We Exercised with Nina Dobrev and the Experience Nearly Destroyed Us

Madeleine Davies & Megan Reynolds
Image via Megan Reynolds.

We at Jezebel get invited to endless PR events, most of them not worth attending. We do make an exception, however, when the outcome might be funny, weird, or there’s exceptionally good free stuff involved. It was through these circumstances that Madeleine Davies and Megan Reynolds ended up on a Williamsburg hotel roof in 90-degree heat, doing a “Les Mills” workout—all for the promise of a new sports bra, a free brunch, and a glimpse at celebrity brand ambassador Nina Dobrev of The Vampire Diaries.

Here’s the story of two extremely sweaty writers who almost barfed on a blazing hot roof. Full disclosure: We were not paid to write this article, but through the event, we were provided with free workout gear. It is not sponsored content.


Madeleine: The day began early, with a car ride to the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg (beautiful facility, by the way) where Megan and I were sent to the wrong floor because the event coordinators thought we were the help. A promising start.

Megan: The car ride was lovely and the behind-the-scenes glimpse we got at the set-up for the brunch we would eventually eat was nice, too. Also nice was the entire staff of the William Vale who tried their hardest to ensure that we made it to where we needed to be—a very luxe and well-appointed suite that had an aggressive light fixture, nice couches and a hot tub that remained covered the entire time. Once ensconced in the luxury that only Degrassi and Vampire Diaries money can buy, we were given large paper bags that contained our outfits.

Madeleine: Officially, the event was a partnership between Reebok (you’ve heard of her) and Les Mills, an exercise brand that, per their ad copy, challenges you “while celebrating the power of group fitness.”


As the girls who always lied about having our periods to get out of gym, Megan and I chose what we imagined to be the easiest Les Mills workout option—a bodyflow class that combines yoga, tai chi, and pilates. But first we all had to get into matching Reebok gear, sending a flock of PR girls into a near-frenzy as they attempted to find everyone’s gift bags and sizes.

Megan: Upon opening my bag, I discovered a pair of stirrup leggings, some shoes, a pair of socks and a very cute sports bra that took me a second to wrestle into, due to its strappiness and the fact that it was slightly too small. The shirt, however, was another issue. As everyone else padded out of the bathroom in a sherbet-colored tank top with visible Les Mills branding on the back, I couldn’t help but notice that I was given a black short sleeved t-shirt that made me feel like the kid who wears a t-shirt into the pool.


Madeleine: It was very fucked up to have Megan be the ONLY person in a black t-shirt instead of putting in the minimal effort to find her size (or, if for some reason that wasn’t possible, give her something cooler to make up for it). I think this is why a lot of people feel alienated in group workout classes. It was basically, “Conventionally skinny people over here and you... here’s an ugly t-shirt and stick to the back.”

Thankfully, Megan took control of the situation, displaying a TRULY impressive and candy-coated iciness when requesting a better option.


Megan: I don’t like using my customer voice unless it’s absolutely necessary, because my customer voice is really rude and I’m generally a nice person. However, as I watched more and more women take selfies in pastel coral tank tops, flexing and smiling and tossing their blowouts, I felt bad about myself! And I have no need to, because I’m fine. I kept feeling like I was making a fuss, but really, everything that morning had been fussy, so I did what I had to do. They found me a shirt—shocking that they had a size large somewhere in the back!—and I put that shirt on. Once we were all dressed like little fitness sheep, we headed up to the roof deck for an extremely uncomfortable workout experience in the blazing fucking sun.


Madeleine: To your credit, Megan, you were the LEAST fussy person there. The girls behind us kept rudely asking “Is this the only product we get?” while staring into a bag that contained at least $150 worth of workout apparel, including sneakers.

You made a very funny observation as we headed up to the roof which was that, dressed all the same, it looked like we were in a wellness cult that was about to commit mass suicide by exercising to death. Honestly, I would not be shocked if we died from heatstroke while waiting on black yoga mats for the woman of the hour (our Jim Jones) Nina Dobrev to arrive. The workout was supposed to start at 9:30, it was already 10:30, and the only thing they had to snack on was green juice and “Sakara Superfood Beauty Water,” which typically costs $6 a bottle and is flavored like roses.


Megan: The green juice tasted like salad. The red juice tasted like roasted beets. I didn’t get to try the pink juice, as it was the citrus one, and everyone else got to it before I did. Sad. The nice thing about standing on the roof of the William Vale for 45 minutes waiting for Nina Dobrev to lead us to immolation was the view and also the Reebok-branded water bottle that a woman pressed into our hands the minute we got up there. I still have that water bottle and I’m going to use it every day. I also loved the rose water, but I remember thinking that I would’ve loved everything just a tiny titch more had we been indoors.

But, we were going to do it outside, because that’s what Nina Dobrev does with her friends, and we were Nina’s friends for the morning. After many speeches by various people, our instructors came out. One was a man who looked a little bit like the Ken doll with a man bun and the other was a woman who seemed nice. And then... finally... Nina Dobrev emerged, along with her dog, Maverick, who was wearing a Go-Pro.


Madeleine: The whole pretense of the event was that for one day and one day only, we were members of Nina Dobrev’s squad and—as we all know—Nina Dobrev’s squad loves to exercise. One thing I’ll say is that if Nina really does the Les Mills workout, it is very effective because she looked healthy and buff, like she could definitely beat you at arm wrestling. I truly felt inspired, even as I began seeing a mirage in the distance.

As for the bodyflow workout, I am surprised to say that I really liked it! It was a good balance of yoga and pilates, though—as with everything that morning—I really wish that we had been indoors because the mix of sweat and environment was creating some really challenging grip issues and I was slipping all over the place. Still, though, I feel like I got a good workout in. So good, in fact, that maybe I’ll never have to work out again?


Megan: The workout itself was great, even though at various points during the 45 minutes, I was fairly certain I was going to barf—though I felt that way only after I took a sip of the rose water which had turned the temperature of hot tea in the late morning sun. I do think that I got something like a good workout! I’m sore, maybe. I feel queasy. Also I sweat out all the “toxins” which probably included some of the spray sunscreen I patted directly into my face because I had no other option.

Though there was definitely a heat advisory today and (again!) we probably should have been indoors, Maddie and I made it. A nice woman gave us a popsicle and we were herded down to the dining section where it was time for brunch.


Madeleine: You mean it was ALMOST time for brunch. First they made us sit and stare at the food while it was photographed for their brand book (i.e. the TRUE reason for the event, though no one would admit it). While we were drooling at a plate of lox (neither of us had eaten anything!), a woman came up to us and asked if she could record us giving honest feedback on the workout. Both of us said the same thing: the workout was good, the view was nice, but it was way too hot to be outside. That’s when she cut us off, deleted the video, and asked us to do it again, but this time “be positive.” Needless to say, we did not entirely fit in with the rest of the crowd.


The brunch, when we finally got to eat it, was very good albeit intensely healthy. I wanted to have whatever Nina Dobrev was having on the off chance that it would magically give me her arms and core strength, but she was (wisely) kept far away from me. So instead I got oatmeal. Riveting, I know.

Megan: Sitting inside was like being at a very fancy wedding—like we were all marrying each other and then our cult leader and then dying, maybe. Also it was air-conditioned. That was nice. The brunch was great because it was food!! And we were, as mentioned, very fucking hungry. I should’ve gotten the oatmeal but opted for yogurt and some sort of granola that tasted healthy but also good. There was also live musical accompaniment and a brief “styling session” that consisted of Nina Dobrev’s stylist teaching us tips and tricks for taking your leggings and tank tops from the gym to the boardroom or something?


I looked up at one point and Nina Dobrev was wearing a blazer over her workout gear. Sure.

Madeleine: That’s kind of how I feel about the whole experience: Sure! Everyone was very nice and it did not make me feel less or more about Nina Dobrev, other than that I now have an opinion on her haircut (cute) and dog Maverick (also cute). I’ve also concluded that fitness people—though intense, cult-y and earnest about everything—are not as scary as I surmised.


As the brunch wrapped up, people began splitting off. There were the group of hard-bods that were loading into vans and heading to a second location—a barge in the middle of the freakin’ river—for an even more intense GRIT (I don’t know what that means) workout and the rest of us, the soft boys, who were taking whore baths in the bathroom and slinking off to work with our SWAG. The day was not quite over yet, though! In a rare moment of tension in which I misplaced my coffee cup, Megan—who I thought was my friend—pointed to one with an “It’s right there, bud” SO condescending that I took the cup she was pointing at even though I was fairly sure it wasn’t mine. Apologies to the girl whose coffee went missing. We’re both victims here.

Megan: My customer voice is just as bad as my shitty big sister voice, which my respected colleague and friend did not deserve. Also, I may have had heat stroke. It’s unclear. Maddie, I’m sorry! Reebok, I’m sorry! Nina Dobrev, I’m sorry!


Madeleine: To everyone we’ve ever had contact with... we’re sorry. And thank you for the stuff.

Here’s the good photo:

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