Playing an Amazon on a major TV program comes with major expectations, both in appearance as well as being a believable fighter.
Like Lucy Lawless as Xena, Renee O'Connor had to follow a strict workout and diet plan to be able to pull off the look, as well as some of the stunts for action scenes, of the warrior princess Gabrielle in Xena: Warrior Princess from 1995 to 2001.
The Renee O'Connor workout routine
O'Connor shared what her workout routine was like to play Gabrielle in a 1998 interview with the Los Angeles Times. She used a lot of variety and functional training that would not only allow her to look like a warrior, but to also help her stunt acting with things like kickboxing.
At this time, O'Connor would typically work out 6 days per week. 4 of those days would be cardio workouts, with either 30 minutes of running, 2 hours of hiking, or an aerobics class. She would also go to an indoor gym to do rock climbing twice per week. Rock climbing can actually be incredibly challenging and really works the upper body to give a lean and toned look.
In total, she would mix in the following exercise types:
- Rock climbing
- Lifting weights
For her role, O'Connor found it important to incorporate variety into her training program. She found this to be important to prevent boredom from creeping into her routine. Her workouts would be based on listening to her body, so she would use short, low-impact sessions when she was more tired and long, intense workouts when she had the energy.
All of these different types of exercises mixed very well to give her the look of a fighter. There's is plenty of cardio mixed in to burn extra calories and also improve conditioning which helps with long hours of action on the set. Lifting weights helped to build and maintain lean muscle mass which gave her a toned look.
Fitting in exercise when you are filming 12 hours per day or more is no easy task. Anyone who thinks its easy for actors to get into shape should seriously look at what their daily schedule is like, which O'Connor outlined in the quote below:
It's just difficult with a 12-hour day to find the time to work out, so I do it in the evening now. The first season I used to get up at 3:30 in the morning, run for an hour, go to work for 12 hours and then just die by 7 or 8 o'clock at night. Lucy said, "Renee, take it easy, you know. We're here for the long haul."
The Renee O'Connor diet plan
It was important for O'Connor to have the right nutrition plan to support both her training and her shooting schedule. She focused mostly on lean protein choices to go with fruits and vegetables. An average daily diet would look like this:
- Breakfast - fruit and granola (muesli) with skim milk
- Lunch - chicken, spinach, steamed vegetables
- Snack - tea and fruit or sandwich
- Dinner - chicken stir fry
Because Gabrielle was a fighting Amazon, O'Connor went for a muscularly toned look for the character. The character was very lean, but still had a very athletic and strong appearance that made her look that she could fight anything that came her way.
I mean, I know that my body shape is not the same as a lot of actresses on television who are very thin and model-like, but I'm grateful that I am playing a character who's athletic, who runs around with a warrior princess, so I can do things where I might look bulkier, but I feel strong and healthy.
O'Connor's career is filled with different television and movie roles, but many fans will always remember her for her time as the iconic Gabrielle in Xena: Warrior Princess.