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Woman of steel.

Former "Baywatch" actress Alexandra Paul conquers Hawaii's Triathlon and Sets her sights on future Entertainment projects.

At a statuesque 5'10" and 130 pounds, Alexandra Paul recently switched from TV lifeguard to Ironwoman when she competed in Hawaii's Ironman Triathlon Championships last October. "I didn't finish in the top five of my age group," says the 34-year-old Former model. "I did finish, though--in 13 hours, 18 minutes and 52 seconds."

Paul regularly rescued swimmers on the TV hit "Baywatch," looking both sexy and strong in her regulation red swimsuit as lifeguard Stephanie Holden. She turned in her uniform and stopped saving lives after five seasons--not For other acting projects, but to train seven days a week.

It might have been considered all odd tradeoff. "Baywatch" gave Paul worldwide exposure, enabling her to make documentaries such as "Jam Packed," a PBS special about overpopulation. "I knew I wouldn't be able to act and train at the same time, so I decided not to pursue acting for a while," she explains.

When Paul began her training regimen in preparation for the triathlon, she knew she had to work on building strength, but felt confident about her stamina. "Endurance is my strong point--certainly not agility, grace or hand-eye coordination," laughs Paul. "I knew I was slow, but I can go For a long time because I'm disciplined."

For Paul, the most important aspect of the Ironman competition was proving to herself--and boyfriend Ian Murray, who also competed--that not only was she a talented actress, but a strong woman as well. To get in shape for the event, Paul had to train so she could swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles. Two-time Ironman winner Scott Tinley was her coach. "Scott had us on the three sports of triathlon--biking, running and swimming," says Paul, who began training in February, 1997. "We did two of those sports daily during the week. On Saturday, we did all three sports, and Sunday we had a long swim and run." Yoga and weight-lifting classes rounded out the weekday workouts.

Exercise has been part of Paul's life since childhood. "I grew up in the country in Connecticut," she says. "We didn't have TV or a movie theater nearby, so sports and reading were our entertainment." An athletic twin sister and younger brother used to join Paul in soccer, basketball, swimming and horseback riding. "I'm not a natural athlete," Paul admits. "I wasn't good at golf, tennis, softball or baseball. But my mom gave us the opportunity to do any sport we wanted, and supported our choices by driving us to practice."

These days, the actress/producer/environmental activist has modified her exercise routine to a less grueling pace--starting with one hour of cardio, usually on a stationary bike, or swimming. "I sweat a lot on the bike and my heart rate is pretty high," says Paul. "Then it's on to 40minute weight lifting sessions, which I do about five times a week. I divide work for my body into three days--back, chest and shoulders one day, legs on the second and bicep/triceps the third. I also do sit-ups everyday."

Paul concedes to having knock-out shoulders. "They're my favorite body part," Paul explains. "They might be too broad for those little spaghetti strap dresses, but I think my shoulders fit my body well. I do pull-downs for them, and swimming has also helped."

Paul is not only serious about her consistent and strenuous workout schedule, but she's also a disciplined vegetarian. "I eat dairy, but no meat or fish," says Paul. "I'm trying to eat more protein through egg whites and soy products. This morning I had oatmeal mixed with protein powder."

Paul makes sure to eat every two to three hours with a total intake of 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day. Her one guilty pleasure is sugar. "I love it," she says. "Frozen yogurt is my compromise because it's not all that bad for me, but sometimes it will take the place of something nutritious. And I always eat about three cookies 10 minutes before I go to sleep. My boyfriend thinks I'm crazy for doing that, but it's a habit. Protein bars serve as snacks, but they're also sugary.

"We weren't allowed to have a lot of sugar in the house when I was growing up," she adds. "It was a bit restricted, which is probably why I love it so much now. My mom baked her own bread and cookies and made sure we had three home cooked, square meals on the table every day. A big deal for us was when we got a TV dinner. We thought that was the greatest thing ever."

When she's not working or working out, she's at home with her boyfriend and two kids. "Ian and I tutor our young boys in reading," says Paul. "It's a common goal of ours, and we love doing it."

The couple has shared a home for three years where they love to read, take walks and do crossword puzzles. However, marriage plans are not on the horizon. "I'm not really interested in getting married," says Paul. "But I would like to have more children--maybe adopt one."

Looking back on her former modeling days, Paul says she has only one regret. "I worried so much about how I looked in my teens and twenties," she says. "I am much more accepting of how I look now. I now take what I have and make the most of it."

And she has. After all, it wasn't her athletic prowess that earned her the Ironman invitation. "It was a business decision," she explains. "The event wanted some publicity, and I wanted to communicate that the triathlon is a people sport. It's not about being the best, it's about starting and finishing a journey."

These days Paul's career is on a roll. She is hosting an Outdoor Life Network series called "Wild Waters" which will air this fall, plus an independent feature called Arthur's Quest, due in theaters in October.

As for her years on "Baywatch" that brought fame, fortune and an Ironman invitation, Paul says, "I'm still in touch with David (Hasselhoff). I just adore him. I was so lucky to be able to act while doing something I liked-swimming. It's what made me happy all those seasons." And what makes her happy now? "Being with my boyfriend," she says.
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Title Annotation:Alexandra Paul
Author:Siegler, Bonnie
Publication:American Fitness
Date:Sep 1, 1998
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