How the actor, best known from Outlander, Preacher, Rambo and new western The Stolen, stays fit at 57
I’ve always trained and exercised – long-distance cycling since I was a teenager, running, squash, tennis, along with weight training which has now given way to functional, dynamic movement, floor-based exercises that mainly use my own body weight. I mix in some weights for variety, but the goal is to develop an overall fit and functional body that can help me in both career and personal terms. I train to develop explosive power, as well as deep tissue and sheer strength. I like setting my body new goals that force it to adapt.
For The Hobbit we concentrated on training for sudden bursts of cardio, keeping my heart rate up, and focusing on rapid recovery which is what I needed for shooting in those movies. It was also important to remain injury-free over a two-and-a-half-year shooting schedule, so we targeted strengthening of connective tissue. My cardio workouts switch between rowing, Tabata uphill runs and cycling.
The reason I do it all is twofold. One, my work requires that I keep fit and in good shape as the roles I play are often physically demanding, and two, it’s all for how it makes me feel, personally. The energy it gives, and the benefits it gives to your overall health are well-known and overwhelming. It’s worth the hurt that goes along with the physical workouts.
If I ever miss exercise for one or two weeks, the sluggish feeling I get is enough to get me back in the gym. I enjoy feeling my body functioning as it was designed to. The feeling of not being bloated, and tired, or feeling a sugar crash is a good feeling to have. Your body adapts to what it’s used to. If it’s always told it needs to be fit and capable because of the demands you place on it, it will become fit and capable. If your only demand on it is to sit still for hours on end, it will adapt accordingly.
I find routine is helpful. I try and avoid meat as much as I can but I do enjoy the occasional steak at a restaurant. I start the day either with a “Phil’s Vegan Power Pancake” with almond milk, which really sets me up, or a slice of wholewheat bread with cottage cheese and yoghurt with berries. A mid morning snack is goji berries, then a turkey/avocado sandwich for lunch. I make a protein shake of almond milk, yogurt, almond butter, honey, berries, a banana and two scoops of “Bulletproof” collagen protein. An evening meal is usually fish (baked with lemon, butter and black pepper) with brown rice and steamed vegetables.
My father was my first inspiration. When he was a teenager he exercised every day after work and at weekends. Three nights a week with a local running club, cycling twice a week including a 100-mile ride around the three lochs near Glasgow on a single speed bike, plus swimming and ballroom dancing. Exercise was an easily-acquired habit in our family and one that I try to pass on to my children. It means that it is as natural as eating or sleeping, and just as important. Having two young kids means that it also helps me keep up with them!
The Stolen is out now on DVD and Digital Download