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Comic Kevin Nealon is still 'pumped up' about fitness

On "Saturday Night Live" in the late 1980s, Hans and Franz wanted to "pump you up." These days, 61-year-old Kevin Nealon, a.k.a. Franz, is more interested in general fitness than in any desire to approach Schwarzenegger-size muscles. Even though Franz's extolling of exercise was parody, Nealon does have a lifelong love of physical activity, a passion that began on another continent.

How did your interest in fitness start?

I lived in Germany from when I was 6 until I was 10, so, of course, I played soccer. When I came back to the States, nobody played soccer, and none of the schools taught German, so I couldn't continue to excel in those categories. And so I switched to Little League. I also played a lot of pickup basketball games and sandlot football, where we played tackle without equipment. I also played rugby in college and was even quarterback for Fairfield University for a year. Their quarterback got hurt, and I took a night course in criminology so I would qualify to play.

Did you keep up with any of these sports?

It was football I enjoyed most. When I moved to L.A. to become a stand-up comedian, I thought it might be a good comedy hook to also be the punter for USFL club the L.A. Express, so I started practicing for the tryouts. Luckily my stand-up took off and I didn't need to do it.

And I've always played pickup basketball. I was 5-foot-8 when I graduated high school, but then I shot up to 6-foot-4 and got more into playing basketball. I kept playing touch football too.

What other kinds of activity have you been up to since then?

I live up near Mulholland, so I would do these 10-mile runs. I was a runner since high school, but I don't really do it anymore because I want to protect my knees. I've done enough damage over the years, so instead I do weight training. I used to go to the Hollywood YMCA when I first came here, and I was standing in front of the mirror doing curls, and I noticed this guy next to me also doing curls. He was grimacing a lot, and I noticed he had an underbite. I looked more closely and realized it was Bruce Springsteen.

I've been doing weights since high school, but not as a bodybuilder, just for training, just to stay fit. I still do it.

How long have you been vegetarian?

Since about 1989. I was dating someone who was interested in that, and we started doing research on it and talking to people. It was for a combination of ethical and health reasons. In general I try to eat healthy, but I have a problem with sugar. I'm like an alcoholic when it comes to chocolate. I try to stay away from junk food, but it's hard.

You had a heart scare with atrial fibrillation.

Yes, it's an irregular heartbeat, which in and of itself is not life threatening, but if you let it go it can cause a blood clot, which can lead to a stroke. For me, it happened in Mexico about 13 years ago. ... It was like a herd of horses running through my chest, and so I ended up in a Mexican hospital, which has always been my dream. When I got back to L.A., my doctor put me on a blood thinner. My heart is healthy now, and I've been working to raise awareness about A-fib. People can go to Driveforclots.com to learn more and hear my story.

Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of bodyforwife.com.

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