‘Amazing Race’s’ Phil Keoghan finds global opportunities to stay fit
Phil Keoghan gets around. The host of CBS’ Emmy-winning “The Amazing Race” since its debut in 2001 is a 47-year-old native of New Zealand who has worked in more than 70 countries as host, producer, writer and cameraman on adventure-related shows over the last 30 years. A serious cyclist, he’s completed the legendary Leadville 100 mountain bike race and “The Ride” and “Le Ride,” 100- and 150-mile-per-day circumnavigations of the U.S. and France that he created and filmed for Showtime. Here’s how he does it.
You must feel pretty lucky — traveling around the world a couple of times a year with “The Amazing Race” for nearly a third of your life.
Well, luck is the residue of design. It was preceded by a lot of work, planning — and urgency. At age 19, while hosting a TV show on a shipwreck, I was 120 feet down, separated from my diving buddy and having a panic attack. I thought I was going to die. It was my wake-up call to hurry up and live my life with purpose. So within a year, my wife and I sold our first New Zealand network show: “Keoghan’s Heroes,” a show about thrill seekers, people who lived on the edge — like an 80-year-old ex-fighter pilot still instructing. Eventually the show got picked up in the U.S., and we packed up and left for New York. I was 23.
“Amazing Race” contestants do crazy things — rappel down canyons, travel by hot-air balloon, build tribal headdresses. Can you relate?
Definitely. For a show on FX, I changed a light bulb on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, cleaned the inside of a shark tank at Coney Island, milked spiders, interviewed the man with the world’s biggest ball of string, went down into a sapphire mine in Alaska. Later, I had a show on Discovery called “Adventure Crazy,” which was based on a list of things that I wanted to do — like getting my reindeer racing license in Finland, spending three days in a nudist resort and cooking with a five-star chef during an erupting volcano on Stromboli. ... Fortunately, I like staying fit.
What do you do?
Mondays I run in soft sand for four miles at a 145 to 155 heart rate. Tuesdays and Thursdays I do 90 minutes of bike intervals at 168-170 heart rate. Wednesday I do a CrossFit regimen on the beach with weights and running. After an easy ride on Friday, I do a hard two- to three-hour group ride on Saturday and either take off or mountain bike on Sunday. Since 2007, I’ve done 100 push-ups a day: 20 wide, 20 closer, 20 one-foot, 20 with a hand on a book.
How do you stay in shape during the filming?
The season that ended in July (and airs in September) was brutal; we shot 12 shows in 21 days, and my workouts were often just whatever I could do in an airport. I’ll balance on one leg and lift bags like they’re weights. I’ll press and curl bags and backpacks, and do squats and lunges. In a hotel room, I’ve bench-pressed a table and put phone books in pillow cases to do triceps extensions. I’ll use the bathtub for dips. If I have 15 to 30 minutes, I’ll do the hotel stairs — run up one flight, come down; up two flights, go down; up three flights, down; and keep going all the way to the top.
What’s the craziest place where you’ve worked out?
I was at 15,000 feet in the Andes during a Discovery show. We’d been hiking for days, but I needed an upper-body workout, so I used a tree for pull-ups and rocks as dumbbells. Everyone looked at me like I was nuts, but like a good Kiwi, I’ve got “No. 8 wire” mentality. That means we were so far away from the rest of the world that we learned how to fix everything with 8-gauge wire. So there’s no excuse not to get in a workout.
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