‘The Last Airbender’ Star Daniel Dae Kim’s Fitness Regimen

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Daniel Dae Kim walked away from his now-defunct series Hawaii Five-0 five years ago unsure of what was to come. But by trusting his path and maintaining his work ethic, his star has only shown brighter over the past half-decade. These days, he’s in the enviable position of being in demand in Hollywood, currently starring in the AMC+ animated series Pantheon in which he voices the recently-deceased father of main character Maddie. The show is just one of a diverse line-up of projects that Kim has knocked out over the past few years, including the television series The Hot Zone, Joe Penna’s space thriller Stowaway, and the upcoming live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender in which he plays, Firelord OzaiLuckily.

Kim has plenty of energy for all of his endeavors — thanks, in part, to a strict dedication to health and wellness throughout the years.

“I am driven to tell stories that I am going to be proud of,” says Kim.”And there are plenty more that I want to tell.”

More action movies and shows are sure to be in Kim’s mix of projects. Which doesn’t intimidate the 54-year-old even a little bit. His commitment to healthy practices on the road and at home in Hawaii prepares him for whatever the future holds.

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How do you manage to keep yourself operating at your best for all these new opportunities? And more travel than ever?

I do a number of things, over the years. One important one is that I always eat breakfast no matter where I am in the world. If I am getting up from a sleep I am eating something, because it helps my body regulate. And it keeps me in a routine. I find it important to having energy throughout the day, because your body needs something to burn.

What’s a typical breakfast?

I know there is a whole thing about avoiding carbs, but I need carbs in the morning. I will do some granola with milk or yogurt and fruit. I don’t want a lot of heavy protein in my body at the very beginning of a busy day. That is not to say that I won’t indulge in a little bacon and eggs from time to time. I don’t drink any caffeine. I don’t really have an addictive personality, and I started to see all of my friends chugging coffee that never really had an appeal to me, which makes it even more important to have food in my stomach. I even love the smell of coffee, but I never felt like the taste lived up to the smell.

What other things do you do to keep a strong foundation?

I am big on taking my vitamins, which I make sure are sourced as organically as possible. I have a weekly vitamin container. I will do a multivitamin, antioxidants. I am also a big fan of vitamin D3. Because everything is natural, the pills are absolutely massive. My wife likes to call them my horse pills. I find that if I do those kinds of things at the same point of the day, no matter where I am and no matter what timezone I am in, it gets my body a better chance to get acclimated.

I use them as an indicator to when the morning is beginning.

How do you make sure to get enough sleep?

I am a big fan of the power nap. If I can grab 25 or 35 minutes somewhere it really helps get me through a long day or night.

Did you always have the ability to crash in the middle of the day?

I had to teach myself but I found it difficult in the beginning. One thing that helped me get there was to start meditating. The intro to meditation wasn’t some kind of grand zen thing, I just shut off all of my machines, put everything on do not disturb, and just tried to empty my mind for a while. I visualized my mind emptying, and before long I was feeling myself releasing things. It feels like you are emptying the cache on your laptop or website. Things just move faster after.

When did you start that practice?

I started to do that about four or five years ago when I was starting to do more international travel in this phase of my career. Of course when I was starting out, and I was a lot younger, I could take red eyes around the world and take a meeting right after getting off the plane. Now that I am a bit older, it takes a little bit longer to get the synapses firing again.

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How often are you in the gym?

Getting into the gym has always been a part of my lifestyle, even before people started saying that training needs to be a lifestyle to be effective. That has just always been how I planned my weeks, making sure that I did something. That is not to say that there isn’t some sort of vanity aspect, but more than anything it is about the benefits that it has to me mentally.

Do you work with a trainer or develop your own routines?

I have never worked out with a personal trainer on a consistent basis. I will go to one when I want to change something up. I started working out in high school when I played football, there are elements of that programming that I still use, but there are methods that have changed since then. I am constantly trying to adapt. There are times that I work out for maintenance, and there are times that I am working to change my physique.

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How often do you decide to change things up?

I do it often. I don’t just train to train, I am usually working to get better at something. I also play tennis regularly. Living in Hawaii also comes with the huge benefit of being able to run outside almost every day of the year, which is another favorite pastime. I started taking these classes in Honolulu which are based in functional training. There a lot of athletes who work out there in the off-season, like MMA fighters and NFL players.

What do you like about that kind of training?

I find those kinds of workouts really great because they are based in purpose. I am not going to lie to you, they destroyed me. It is easy to workout the show muscles, and the more traditional targets, like the biceps. But these workouts target those secondary and supporting muscle groups that don’t get that same kind of love. Back when I was doing more sports, I was working more on my fast twitch muscles. I have been running a lot more the past few years, so I decided that it was time to address another aspect of those muscles.

Do you find it difficult to keep up with your training when on the road?

There is no doubt it is more difficult, not just because of your internal clock, but because most hotel gyms aren’t all that. For that reason, I always have a jump rope on me, because it is an effective workout wherever I go and a great way to get a sweat happening.

How does working out make you feel these days?

I don’t know a world without training. I honestly think the key is to keep doing it, once you stop you are setting yourself up for a losing battle. I think you age faster if you aren’t taking care of yourself on that level. I just feel better after I work out. The one thing that I am addicted to is endorphins, and there is no quicker way to experience those than getting a workout in or doing some sort of outdoor activity. I have often regretted not working out, but I have never regretted working out.

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There were some great stunts you were a part of in Hellboy, do you still want to do more action flicks like that?

I will always be as physical as they will allow me to be. Even on Hawaii Five-0 I wanted to do everything that I was allowed to do. But there is no mistaking that I am a step or two slower than I used to be and my strikes aren’t necessarily as crisp as they used to be. [Laughs] For a guy my age, to be able to do what I am still able to do, I feel very lucky. I have heard that I don’t look my age, but I know that I don’t feel my age.