For the first three weeks after giving birth in March, actress Maxine Bahns felt like a zombie. Sleep-deprived from tending to her newborn daughter, Madison Rose, every hour and a half, Bahns didn’t have the energy to cook. So she devoured peanut butter sandwiches and anything else that was on hand — including ramen noodles. “My husband, for some crazy reason, loves Top Ramen, and I normally would never, ever eat that,” she recalls, “but it was the only thing in the cupboard.”
The more she ate, though, the more tired she felt.
It didn’t take long for her to ditch the convenience foods and get back on track. “My fall off the health wagon was short-lived,” says Bahns, who most recently played Simon Baker’s wife on the hit CBS drama The Mentalist. “When I started exercising and eating clean again, I looked and felt so much better.”
It’s a lifestyle Bahns, 38, has embraced since the late ’90s, when she moved to Los Angeles from New York. The actress is a devoted yogi (she practiced yoga five days a week during her pregnancy and credits it with aiding her 20-minute delivery). She’s also a multisport enthusiast who has competed in more than 30 triathlons, including the 2001 Hawaii Ironman. In fact, it was on the triathlon circuit where she met her husband, road cyclist and former professional adventure racer Patrick Watson.
Bahns and Watson immediately connected through their shared passion for athletics and healthy living. “Working out is not a hobby or an extracurricular thing in our lives,” says Bahns. “It’s part of who we are and what makes us happy.”
A standout cross-country and track-and-field athlete in high school and college, Watson, 39, began racing professionally back in 2000 (he now races both road and mountain bikes). He’s since competed in more than 80 multiday races, and has more than 50 top-10 finishes under his belt.
Watson and Bahns married in October 2007, and on March 8, 2009, they welcomed daughter Madison, a 6-pound, 2-ounce “feisty” bundle of joy. Like many new parents, the couple found themselves in uncharted territory.
“At 39, I was so used to doing whatever the heck I wanted, whenever I wanted,” says Watson, a medical device representative by day. “Having a child totally shifted our priorities — now you just tend to her whenever she needs you.”
Finding a balance between caring for Madison, managing their personal and professional responsibilities, and maintaining their relationship took some time, but Bahns and Watson gradually established a healthy routine. “Pat and I have really made a concerted effort to spend time alone together, to spend a lot of time as a family and to check in,” says Bahns.
Hiring a part-time nanny has allowed the couple to get out of the house to run day-to-day errands like buying groceries and to continue pursuing their individual passions. “I love my job,” says Bahns, “and though the help is minimal, it’s enough to let me go to my castings, take a meeting here and there, and to work out.”
Watson uses the time to train with Team Helen’s, a masters road-cycling team based in Santa Monica, Calif., just up the road from their home in Venice. “Maxine knows that I need to train because that’s what I’ve done all my life,” he says. “I’m being more cautious and less daring on my rides, though — now that there’s someone else who relies on me.”
The family comes together in the evenings for dinner and to relax and reconnect. “Being open and honest with each other and just letting each other know how we feel is huge,” Watson says.
“A happy couple equals a happy baby,” adds Bahns. “I know that Madison picks up on our energy, so it’s important that we communicate and are just very supportive of one another.”
As Madison grows, they plan to share their love of all things active with her, taking her along on trail runs and bike rides. But they’ll also encourage her to follow her own dreams and to be true to herself.
“I would really love it if she was athletic,” says Bahns. “But mostly I just want her to do what makes her happy, and to be a good person — kind, loving, compassionate and honest.”
To make sure they’re around to see that happen, Bahns and Watson are more committed than ever to staying in shape. “Now that we have a child,” says Bahns, “my priority is to do whatever I can to live as long as possible.”
You can read more about Maxine Bahns in our January/February 2006 profile of her in the archives.
Go behind the scenes at our cover shoot with Patrick, Maxine and Madison at experiencelife.com/videos