Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida over weekend as one of the most powerful storms ever recorded. But amid the frenetic evacuations and fervent media coverage, one man stirred up a storm of his own. Chris Cuomo, the host of CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time and New Day, forwent the requisite news anchor suit-and-tie uniform and took to the camera in a t-shirt. BuzzFeed compared him to Zac Efron from Baywatch before describing the guy as “jacked AF” and “a beast.”
We at Best Life spoke to Cuomo in 2012 about how he stays in top form. Here’s how, in his own words:
You know the sensation you have when you pull a finger slightly out of socket to crack your knuckle? Imagine that in your knee, but the pop is followed by a stabbing pain, and then you’re falling and a wave of emotional trauma washes over you like ice water. Now you know what I was feeling, lying on the hardwood, when I realized my ACL was in ribbons. I’d been playing defense. A big guy had given me an opening and I darted in to steal the basketball. The lout elbowed me to protect the rock, I pivoted to control my balance, and . . . pop. I tried to stand but my right knee buckled, and the kneecap floated up against my swelling skin. The fitness journey I had begun in my teens had just taken a painful step in a new direction.
I was a doughy kid who loved sports but lacked muscle. So when I entered my teens, I started using a Universal multigym. Hoops was my game even then, so I decided to try the basketball exercises. Almost immediately I started to see results. The more I worked, the more my body hardened and the more my game improved. Soon I was flying above the rim.
When I reached college I found a new passion: rugby. With an absence of pads, muscle became the primary sword and shield. I lifted harder than ever. My final year I was invited to train with the East Coast’s best as part of the All-American program. Again my faith in iron had been rewarded.
After college I swapped my rugby jersey and cleats for a jacket and tie. I still hit the gym, but instead of competing against the other team, I began competing against myself. I came to know my maxes for various lifts, my times for different runs, and my ideal weight—210 pounds—for my 6’2″ frame. Through career changes, marriage, and the beginnings of fatherhood, I poured myself into every type of training I could find.
But then I shredded my ACL.
My knee was shot, the rehab would be a bear, and all my training gains began to erode. I realized that my serious playing days—and maybe my serious fitness days—were over. For a guy who didn’t take it anywhere unless he took it to the extreme, “dialing it back” sounded like a death sentence.
It took several years of self-questioning and various false starts to find the right fitness path and discover my true motivation. Being strong matters more now than it did when I wore a uniform. I am a man who needs to be competitive and who enjoys being muscular and having the vim and vigor to take care of my wife, Cristina, and our three kids. So how could I become my best self—physically and emotionally? First, I started reporting on fitness; it exposed me to the newest techniques and smartest philosophies—ways to gain fitness as I grew older. Here’s what I’ve picked up.
By the time we reach our 40s, most of us have found out what we’re good at. That’s why my fitness foundation is a strength routine I do three times a week. Of course I make small adjustments every 8 weeks to ensure I continue to challenge my muscles. My focus now is how to maximize my workout density with total-body exercises, while keeping an emphasis on what matters most to me: functional strength and injury prevention.
To cop Cuomo’s style, check out the Greatest One-Move Total-Body Workouts Of All Time.
I’ve also altered my mindset from “do it all” to “pick my spots.” Hoops went on the back burner, although I plan on schooling my kids (if they decide to play), and I still have dreams of dunking again. I sought new play passions. I picked up tennis and triathlon. Swim-bike-run plays to the aging athlete because it builds balanced strength, and cardio capability remains longer than power potential does. Plus, there’s a huge incentive to stay lean: wearing Spandex in public.
Studying exercise has given me new insights into the importance of variety and intensity, whether I’m lifting barbells or doing circuits. I’m always looking to try something new to challenge myself intelligently. The last word is key. I am not taking up MMA, but I will try a 5-minute fighting circuit to disturb my metabolism. I’m not entering a strongman contest, but I will learn to use battling ropes to shred my core. It’s not just to look my best: Research keeps hammering home the fact that learning new things keeps you mentally sharp.
The truth is that I live in fear of a physical breakdown. Now I actually listen to my body, most of the time. That means if I feel a twinge of pain, I’ll dial it back. I’m acutely aware that injuries happen more and last longer as a man grows older. I’ve learned that my body is just like a car: If I don’t maintain it, I’ll feel the pain down the road. The result: I have good and bad days, but I’m in shape and feel strong. Getting older can definitely still mean getting better. You will never be the same guy, but let’s be honest: That guy was young and kind of a dope.
To prevent any dreaded pain of your own, be sure to read our primer on How to Conquer Lower Back Pain Once and For All.
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