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Men’s Health interview: Aaron Eckhart (from 2011)

Men’s Health – Intense military training made the Hollywood star stronger, faster and fitter

Marine biology

Up in the central room of the cliff-top house, sitting in his favourite armchair before the fire, the 42-year-old star who faced Batman as good-guy-gone-bad Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, and is now a muscle-bound, war-hardened marine in Battle: Los Angeles, can look out to sea, meditate on his growing success and relax.

But Eckhart is not relaxing. Not a bit. Though he is surrounded by comfortable things, his life is constructed around staying hard, sharp, strong and lean. The man is powerfully built and tough as hobnail. “I see a gym in everything,” he says – and his life and new-found physique bear that statement out. He is seldom to be found lounging around at home when he could be cycling along the hillside roads, surfing the ocean, or throwing himself about the tennis court. He doesn’t like to sit still; he doesn’t want to slack off.

And this is both the great paradox of Eckhart and the great balance he has struck in his life. The Hollywood actor may have worked hard to accrue some damned good things in his career, but he is determined that age and success are not to be passports to comfort and indolence. Rather, they will be the tools with which he keeps himself in the best shape of his life.

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Aaron Eckhart Revealed (from 2010)

Men’s Health – Focused and fit, The Dark Knight’s Aaron Eckhart has a blast at everything he does. How? By staying in motion even when he chills out

Aaron Eckhart surfboard

Photo: Lorenzo Agius

Here’s the thing about actor Aaron Eckhart: He talks like he’s the ultimate artistic chill-out-on-the-couch type, but his actions reveal a very different kind of man. He separates work from everything else, but “everything else” is in motion, in flux. He runs on the beach. Hikes. Surfs. Plays guitar. Takes road trips from Los Angeles to his ranch in Montana.

Eckhart’s work time feeds his non-work time and vice versa. Most of us either shut down at the 5 o’clock whistle or simply don’t acknowledge a whistle at all. We become one-note entities that way. Eckhart’s goal is to hit as many notes as humanly possible, and that requires constant motion. It’s not to be confused with workaholism, or attention-deficit disorder, or an unwillingness to commit. It’s curiosity and hunger, pure and simple.

One of Eckhart’s most important life rules is to turn everyday, mandatory activities into playtime. “I won’t do it if it’s not fun, and if I have to do it, I’ll make it fun,” he says. Sounds simple, but how exactly do you make a mandatory activity fun? “I play games with myself. You can completely change your mood. If I have to crawl out of bed to take my dog for a walk, then I make that as enjoyable as possible. I tell myself, Hey, I can read a photography magazine while I do it. I’ll climb out of bed and by the time I see my dog, I’m a totally changed person.” How can you adopt the same kind of mindset? It’s all about embracing the power of play.

Aaron Eckhart boat

Photo: Creative Photographers, Inc.

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Aaron Eckhart Gains 45 Pounds for ‘Bleed for This’

Muscle & Fitness

What did you think of Vinny Paz after hearing his story?

Aaron Eckhart: It’s amazing! Vinny is one of those guys that legends are made of- that don’t ever quit and don’t say “no” to finding their passion in life and commit to it absolutely. To think of what he went through just in terms of his own personal pain and overcoming adversity and believing in himself, I think it’s a lesson that we could all learn something from.

Did you spend time with Vinny?

Yeah, he was on the set. He was definitely around. He’s a great character. He has great energy to feed off of, very positive. Loves the movie. Loved telling us stories and was just a great presence.

What’s one memorable story that he told you?

What comes to mind is how a fighter shows up to a fight. Whether he thinks he’s actually inside himself. If he believes he can win. Sometimes they show up and they’re on an off night and they get into the ring and they’re like “this guy’s going to beat the shit out of me.” You don’t think about that kind of stuff. Then you say “how did you battle through?” He says “I just got in there and started swinging.” I say “Vinny, what did it feel like to knock this guy out? What did it feel like to get beaten on?” It’s always “Yeah, it doesn’t feel good.” Obviously we — the media and pundits — don’t get to feel the punches and we don’t get to get inside their minds so whenever you get firsthand accounts of that kind of stuff it’s a lot of fun.

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Aaron Eckhart’s Monster Workout for I, Frankenstein

 What was your training like for I, Frankenstein?

Hardcore. I did six months of Kali stick fighting training—it’s the Filipino art of using two-and-a-half foot rattan sticks to destroy an opponent. I worked with this gentleman named Ron Belicky in Southern Cali who’s an expert in that and other things—knife fighting and all that. I trained every single day for two or three hours a day and then I would go straight from Kali stick fight training to my trainer here.

I train on the beach, doing sand sprints, doing all sorts of Parkour, strength training. When I went over to Australia to shoot, I had a trainer who was a Cirque Du Soleil acrobat and my first words to him were, “Try to kill me.” And so each day after Kali stick fighting and rehearsal, he would try to kill me. And we would do all sorts of strength training, and I got in really good shape through that.

Did you keep that up on set?

Yeah. Wherever we were, on location or the studio, my assistant would set up a tent for me with my weights. They were nice enough to give me a dip-pull-up machine. I would jump rope, I would do pull-ups and triceps, I would have my weights and bands on set with me at all times. And then all the abs and core and stuff.

Any specific abs training?

It was one after another after another until you’re exhausted. For example, if I were to do a burpee into a push-up, I would roll over and do abs and then push-ups and roll over. I would be doing a plank for two minutes, roll over, do the dish for a minute.

And then doing it with weights, and doing pull-ups and a freezing in the middle of a movement. You freeze halfway through a pull-up, and go into a leg raise and keep sets of those.

Did you do any tough training for other roles?

I just did a movie call the Expatriate where I did all MMA training. My trainer and I would go every day to the park in Malibu and we would wrestle. We would do that kind of stuff to the point that they kicked us out of the park because two men, every single morning, were scaring the kids and the dogs. And then I started doing my beachside training. Even today, if I don’t do Parkour at my house, I go to Santa Monica on third street and I run down to the beach and I run to the jungle gym by the pier and I do an hour of suspension on the parallel bars, on the rings, I do all that and then I do sand sprints all the way home. That’s another incredible workout.

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