When you're on Broadway, you can eat whatever you want. And Tony and Emmy winner Kristin Chenoweth probably didn't worry too much about what she ate while she was growing up in Oklahoma either, because everything got burned off via either ballet or pitching in on the farm. At 45, Chenoweth has a number of health challenges, but she doesn't let them keep her off stage or screen.
From a physical activity standpoint, what were things like for you growing up?
I grew up in Oklahoma, and so we made our own activities, because there's just not a lot to do there. My dream was to become a ballerina, so I did ballet six days a week right up until I graduated high school. I was also a pompom member, which is where you do the halftime dances at games, and you can imagine in Oklahoma how important that is. Basically, "Friday Night Lights" is how I grew up. Dance was a big part of my fitness routine, but it was something I loved so much I didn't view it as exercise.
Growing up in Oklahoma, were there a lot of farm-related activities?
I come from a long line of farmers and ranchers, so on summer days you were always helping out, and it's hard physical labor. Picking up after cows and horses, there was nothing I wasn't asked to do. I grew up in a house where everyone helped out. I loved horseback riding as well. It didn't seem like anything for me to get on a horse; it wasn't anything fancy like what some kids do today with their equestrian training. When I was a kid, they'd just put you on a horse and say, "Go!" I really do enjoy any chances I get to ride and getting back to my roots that way.
And what about these days? What kinds of activities keep you busy?
I am a performer, and I have to stay healthy. I do enjoy going to the gym and doing cardio, I think it's really important to keep that up. One thing I think is really important is walking. In New York I walk everywhere, but in L.A. we just get in our cars and we drive. In New York I just put on a hat and coat and go, and you can get in really good shape through lots of walking. People forget that it's a mode of transportation.
Because I have a neck injury, I can't run, it creates too much impact for my neck, but I do like the elliptical. It's a softer landing, and you can get a good workout because it works your arms and your legs. ... I do a lot of my core work at the gym too. It is really important to keep the core strong because it supports the rest of your body. It helps my neck and my back.
Being a Broadway performer looks physically demanding.
You're in great shape when you're on Broadway. You're doing eight shows a week of singing and dancing. I always say I'm on Broadway so I can eat whatever I want, because you are in constant motion. The rest of the time the most important thing for me is eating three meals a day. I get so busy I forget to eat. I don't have much time to cook. It's a lot of on-the-go eating, so I really have to watch what I order.
You've recently announced you have asthma. How has it affected you?
Asthma is just one more issue for me. I was nervous talking about it because people already know I have an inner ear disease and a bad neck, and I was wondering if I wanted to come out with one more medical issue. The trick is being able to handle yourself and take care of your body so it flares up the least, and I've partnered with the Asthma [and Allergy] Foundation of America to do a public service announcement at KnowYourCount.com. The idea is to raise awareness about asthma and make people understand the counters on the medication, because sometimes with the inhalers you can be out of medicine and not realize it.
Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and founder of sixpackabs.com.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times