Ryan Kwanten has an unusual drinking habit: He’ll toss back a few, start to feel bold, and then sign up for an organized athletic competition. “I’ve been known to turn up drunk at triathlons and do very well,” he says. “I’m more of a heat-of-the-moment type of guy. A friend will tell me about something coming up, maybe that weekend, and usually not an abundance of thought goes into my doing it.”
Not that alcohol has to be involved. He’ll sign up sober, too, though still on a whim. During our talk, he never mentions which state of mind led him to his last endeavor, this past summer’s Santa Monica Pier Paddleboard Race. The 33-yearold actor transformed into Competitor No. 115 and finished the milelong 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.
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.
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. With each passing year you become further removed from the high school stud who can eat all summer at Del Taco and then burn it off during Hell Week. 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.” He can then use those outdoor skills in contests during which, drunken whim or not, competitiveness fuels his motivation and he can see his work pay off.
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 postevent rush…and another reason to keep pushing harder.
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 3 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.”
Ryan Kwanten doesn’t believe in shortcuts, but when he’s pressed for time, he does this version of his favorite drill