Article. Yoon Haein
Photo Credit. BAEKHO YouTube

BAEKHO is well known for his dedication to exercising. He has been on the cover of the Men's Health magazine twice and was the host of the web variety show entitled Idol’s Physical Race II which tested the strength and endurance of K-pop idol members. He also enjoys a variety of sports including freediving and hiking. Last year, he appeared on the golfing variety show that aired on JTBC called Buddy Boys. BAEKHO kept to his workout routine while he was promoting “Elevator” last September. We asked BAEKHO what his secret to maintaining his healthy lifestyle is.


Meal planning during promotional activities

BAEKHO: I actually stick to my meal plan until right before I begin my promotional activities. It’s really tough to keep to a strict diet during. Of course, if I need to wear something more revealing on stage, I get a bit stricter with myself, (laughs) but other than that, I eat pretty well during promotion season. (Laughs) My day-to-day schedule gets out of my control, and it's really difficult to find the right food or restaurant, so I decided to just eat whatever I want instead of sticking to my diet half-way. I do have to watch myself before comebacks, but my schedule gets more packed and they don’t always have microwaves on site, so it isn’t always convenient to have chicken breast. I tend to just eat whatever I can find. That happens to be McDonald’s. I never get fries, I get a Zero Coke and a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, minus a bun. That gets me enough protein, and there isn’t too much sauce either. It’s good not only because of its nutritional value, but because I can keep my hands sauce-free when I have it without one of the buns.(laughs)


Tips on everyday meal planning

BAEKHO: I don’t really go on a restrictive diet, but I’ve always felt that it would be such a shame to consume so many calories from one drink, (laughs) so I tend to stick to zero calorie ones and café Americanos. I don’t only have chicken breast either just because I’m going on a diet. I like all sorts of meats. But if I do have fatty cuts of meat, I cut back on rice. I found fried chicken that’s made with whole wheat instead of regular flour. I feel a little less guilty if I have that. (Laughs) I really love that people came up with whole wheat ramyeon and tofu noodles too. I’m so glad that we get these products and a lot of healthy restaurants, too. Even when I make pasta I use whole wheat pasta. It’s convenient,and surprisingly not that high on calories, so I have that a lot. Whenever I get a craving for jeyuk bokkeum, I add a sprinkle of Kimchi Seasoning, which has zero calories. (laughs) You know how you need to add a ton of sugar to make good spicy food? I trade it out for stevia or allulose. Or if you sauté onions on low heat for a really long time until it turns brown, it turns sweet. That takes care of the sweet component when I cook.

Tips for beginners

BAEKHO: I sometimes see people go on super restrictive diets which is concerning. You will of course lose weight if you eat less. But it’s more important to lose weight in a healthy way, and you shouldn’t get hung up on how much weight you shed. To me, the objective is always the most important. You need to ask yourselves, am I doing this to stay healthy? Or am I doing this to look better in my clothes? If it’s either of these reasons, there's really no need to follow such strict diets. Also, I think it’s important that you don’t get self-conscious when you work out. You might worry about people staring at you or them thinking that you’re weird because you can only lift however much. If somebody does think how you work out is weird, they are the weird one. You should do only as much as you can. You’ll end up hurting yourself if you overdo it. It’s really important to focus on yourself. 


BAEKHO's workout philosophy

BAEKHO: Our bodies are all different. Our height is different, we have body fat in different places, and our bone density is different. Some of us might have heavier bones. (laughs) If it's your goal to “look” nice, then there’s no need to stress over numbers. My main purpose is to look good, so I never counted the big threes (adding up the total weight of the three basic weight training workout routines: squats, deadlift, bench press), I just do what I can. It’s more important for me to look good. (laughs) We each have our own “right” amount, but for me, I just have to look good in my own eyes in line with my profession. (laughs) I think it’s impossible to, say, bulk up my shoulders because I’ll be wearing a sleeveless shirt. I do try, but it never works that way. Your shoulders won’t grow bigger even if you work them every day. You’ll only risk yourself getting hurt. I work out every day, and because my work involves physical aspects, I think I’ll be very anxious if I had to stay home a few days because I hurt myself. I know it won’t, but it feels like what I worked so hard to get will all go away. (laughs) That's why I try to keep to the proper form - to not hurt myself.


The joy of weight training

BAEKHO: With weight training, you get as much as you worked for. Your results never lie. You don’t improve faster just because you have good motor skills. Take basketball, for example. Some people who have excellent muscle elasticity might be especially talented, or soccer- people who have nimble feet can do really well. But with weight training, there’s very little room for these variables. Also, you do it alone. You do it to look good, so it’s a plus that you get something to show for it. It helps mentally, too. I don’t work every day, and I can’t work more just because I want to. But working out becomes a stable routine for me, which helps me mentally. I think this is the lesser-known perk.

The joyful world of exercise: Freediving, hiking, golf
BAEKHO: I think it’s a blessing that comes with my job. I first tried freediving when I appeared on Law of the Jungle which aired on SBS. I had to learn how to hold my breath for a long time underwater. And with hiking, this guy that I hike with kept buying me gears. (laughs) Whenever we’re done hiking, he goes, “We’ll need this this week,” or “It’ll be really cool if we had that,” and keeps getting me stuff. And now I can’t not go the following week because I got all this stuff from him. (laughs) That’s how I got started, and now I’m hooked. It's really tough, but gimbap and cup noodles taste amazing up on the summit - it's great. I like to golf in the morning - I get to listen to the birds and walk on the crisp grass. You can’t be greedy with golf - you have to let go of everything to perform well—so it gets me nice and calm in the morning. The golf ball stays still - it’s not like a soccer ball that comes soaring at you. You animate a dead ball. That makes everything that happens my fault, and my fault only. There’s no excuse, which gets me more motivated to do better. Nickhun is great at explaining things to me because he understands what amateur players like me struggle with, so he helps me a lot. These days I get as low as the mid-80s at my best, but it still fluctuates a bit - I get up to the mid-90s. I want to hit a stable late-80s. (laughs)

Connecting through exercise: Idol’s Physical Race II

BAEKHO: The things I do on Idol’s Physical Race II is virtually what people prepare to get into sports universities. We idols are used to physical activities, but the exercises carried out on the show are very different from what we normally do. I think they really put a lot of thought into bringing out the people’s competitive side while keeping everything safe and fun. I liked that we could connect, get closer while we worked out. I got to meet a lot of artists through exercising and it was great to see the energy they bring to their lives.

Working out during the promotions

BAEKHO: I might work out in different ways during my promotion period, but I don’t stop. I tend to do heavier lifts during my off season, but when I’m busy with getting ready for my comeback or during my promotion period I focus more on reducing the time between workouts. For example, I would do two workouts before resting instead of one, until I get breathless. I don’t like getting out of breath, but you know, it’s that feeling you’ve worked out properly. (laughs) So I tend to move more instead. I’m happiest when my fans are happy with what I show them, so when I show my fans what I’ve been working on, and they enjoy it, I get huge satisfaction from that. It’s not that I want to tell them, ‘I’ve been working really hard on this, so please pay attention.’ I just do my part, as best as I can. 


Keeping to a daily routine

BAEKHO: There’s no shortcut with working out. (laughs) I just do it thinking that it’s part of my job. Some people have gotten really used to it and genuinely enjoy working out, but not me. (laughs) And I can’t always set up a session with my trainer, so sometimesI work out alone for long stretches of time and eventually lose my form. I’m only human—I only do 12 when I can do 15 and think that’s enough. (laughs) But I always take the time to go back whenever I slack off a bit like that. I work out with my trainer to get motivated again. I get a lot of questions from people, saying that they've gotten interested in working out, and on how they can get started. To that I say, just go for it. What’s important is getting started. I don’t have much to tell you other than that. You’ll improve if you keep at it. (laughs) Getting started is the most important thing.