For Chris O’Donnell of ‘NCIS: Los Angeles,’ yoga aids a battered back


It’s not easy being Batman’s sidekick: It can cause a lumbar disk blowout, like the movie franchise did for Chris O’Donnell. Nevertheless, some yoga thrown into the fitness mix keeps him mobile and relatively pain free.

It’s not easy being a kid playing sports these days either. As a father of five who coaches and referees, O’Donnell sees a lot of poor sportsmanship. So the costar of “NCIS: Los Angeles,” which has its season premiere Monday, became part of a program to bring fun and positive play back to fields, courts and rinks.

You’re big into coaching children’s sports, but did you play them much?


I played everything as a kid: baseball, basketball, football, golf, hockey and swimming. I was the little guy on the end of the bench barely getting any playing time, to be honest. I loved hockey and wished I’d been better at it, but when I went to high school I was able to use my smaller size to my advantage: I was the coxswain on the rowing crew for four years. I look back on my experiences with sports and some of the best were fourth-grade intramural football. We had such a great coach that year. There were certain coaches that made an impact on you. Even if you weren’t a big contributor, he made you feel like you were an integral part of the team.

And how have those experiences influenced you as a father of five?

I believe in having my kids exposed to as many sports as possible. So many parents want their kids to focus on a specific sport by age 7. They’re already focused on getting their kid a scholarship. They think their kid is on this track to huge success, and it’s too much pressure.

I try to put more focus on enjoyment over competitiveness. There is more to it than the numbers on the scoreboard. It’s about being a good teammate and showing each other respect. Too many times I’ve seen parents escorted off the field because they lost control, and kids being disrespectful to other players and refs and coaches, so I became involved with, where they created a pledge to promote sportsmanship.

I understand you have a bad back. How do you cope?

What’s it’s forced me to do is be mindful of maintaining a strong core. That’s something I try to incorporate into workouts as much as possible, but something that’s been really useful to me in the last few years and has kept me relatively pain free is doing yoga a couple of times a week.


Beyond yoga, what does your fitness regimen look like?

I go to the gym, but I’m not hard-core on the weightlifting like my ‘NCIS’ costar LL Cool J. That man is a beast. I’ve always been a lower-weight, high-rep guy as opposed to seeing how much I can deadlift or bench. It’s more of a general fitness approach rather than bulking up.

You also burn a lot of calories being a father. The minute I walk in the door I have one kid who wants to shoot hoops, another one wants to throw the football and another wants to go for a bike ride. It’s nonstop and it’s fun.

How active is your role on “NCIS: Los Angeles”?

We do a lot of stunt work, and that’s a lot of fun. ... LL Cool J is unbelievable, and we feed off each other. It’s a bit contagious. LL is a positive influence.

Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of