A few months before the March 15 premiere of the new Lara Croft movie, I experienced just an hour or so of the physical training star Alicia Vikander did for Tomb Raider — and I was sore for at least three days. Needless to say, it gave me a whole lot of appreciation for the the actor behind the iconic character, who put in months of serious dedication and commitment to transform into Lara Croft. As I learned from my workout at the Tomb Raider "Croftcamp" in Los Angeles led by trainer Magnus Lygdback, Vikander is a major badass both in-character as Lara Croft and out.
Throughout the day, Lygdback (who's also trained celebrities like Ben Affleck and Alexander Skarsgard), recalled how "inspiring" it was to watch Vikander transform into Croft, and it's clear why; the intense workout was about far more more than just toning up. "Magnus really helped me transform for the role and gain a true sense of empowerment," said Vikander in a brief video message, before adding, "I hope you have as much fun as I did. Good luck, you’re gonna need it." She was right.
Training consisted of three stations: movement, MMA, and strength and conditioning. Each one was more challenging than the next, and because they were so different, each required tapping into various strengths and skills. (Ones maybe you didn't even know you had.)
During MMA training, for example, we had to relentlessly throw punches for minutes straight and take punches (pictured above). Having the strength to endure continuous punches while holding your footing takes so much work. And the training at the movement station really took me by surprise — it was much harder than it looked. Moves were slow and steady, as we had to carefully isolate body parts to move across the room as if we were surrounded by hot lava. I'm convinced that's what made me so sore. (That and playing tag while on hands and feet only or doing human pull-ups at the strength station, most likely.)
Although we were only at each station for about 15 to 20 minutes, it got tough, fast. There were definitely times during those relatively short sessions that I wanted to give up, which made me realize just how committed Vikander must've been to getting strong as Lara. But according to Lygdback, the actor was more than up to the task. "She’s a former ballerina and that’s something I compare to a wrestler," he explains. "They’re used to grinding for six to eight hours a day and never complaining. The only time we butted heads was when I forced her to take the day off."
According to Lygdback, Vikander began training seven months before Tomb Raider's filming began, with weekly video training programs. Once they were four months out, Vikander went into a "heavy training cycle." Yet although the actor clearly crushed it, it wasn't always a walk in the park. "Every single day was tough," Lygdback recalls. "You don’t look like that unless you really dig deep. She’s hard on herself, she’s super hardworking. But she liked everything that we did."
Another imperative component to Vikander's transformation was nutrition. Some of her daily favorites, according to her trainer, were ginger/lemon/turmeric/cayenne wellness shots and cold brew coffee (which she had every morning), as well as foods filled with good fats and protein. Eating these healthy meals also required Vikander's dedication, especially since she's such a foodie. "When you travel with Alicia, wherever she goes, she finds out where the best restaurants are in town," Lygdback says.
Two months before filming, Vikander's diet mainly consisted of fish and KETO diet, MCT oil, and avocado. Of course, anyone would grow tired around eating the same foods for weeks, but the actor apparently took it like a champ. And according to Lygdback, Vikander managed to stay so focused because she knew she was channeling the one-and-only icon Lara Croft.
"Being a part of a project like this doesn’t need more motivation. This is an iconic role, an iconic movie, and Alicia is a huge fan of the games," says the trainer. "She brought it every single day — it’s impressive."
And after experiencing a taste of that commitment myself, I have no doubt that Vikander's hard work will result in a version of the strong and badass Lara Croft that fans will remember for years to come.