LL Cool J’s diet, naps and goal setting help foster his success

LL Cool J is the star of CBS’ hit series “NCIS: Los Angeles” and the host and producer of Spike’s “Lip Sync Battle,” based on a segment on Jimmy Fallon’s late-night show, in which two celebrities compete not merely mouthing a song but also by using costumes and choreography. LL Cool J (born James Todd Smith) also is a bestselling author and Grammy winner. So how does the married father of four like to relax? “By geeking out and watching historical documentaries,” he says.

You endured a rough childhood. Who gave you the confidence to pursue a better life?

Two great people: my grandmother and grandfather. They taught me the importance of hard work, finishing what you begin, not being late, believing in yourself and being spiritually grounded.

Do you have a trainer, and what kind of workouts do you do?

Absolutely, I have a trainer. It’s important to have somebody there to push me. Every player needs a coach. There’s nothing wrong with not having a trainer, but I prefer it. I do a minimum of four workouts a week — usually an hour on workdays and two hours the other days. I combine weights and cardio. I jump rope, run and lift weights. I do pull-ups and push-ups, plus core work with a ball, while lying on an incline. I also run up hills. I measure my heart rate on the treadmill. I don’t use monitoring devices or apps. Instead, I go by the mirror. I rarely use a scale.


What’s your diet like?

Because of my grueling schedule, early in the day I eat lots of protein and some carbs for energy. Sometimes I have a protein shake for breakfast. I might throw a cup of oatmeal in, and blend it really fine. Other days, I eat protein and vegetables. If I want to “lean out,” I eat a lot more fish. But when I’m filming “NCIS” and want to bulk up to play Sam Hanna, I add chicken and some steak to my diet. I take a bite of cake or pie occasionally.

How much sleep do you get, and do you nap?

I don’t get as much sleep as I should — maybe five or six hours. I nap every day like a kindergartner. I eat a light lunch, then lie down and close my eyes. I don’t always sleep. Some days I close my eyes and envision my goals.

How important was setting goals to achieving your success?

Huge! Goals are guideposts. You may not achieve them, but you can get close. If you don’t write down what you want to accomplish, you’re like a cork tossed into a high tide. Dreams don’t have deadlines, and you can’t get frustrated. Winston Churchill said that success is being able to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. … I tell my kids this all the time. The jury is still out on whether or not they’ll listen.