Chuck Norris has karated and chopped his way through "Missing in Action," where he searches for MIAs in Vietnam; "Delta Force 2," where he takes on a drug kingpin; and "The Hitman," where he infiltrates organized crime.
Nowadays, he's keepin' the Lone Star state clean as "Walker, Texas Ranger" (CBS). He divides his time between Texas and Los Angeles.
Norris, 56, has been kicking and spinning, martial arts-wise, since 1960. That's when he signed up for his very first judo class during a military stint in South Korea. His right shoulder was broken a week into training, so one day, with his arm in a sling, Norris took a stroll through a village. He saw heads bobbing up on a knoll.
Curious, he moved in closer. He watched Koreans jumping in the air, doing spinning kicks. He was mesmerized.
The Koreans looked pretty tough, so Norris talked to his judo instructor, who introduced him to a teacher of tang soo do.
Although Americans were considered quitters, Norris toughed it out for 13 months. He went stateside with a black belt in tang soo do and a brown belt in judo.
"I was training in tang soo do four hours a day, from 6 in the evening until 10 at night, Monday through Friday, and then judo on Saturdays. Being a 19-year-old kid and not really athletic, it was tough."
Question: Are you still training as hard?
Answer: When I did my films, I trained very hard to build up strength and flexibility with martial arts. Then I started "Walker, Texas Ranger."
Q: What happened?
A: A series is the most demanding thing I've ever been involved in my life. I do 26 episodes of "Walker" every year, shoot Monday through Friday, averaging 14 hours a day. So my martial arts training has become almost zip. The only time I do my martial arts training is performing on "Walker." So the only thing I do now is my total gym.
Q: Which is what?
A: I wanted to get into strength training--doing karate you get lean but you don't build any muscle mass--so I started lifting weights and I hurt my shoulder from lifting. Then I got a machine called a total gym, where you use your own body weight. I felt myself getting very strong, and that has been my workout tool for the last 18 years. I do that four days a week.
Q: Can you eat anything you want?
A: No. When you are past your 30s, you can't eat anything you want. . . .
Q: It's not that bad.
A: In my 20s, I'd eat burritos, hamburgers, prime rib, potatoes, anything. When I hit my mid-30s--36, 37--no matter how hard I worked out I wasn't burning the calories off. I had to rethink my eating habits.
Q: Give me an example. Breakfast, for instance.
A: I used to do pancakes, but now if I do that I feel real sluggish. So in the morning I'll have egg whites with tomatoes and onions with whole wheat bread, or I'll have oatmeal with raisins and bananas or a protein drink--cranberry and orange juice, banana, nectarine or peach, with protein powder and ice in a blender.
Q: And lunch?
A: Generally I eat at 1 o'clock. My chefs make me turkey or fish with vegetables. I cut out red meat and a lot of fat, French fries. Now my diet consists of turkey, fish, chicken, fresh vegetables.
Q: What do you drink?
A: A lot of water.
Q: Do you have to force yourself?
A: In the beginning it was hard. Everything has to become a habit. I carry the thing around with me. I have it in my hand all the time and I have an acting coach, Annie, who brings my bottle to me.
Q: Did you rethink desserts too?
A: When I was teaching martial arts I would come home and eat a quart of vanilla ice cream with milk, chocolate and walnuts. At first I missed it, but now I don't. I have yogurt once in a while. But I don't have my ice cream every night anymore.
Q: What would be the best splurge?
A: Peanut clusters. I could eat a whole pound of them. They bring big cans to me and I eat them. I have thrown them out so I can't eat them.
Q: What do you do about dinner?
A: When I'm finished shooting, I'll come home and Monica, my fiancee, will have dinner ready. I'll go and take a shower, come in and a lot of time at night we'll have turkey burgers, turkey meatloaf, turkey tacos. If we go out, I'll have pasta. I just eat what I think is healthy for me. With my schedule, I have to keep as healthy as I can.
Earlier, you were asking about drinking. The only thing I drink is a Chuck Norris kicker.
Q: Uh-oh. What's that?
A: It's either hot tea or iced tea, depending on the weather, and Grand Marnier. I went to Hong Kong in '72--I didn't drink at the time--to do a movie with Bruce Lee. I was out with friends and ordered hot or iced tea. A friend said, why not try Grand Marnier and see how you like it. It's like sweetened iced tea. At home, I'll sit by the pool, look at the stars and have a kicker and a cigar.
Guest Workout runs Wednesdays in Life & Style.