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Fitness | Guest Workout / HECTOR ELIZONDO

Anatomy of a Television Doc's Food and Fitness Regime

September 14, 1998|CANDACE A. WEDLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"I'm always doing something," Hector Elizondo said about his exercise program. What the actor never does is follow any fitness fads or crash diets. "None of that malarkey," is how the Emmy winner--he plays Dr. Phillip Watters on CBS' "Chicago Hope"--put it.

During a phone call from his and wife Carolee's home in Sherman Oaks, Elizondo, 61, said he's been working out since he was 14 or 15.

"I wasn't naturally, genetically gifted so I had to overcome that and do it all myself," he said.

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Question: You weren't genetically gifted, meaning what exactly?

Answer: I'm born and raised in New York City--solid, working-class neighborhood, Upper West Side--and I was a skinny little kid.

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Q: You weren't happy about how you looked?

A: So after being chased around the block by the bullies, so to speak, for the umpteenth time and hiding behind my mother's skirt, my father said quite simply and wisely, "Listen to my voice, look into my eyes, we are not moving." Now, that's good parenting. In other words . . . don't come crying to me because I won't be here all the time to protect you.

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Q: Tell me about your routine now.

A: About six days a week, I'll either go to the gym or work out in the garage, and, depending on time, I either do a split or whole routine with weights--a whole upper in one day, or the lower one day, upper the next. Then on weekends I ride the bicycle or play basketball or do five or 10 minutes of rope skipping. If I have a heavy work schedule, I shorten everything. To stay in shape, all you gotta do is burn off at least as much as you eat. . . . If you're not in shape, it's because you're not working it off.

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Q: Let's talk about what you work off.

A: OK, cool. I love to start with a vegetable juice. Then I go about my business, let that sit for an hour or so. And then I have a grain breakfast of some kind. For lunch, that depends. Eating out is a pain in the neck because everything has salt in it. I try to eat what is least harmful and what tastes good. Then for dinner. . . .

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Q: Hector, back up. What would you pick for lunch?

A: Oh, grilled fish. Once or twice a week I eat a good grilled sirloin, chicken, of course, turkey, salads. I like cooked vegetables better than salads.

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Q: What would you drink at lunch?

A: I just have room-temperature water. I have herbal tea. At night I have Cabernet with my meal or Merlot.

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Q: What are those meals like?

A: Anything grilled--seafood, meat. I love Italian food especially if it's cooked Italian-style. You don't drench everything in olive oil.

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Q: Don't you have any bad habits?

A: Yeah.

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Q: Can we print 'em?

A: No, well, once a week I try to get a full-body massage.

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Q: Like that's a bad habit.

A: Yeah, I got bad habits. I work too hard. I work out too hard. Oh, I've gotta watch myself with cigars. I guess my bad habit--I try to take on too many other people's problems, you know, and I like fixing things so that's a terrible thing to have to try to do. That's a pain. There you go. I gotta eat right now. That's what I'm doing as I'm speaking to you. I got my vitamins in my hand. I've got a nice grilled chicken with some Indian sauce, on top of a bed of rice. I've got my herbal tea. So that's it, kid.

We said goodbye. The phone rang within a New York minute.

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Q: Hello?

A: Speaking of bad habits, I realized, holy cow, the most important thing about health--and it's beyond training--you gotta have love in your life. You could train your ass off, you could have pecs out to there and have all the money in the bank and still be a schmuck who doesn't love. If you ain't got that, you ain't healthy. If you're just gonna live for you, "forget about you," as we used to say in the neighborhood.

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Q: You're getting New Yorky on me.

A: Yeah, well, when I start relaxing, that happens. Ultimately what you want to do is help someone else. That's the real deal, real health. And that's what I wanna say.

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Guest Workout runs Mondays in Health.

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