Kevin Hart was breathing hard. "I feel like I'm having a Hart attack!" he joked to a crowd of about 1,000 doing body weight exercises and running along with him at Grand Park, across from Los Angeles City Hall, this month.
Most people know the pint-sized, fast-talking comedian as one of the funniest, hottest actors in Hollywood today, but they might not know that his 5-foot-4 body is as muscular as a gymnast's or a CrossFitter's. On the strength of his tweets and YouTube videos about his extreme workout routines, the fitness fanatic, 36, has developed a thriving side career as an "ambassador" for health-and-fitness-related companies such as Nike and Rally Health systems. For the former, he shows up in cities around the country and leads early morning Nike "Move With Hart" runs and workouts. (For more information on free Nike workouts in and around L.A.: Nike.com/LA.) Participants usually pick one or the other workout to do, but Energizer Bunny Hart typically does both.
On your YouTube videos, you do radical, extreme-fitness stuff that only elites do: Muscle-ups (a pull-up to and over-the-bar press up), flutter kicks (hanging from a bar and holding legs at a right angle and kicking them), sideways "clapping" push-ups. Why do you take it to that level?
When I started working out 41/2 years ago, I realized that the more exercise you do, the more rewards you get. After all, what type of person do you want to be? Do you want to see results? I do, so I put in six or seven days of exercise a week. I have a trainer who works out with me every day at 5 a.m., for 30 to 90 minutes, and it's his job to push me to the limit and try new things: CrossFit, high-intensity training, strength and conditioning, endurance. Every workout we compete against each other.
I've really gotten into running. I like 5Ks because it's a number that everyone can relate to and everyone can finish. I've turned the 5K almost into a sprint for me now. My fastest time is about 18 minutes.
That's fast — sub-6-minute miles! Why 41/2 years ago? Did some kind of epiphany turn you on to fitness?
Yes. It happened when I started feeling sluggish — not at my best. And I realized that I wasn't doing anything — nothing at all. I put a big large demand on my body — I tour, I do movies, I'm writing, I'm up long hours. And I was doing no exercise — just getting by on good genetics. Growing up, I was always an athlete, played basketball, swam, football, I did it all — but then I stopped. You get to that age where you don't understand that exercise is important anymore. So to feel better, to get to 100% of what I thought I could be, I decided to change my diet and my work ethic — and start exercising.
I just started off by going to the gym. Then I figured out that I'm not working out correctly. You can walk on flat treadmill, or you can walk on an incline and burn more calories. I added intensity. I sometimes do 1,000 push-ups in a day. Because I wanted to see results.
Do you do the Paleo thing?
I'm not big on Paleo, really— I just eat well. Baked chicken, brown rice. Cut out a lot of the fried foods. Cut out carbs — don't need 'em unless my body is asking for them.
Now that your huge social media following has turned you into a fitness icon and corporate magnate, what's the message you bring to these events?
I'm the motivator inspirator, if that's a word. I feel like I'm using my platform for good — helping to change the world. My message is no matter where you are in life, you can always get better. I tell the people: Movement is movement, and it's not just one thing. That's why we mix it up with running and training components and a hard workout. "We're gonna go hard," I'll say. "If it feels good, you ain't doing it right. You've got one life. Will this be your last workout, or the first of many?"
A lot of people in your life are counting on you, and you can't disappoint them. Exercise gives you longevity, lets you be your best. My heart is very important to me; I want to make sure it beats as long as it can.
What are you going to add next to turn up your fitness even more?
Well, we've already turned up the intensity, the strength, the core, the cardio. The next frontier is flexibility: Yoga.