If you’re one of the over 500,000 people who follow Ella Halikas on Instagram or TikTok, you already know that the 25-year-old is much more than her modeling portfolio. And that’s saying something, considering front and center on that portfolio is none other than the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, in which Halikas appeared (in truly stunning fashion) in 2021. As one of the finalists of the SI Swim Search open casting call, Halikas said her motivation for applying to and appearing in the magazine was to “inspire everyone and anyone that’s watching this to truly love the skin they’re in.” But “I know it’s not easy,” she added in a Sports Illustrated video last year. “It’s a hard journey. It took me many, many years. You are worthy and you are beautiful just the way you are.”

As a curve model and a fierce advocate for body positivity, one of Halikas’s messages is that fitness is for everyone and that working out is about so much more than weight loss or aesthetic goals. Halikas tells POPSUGAR that, for her, workouts are primarily for improving her mental health and boosting confidence. “I feel stronger and healthier overall when I’m focused on my fitness,” she says. “I become less anxious when I’m staying more active.”

Halikas’s routine is all about consistency. She does strength and conditioning twice a week with a personal trainer, along with two Pilates classes a week from Solidcore and a few walks mixed in. Blasting out HIIT circuits with her trainer makes her feel “empowered,” she says, “like I’m getting stronger every time.” With every workout she does, “I know I’m taking the necessary steps towards becoming the best version of myself.”

Her social feeds show Halikas nailing intense and effective strengthening moves like deadlifts, barbell squats, lunges, and bicep curls. By posting her workouts, the model hopes to motivate other people to exercise and get healthy, but not necessarily to strive for a certain body type or look. “I love to show others that health and fitness look different on every body and that you can never just look at someone and know their health and exercise levels,” Halikas explains.

“Just go for it” is Halikas’s advice to people who might be nervous to start a fitness journey or feel intimidated walking into a gym. “I know it’s easier said than done,” she adds, “but trust me, no one is focused on you when you’re working out.” (Seriously. They’re all too focused on their own workouts, we promise.) Start your fitness journey where you feel the most comfortable, Halikas adds, and it’s totally OK if that’s not at the gym. “Call a friend to go for a long walk with them instead,” she suggests. “You just want to get your body moving.”

Many of us have a very rigid idea of ​​what working out looks like, but Halikas points out that there are so many different types of workouts to try. Yoga, running, Pilates, barre, swimming, weightlifting, hiking, dancing, biking, sports . . . the list goes on (and on, and on). With so many options, “you should never feel like the industry isn’t open to you or that working out isn’t for you,” Halikas says. “There’s room for us all to prioritize our health and fitness.”