Everyone knows Ryan Seacrest as a pop-culture junkie, host of American Idol, and producer of some of America’s favorite television and radio shows. They might recognize him from Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, or maybe from being on the receiving end of Sacha Baron Cohen’s red-carpet shenanigans. Not everyone will know him as the heavyset kid from Dunwoody, GA, who kept his shirt on at the community pool to hide his overweight frame, or the kid that snuck cookies and nachos behind his mother’s back. They know him as a slim guy—one who found success through a tireless worth ethic and commitment to seeing results. The same can be said for how the 38-year-old goes about managing his health and fitness. Seacrest shed his childhood pounds and found a balance in his diet that injected confidence into almost every part of his life. Before long, his personality won him a place on the television and radio sets of millions and beyond. Now fitness is a constant part of his life, and monitoring his health helps him relieve the stress of wearing several hats. Seacrest spoke with Men’s Fitness and shared how he’s able to fight off the pounds and the stress.
MF: How does someone so busy stay so committed to being fit?
RS: I schedule my workouts as if they were meetings, and I make sure they don’t get canceled. I make a deliberate plan to fit in a workout each day of the week within my schedule. I’m adamant about exercising during the week to keep up with the different moving parts. I’m most productive when I have a chance to exercise during the day.
What’s that like with your TV and radio schedule?
I’ve been known to take a commercial break and get down and do some pushups or grab some very light weights and do a few reps. I have done that at times when I’m really pushing toward a goal and getting close to maybe not making it. One of the things that I’ve found to be most productive for me is that I keep lockers at two different hotels in Los Angeles. As you know, with the sprawl in L.A., there are times when you have to be in one part of town and then another, but you don’t have time to go to a gym or go home. I keep workout gear and a change of clothes in those two lockers, so if I do find myself with 45 minutes of downtime and I’m in the neighborhood I can jump in, get a quick workout, shower, and get to the next event.
How many hours a week are you in the gym?
The goal is to be in the gym five hours a week. I think that I probably average four and tell myself I’ve done five. I’m one of those people who, to see the best results, I have to balance the right exercise with the right eating. I’m a massive food lover. Sometimes I go back and forth, seesawing, and not really making the progress I want to make because I’ve botched my diet that week.
What’s your favorite workout?
I’m fortunate to work with a handful of different trainers. I like circuit workouts and core workouts. I always like to break a sweat from the get-go right up through the hour. We do everything from using large core balls to doing basic pushups and situps to sprints on the stationary bike. I enjoy changing exercises during the hour and throughout the week.
We heard you like to swim, too. How often do you get to do that these days?
I grew up going to a neighborhood swim club, and that was my exercise when I was a kid. Now, I wish I had more opportunities to swim. On the weekends I’ll go for a swim, and I find that I’m out of breath after 15 to 20 minutes. I aim to be better at it, though. I enjoy swimming and find it really relaxing. I love the moment where you break a sweat inside the pool. I’ve had a knee injury and an elbow injury in the past; if you’ve had any damage, swimming is a great way to exercise.
You’re known for appreciating a good meal, but what are your favorite healthy snacks?
I love vegetable juices. Sometimes I’ll make juices—with or without pulp; it just depends. I love to snack on things that are crunchy. Even though they’re not bad, I tend to eat the wrong amount of almonds. I love roasted or raw almonds or cashews. I find that when I’m traveling, and I open up that mini-bar for a snack I always go for the nuts—sometimes the peanut M&M’s.
So, if you’re going to cheat on your diet, what do you do it with?
I like to change up my cheating. I’ll get excited about a big bowl of penne pasta, and I get excited about tacos, which I just had yesterday. I went to a place called Tito’s Tacos. I love Mexican food. I had two tacos and a cheese enchilada. I love warm chocolate-chip cookies, too. Moderation is the key to all of it, though. I’m not a freak about what I eat, because I do work out. I enjoy a fantastic meal and sometimes having a pizza with the prosciutto on it. I don’t do it all the time, but man, when I do…
Recently you chose to reveal that you were overweight growing up. Why?
I can’t remember how or why it came up, but it was a reality when I was growing up—I remember it vividly. Like going swimming and not taking off my shirt before jumping in the pool because I was a chubby kid, or going to shop for the first day of school and being in the husky jeans section at Marshall’s. I do remember that feeling of growing up and being a little bit overweight. I also remember at times being teased about it and because of that it’s still in my brain. I never want to feel that way again, and that motivates me to strive hard for balance without cutting anything that I truly enjoy, but while also knowing I can’t have it all the time. As a kid, I would go home—my mom didn’t always know I was doing this—and I’d sneak in and make a plate of nachos on a cookie sheet. I’d lay the cheese on top with some jalapenos and crank the oven up to broil, just to get the cheese brown. I did that on a regular basis. I definitely think that remembering how I felt back then drives me to stay fit as an adult.
When you decided to get fit, did that success carry over into other parts of your life?
I know it gave me a little bit of confidence where, maybe, I didn’t have it before. It gave me some satisfaction to put on a pair of pants and feel good in them. It felt great and allowed me to walk into a room and feel less self-conscious. So, yes, I’d say it allowed me to build some confi dence early on. I remember both feelings; I remember not having the confidence and then gaining it and going through that transformation. I haven’t forgotten about that.
What’s your best advice, based on everything you’ve been through?
I think balance is important for all of us, physically and emotionally. It’s tough, it’s not easy to do, but I do think we strive for balance in our lives. That’s balancing your career, balancing your diet, and balancing your family. That would be my advice, because it’s what I try to focus on—but even I don’t always achieve it.
Are you noticing changes in how your body responds to exercise as you get older?
I don’t feel like I’m 37 years old, but then again I feel my body responding to certain exercises and going, “You are aging!” I went for many years without stretching. I’d run or I’d lift weights without stretching, and I’d be a little sore, but now I find my hips are tight, my lower back can get tight, my hip fl exors get tight, my IT band gets tight, so I carry around this little ball, and I’ll roll on this cylinder—it looks like a piece of pipe—to break up some of the scar tissue that comes with age and hard exercise. I had to add that into my routine.
What’s your key to staying focused and on track?
I try when I’m in a moment to give my all in that moment, whether I’m trying to push up a very small amount of weight on a bench press or working up to host a show. I try and “do what I’m doing,” if that’s an expression. I think that’s a good way to live your life. Do what you’re doing.
Is there something you do to relax your mind?
I like to play Ping-Pong. I put a Ping-Pong table right at the front door of my home. Sometimes when I come home from work and I’m tired, I’ll put the phone down and play a game of Ping-Pong.
Against whom, exactly?
Well, my girlfriend is there. She’s pretty good. She’s pretty good at everything, so I have to make sure I’m focused when I’m playing.
Does she ever lap you when you go for a run?
I’ve got more endurance, but she’s a better sprinter. It varies.
Given the amount of radio you’ve done to get to where you are today, how did you survive all the eating at odd hours of the day and night?
I still eat out of plastic containers throughout the day. With every morning radio show I’ve done, there’s always been a little café or breakfast shop, and for me it’s always been about making sure I order the egg-white omelet with no butter and no oil, and not falling into ordering pancakes. Looking back on all the meals I’ve had over the past 10 years, more have come from a plastic container on a studio console than sitting across from somebody at a table, which isn’t necessarily great.
This year you’ll be hosting Dick Clarke’s New Year’s Rockin’ eve again. Have you come up with a New Year’s resolution yet?
I’m so bad with them. I feel like I do what everybody else does, which is to pick something and not follow through. Based on our conversation, I think I should resolve to have more meals on a plate without a plastic container and have somebody sitting across from me.
Staying Fit With Ryan Seacrest
To stay on track, Seacrest mixes up his fitness activities. Keeping fitness interesting—and fun—is a sure way to meet any goal.
1. In The Gym
“I almost always have the television on one of the news channels with the volume down so that i can read the lower third of what’s happening. I love cranking up music, and I love pop music. So I’ll listen to pop music and get some of the mixes that our radio station creates each day. I’ve downloaded some of those mixes. I have found that it definitely helps. I struggle when there is no music on and I hear myself breathing—it just doesn’t get me there.”
“I absolutely love to run. The first 20 minutes are always tough for me, but then I start to really get going, and the endorphins kick in. I hurt my knee about a year ago in the snow. I launched off the back of a snow mobile and landed in some deep snow and twisted it, so I haven’t gotten back to some of the longer-distance running that I used to love to do. I love waking up on a weekend morning, cruising out to the beach here in L.A., and going on a run before it gets too crowded. And then having a great breakfast and a cup of coffee. I’ve been doing the stationary bike to get this knee better for the most part.”
“It is a fantastic form of exercise, but I just can’t seem to get decent at it, so I get frustrated. I believe that I’ve got to do it more frequently to get better at it. I kind of—as some of us do—go in spurts where I’ll go through a phase of doing that and then I fall out of it. For me, I have some tightness in my lower back, and I find it difficult to get to the place where I can do it well. Perhaps, because men are initially less flexible, in general, before we train our bodies, that makes it tougher for us.”
“I’m excited to go and get a new hybrid-type bike and start getting back into that. I’ve done some casual street and mountain biking in an effort to get back into it. I’d really like to bike the coast here in California or pack up the bikes and go to Northern California. I love getting on the bike and cruising around for a while.”