‘Amazing Race’s’ Phil Keoghan finds global opportunities to stay fit

"The Amazing Race" host Phil Keoghan finds ways to stay fit no matter where the road takes him.
“The Amazing Race” host Phil Keoghan finds ways to stay fit no matter where the road takes him.
(Kirk McKoy, Los Angeles Times)

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.