How Ryan Kwanten stays fit

During our talk, Ryan Kwanten never mentions which state of mind led him to his last endeavor, this past summer's Santa Monica Pier Paddleboard Race. The 33-year-old actor transformed into Competitor No. 115 and finished the mile-long loop in 11 minutes and 45 seconds, winning his age group and the entire short-course race.

Infuriating, right? Why doesn't the man just talk big and then stumble home from the bar like everyone else? Because competition is his oxygen.

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Kwanten works out every day, sometimes for 2 1/2 hours at a time, year-round. It's a strenuous regimen that Kwanten fills with a combination of running, biking, shadowboxing, vinyasa yoga, and other forms of intense cardio. The result is a total-body workout that not only saves him from the boredom of the gym but also reduces the physical stress that can cause injury. By adding variety to an exercise plan, you challenge many muscle systems without overstraining any single one. Just think about how both squats and running work your legs but use your muscles in different ways.


And when you maintain physical conditioning like Kwanten does, your body is ready whenever your brain—or your director—summons it to act. He plays a promiscuous and frequently shirtless character in HBO's vampires-are-people-too series True Blood. And this month he stars in Red Hill, a modern Western. Neither project sent him scrambling to tone up, he says.

"I'm not one of those actors who gets physically fit for a role and then loses it all again." He succeeds by staying in top shape all the time.

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Every man should approach fitness this way, especially as he segues from his 20s to his 30s and then into his 40s. Shape up once and stay there. It's so much easier than stopping and starting ad nauseam. The after-30 version of that ritual—developing a gut and then training for a marathon with your buddies—is hardly a prescription for long-term health and fitness.

Even an aversion to the gym is no excuse for serial lapses. While Kwanten may be a workout junkie, dumbbells and the squat rack hold little appeal. "I'm very rarely in the gym," he says. "My workouts are predominantly outside, in nature."

That's Kwanten's real reason for entering the races, and it's worth trying yourself. For every outdoor sport, there's a small event like the Santa Monica Pier Paddleboard Race that's ready to give you a number, a medal, a post-event rush...and another reason to keep pushing harder.

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Even beyond the events, Kwanten says, competing gives him the drive to succeed in every other area. When he first left his native Australia and was struggling to make it in Los Angeles, he was so broke that he had to convince a motel owner (a fellow Aussie, luckily) to let him stay free for three months in a makeshift storeroom, to accept only a promise that he would repay every red cent.

Which, against the odds, he has.

"I have that sporting background where I want to be the best, I want to be the champion. If I'm knocked down, you're damn sure I'm getting back up again," he says. "A lot of actors who may very well be more talented than me don't have that kind of tenacity in the face of rejection. That resilience gives me a distinct advantage."

20-Minutes to a Six-Pack

Kwanten doesn't believe in shortcuts, but when he's pressed for time, he does this version of his favorite drill
1. Running
2 minutes

Use the pavement or a treadmill, or simply run in place. A steady, brisk jogging pace will raise your body temperature, priming your heart and muscles for the work to follow.

2. Pushups
2 minutes
Stop to rest if you have to. Just let the clock keep ticking.

3. 30-second sprints
6, resting 45 seconds after each

4. Planks
2 minutes
Stop to rest if you have to, as with the pushups.

5. Supine jackknifes
2 minutes
Lie flat on your back and raise your legs straight up so they form an L with your torso. Now "crunch" to lift your shoulder blades off the floor while extending your arms toward your toes. This is the starting position. Keep your legs straight as you lower them to 6 inches off the ground and then raise them again, always pausing for a one-or two-count at the top of each rep.

6. Shadowboxing
4 1/2 minutes
It's the final round of a fight. The decision hangs in the balance. That's your pace.