class when I was really young. I had a pretty rough childhood. I did not have parents that were positive affirmation people and for me it was like church. My brain will go to the negative, so I have to practice not doing that. It was really retraining my brain. I always say that exercise is my drug of choice. It’s the reason I think I’m not on anti-depressants. I get high on those endorphins and to practice how to think while I’m working out is really spectacular. I feel like so many of my dreams have come true because I took this class throughout my 20’s.

SOS: You hear and repeat those positive affirmations nonstop for 45 minutes and there’s no way it’s not going to sink in. While we were working out, I couldn’t help but think about all the projects you have going on! Orange is the New Black…

AR: Better ThingsEquity, a new movie project, Egg… and then I’m on Broad City tomorrow night, and I just did Younger and Odd Mom Out!

SOS: Wow! And there’s both acting and producing.

AR: Equity and Egg are both actor and producer. Actually, my daughter made me promise this summer that I wouldn’t produce another movie for two years. I thought, ‘Well, she didn’t say anything about television.’

SOS: Your career is thriving! Is Orange what really got it all started?

AR: As an actor you always think there’s gonna be another big thing. I feel like the first big thing for me was Sideways, Alexander Payne’s movie. That was like my first big break, and opened a lot of doors for me. But Orange changed everything.


SOS: Is that where everyone really knows you from?

AR: There have been a lot of jobs where a couple people will recognize you on the street, but Orange… now I can’t walk down the street without someone asking for a selfie.

SOS: Is that a fun thing or an annoying thing?

AR: Oh, it’s a blessing! It’s the biggest blessing. How can you not appreciate that… especially after that class!

SOS: I’ve done these W.O.Ws with actresses like Abby Elliot from Odd Mom Out, who play characters you love to hate. I like to imagine what they would think of these workouts.

AR: I feel like Fig would go, “Eeew!” She would think it was the most ridiculous thing. I would love to see an episode where someone tries to bring it into the prison, like yoga, and her shutting that shit down! Sunny on Better Things… I think she’d try it. She’d be like, ‘Wow, that’s interesting! What do I wear?’ Sunny would be really into what she wears. And she’d love to bring Sam. She’d be like, ‘Sam, you have to try it!’

SOS: It’s a fun way to channel a character by figuring out what workout they’d like. Let’s talk about other workouts you do. We met at SoulCycle…

AR: I try to do that at least once a week, and then I love doing different things. I try to take yoga, although I don’t as much as I should. I love HIIT classes. I’m an Equinox member so I’ll do Tabata or Metcon or Whipped. You use battle ropes and the rowers. It’s a circuit and it’s really good. I love variety because I’ve been working out since I was like 12. I used to teach aerobics when I was in college.

SOS: Well, you look amazing! So you work out about 4-5 days week?

AR: It’s pretty much every day. If I’m shooting, I’m shooting, but even then, I’ll try to do something. Like I have a trampoline in my house, or now you can just go on YouTube and take a 30-minute HIIT class.

SOS: You’re lean as can be. I assume you’re naturally built that way.

AR: No, I was a mercilessly teased fat kid.

SOS: I would never have guessed that! You look like someone who has been skinny her whole life. What’s your diet like?

AR: I’m a big believer in whole foods. Not a lot of sugar. No chemicals. I used to be afraid of fat. I was one of those girls back in the day. Now I eat like an avocado a day, and lots of beautiful nuts, lots healthy fats. I eat a LOT of vegetables. I don’t eat a lot of fruit because I need to be careful of the sugar. My grandmother was diabetic. My sister shared with me even though she’s completely sugar free, she has high blood sugar, and so do I.

SOS: Finally, we have to talk about your new fashion line, Livari, if you weren’t busy enough! We all just saw the collection debut at New York Fashion Week and you strutting down the runway modeling it! How did this all come to pass?

AR: It was not on purpose. I got together with my partners, Claudine and Tabitha, and we were just talking. It was right after the Women’s March. There had been so much darkness in the world for women — the pulling of funding for so many women’s organizations, a woman’s right to choose. Funding was pulled from the NEA. There is no EPA anymore. There is no National Endowment for the Arts anymore. We were talking about this and how we could incite change. I’ve always been an activist and a part of grassroots organizations. For me creating art, creating things for positive change feels good. That was really the impetus for Livari.

SOS: How is Livari that force for change?

AR: We thought what if we could create a clothing line that used environmental friendly products? What if we could make a line of clothing with zero waste? What if we could hire all women at a great wage and hire women coming out of prison, create jobs, and help reduce recidivism? What if we could make it local in New York, and make it custom, so women feel beautiful and part of the creation process? We said, ‘Okay, let’s try it!’

SOS: This has been so great. I love that you got me to try this new class!

AR: And now we’ll be friends forever!

SOS: Workout buddies for life!