April 23, 2015 01:00 PM


She’s a busy mom of three on TV and in real life. So how does Julie Bowen find time to stay so fit?

For once, the Los Angeles gridlock has proven useful.

“I tend to dress in workout clothes or keep them in my car, because in L.A. there’s so much traffic,” she tells PEOPLE.

“Sometimes I’ll be driving home — where we shoot Modern Family, sometimes over the canyons it’s so backed up — and I’ll just call my husband and say, ‘I’m running now.’ So my routine is no routine.”

Bowen, 45, does make protecting her skin part of her daily routine. The star is supporting the Neutrogena Choose Skin Health Campaign, which helps people find skin cancer screening centers in their area and download a free self-exam.

The actress favors Neutrogena’s CoolDry Sport sunscreen while she’s out and about.

“I like sweating. I think it’s a symbol of exercise. I can sweat and then spray on again, especially my arms and shoulders,”she explains.

“Sometimes I’ll go for a run and then — I’m not proud of it, I would love to say I take a shower and I’m always fresh and clean — but the reality is sometimes you work out, and then you jump in the car and you pick up the kids.”

She continues, “Or you’ve got to go to carpool or something, and you just spray some more on, and it’s fine! It doesn’t make you feel like a sticky doughnut.”

Donato Sardella/Getty

As for how she gets son Oliver, 8, and twins John and Gus, 6 next month, to lather up: They’re “southern California kids; to them it’s like brushing their teeth,” Bowen says. “It’s just a thing to do.”

Plus, they’ve learned the importance of protecting their skin the hard way.

“We did surf camp last year; that was the most brutal sun experience they had, ever. And one of them, I missed his ears, and I feel like I need to apologize to him for the rest of my life,” she says. “Oh my God, I can cry thinking about it. They just blistered and burned.”

Though the boys enjoyed their first ski trip as a family this winter and love to swim and play tennis, Bowen is just starting to get them into organized sports. Their favorite activity? Running around the yard and playing with Nerf guns.

“I always thought I would be a peacenik who would make my kids carve a wooden toy out of a block,” she says, “and then you see their faces light up, and you’re like, ‘Dear God, I’m part of it! They’re happy! Give them a Nerf! Give them another!’ “

It’s an obsession Bowen doesn’t quite get. And even while shooting fake weapons, Bowen is strict about making sure her sons never aim at anyone’s head.

“No disrespect to Nerf or anybody, I just grew up with sisters,” she says. “I didn’t understand that boys will turn a flower into a gun.”

— Michele Corriston


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