In his latest chat with Gotham, two-time Emmy winner Michael Strahan shares his morning rituals, details on his latest clothing and luggage lines, and his secret to living in the now.
I’m always fascinated by the routines of highly productive people. What does your first few hours of the day look like and how do you prepare for it the night before?
MICHAEL STRAHAN: Sleep! [Laughs] The morning starts early for me around five o’clock. The first thing I do is read my emails about what’s coming up on the show, even though I have the notes the night before. So I basically go to bed reading notes on what’s coming up on GMA and GMA Day!, so that it’s consciously on my mind when I go to bed or wake up in the morning. The emails come through in the morning, for the most part, about what the show is going to be, even though that’s not the show until you get in there and it still changes on the fly.
The day before, I also like to look through my calendar and map out what I have to do so I know how much energy I need to have to do it. And when I can take those times to have a break, where I know I can relax my mind without having to extend the energy, I find out where I need to conserve energy to make it through the day.
It’s crazy. There are a lot of things I have to do, but I just try to read everything, retain it, shut off my mind and relax. Maybe it’s from football, but I just have the type of memory that comes back around, things just pop up when I need them.
Between your sportscaster gig at FOX and hosting Good Morning America, how do you manage to devote time to new projects?
MS: I’m very selective with what I do because you only have so much time in the day. I try to make sure I do things that are important. I don’t do anything that isn’t necessary, unless it’s something I really want to do. There are certain days where friends ask you to do things, and no matter how great of a friend they are, you just have to say, “I love ya, but I just have a lot on my plate.” There are days where I don’t have anything on my plate, but I say no because I just want to have a quiet day. We all need that. You do have to maintain normalcy outside of work, otherwise you go crazy.
I’m pretty disciplined when it comes to that. When I wake up, and my girlfriend wakes up, she hands me a shake when I’m getting into the car. On top of the protein shake, I’ll take a lunch pail with me that will have juice and other things. If it’s a day where I know I’ll be back home late, she pretty much makes lunch and snacks, and anything I need to maintain energy and the schedule that I have. If I get home early, I’ll have the protein shake, after Good Morning America, I’ll have eggs with avocado, after GMA Day! I’ll have a juice and then I’ll get home, have a snack, and make sure there’s an hour left for me to workout.
Where did all of this start for you?
MS: When I was 13 years old, and they called me B.O.B., which meant “booty on back.”
So I bought Jane Fonda VHS tapes and started doing leg raises and butt lifts, and from there I graduated to the Herschel Walker workout book, because he was coming out of the University of Georgia as a Heisman Trophy winner. He was the man. It was mostly push-ups and sit-ups and that was my next stage of working out. About six months into it, my dad, seeing how committed I was, decided he wanted to workout with me. It was a way for us to spend time together. We would go to the gym every day. He would buy Muscle & Fitness magazine, write up the program out of the magazine, print them out, make booklets, and we’d have to go to the gym, fill out how many reps, how much weight, the different exercises. He wore me out. And even when I didn’t want to be in there, the one thing he’d say was, “Don’t worry. It’ll pay off one day.” Football wasn’t even on my radar.
So what you’re really saying is to invest in Jane Fonda workout videos?
MS: Matter of fact, I went out and found the old VHS tape and bought it. I have a copy of it. You never forget where you came from!
You're a sharp dresser, you even have your own clothing and athleisure line, but give me some pointers on how to dress like you.
MS: Haha! Don’t try too hard. I just dress with what's natural. I'm on TV six days a week, which is mostly suits and ties. So, creating a clothing line was organic to what I do in my life and fun at the same time. There's not a fabric, pattern, or tie that I'm not involved in and that I don't have a hand on. It's not one of these things that I've slapped my name on and just have someone write me a check, far from that. Then, organically, when I'm down with work, I like to wear comfortable clothing, which is where the athleisure line came in. We've been fortunate enough that both have been doing well. I don't do anything that I don't believe in and I think the public knows when you're real and when you're faking.
And what interested you in creating your own luggage line as?
MS: It's one of the handiest things! My daughter actually showed up at my home with some broke down luggage a few weeks ago and I had to get her some new luggage and school her on that. I travel every week, sometimes longer than others. So, to have something that fits all my needs, from a day bag to a packback to a larger piece for bigger trips, the luggage gets used a lot in my house.
How well do you handle jet lag?
MS: I get used to it! Crazy thing is when I fly out West, I'll stay up later until 11 p.m. or 12 p.m., just like I am in New York. I adapt to the schedule wherever I'm going. I don't even think about. People tell me all that time that they think my schedule is crazy, and I just don't even think about it. I just wake up and do what I need to do, because I think if I sat back and looked at everything I'm doing, I may fall off from exhaustion.
In a way, it forces you to live in the now, right?
MS: When I look at my calendar, I always concentrate on the next day. All I really need to know is what I need to do to get through to the next day. Being too far ahead takes your focus off of living in the now and that's no fun. I want to be very present, which allows me to do my job, but looking too far in advance would take my focus off of the immediate.
And that philosophy extends across all of the projects and TV shows you work on?
MS: Each thing is so different than the next. I don't look at one and say, "This one I can coast," or, "I just have to get through it." I give the same energy to each project. You never know, they're are so many different audiences and I don't want anyone to watch and not feel like they're getting my best. It may be somebody's first time watching me, and I just want them to have the best experience, and I give everything the same energy out of respect for the people behind the scenes too who put in a lot of work to make sure I can be successful.
When you have downtime, where can we find you in New York City?
MS: In New York, I'm on the Upper West Side, so I spend a lot of time in the neighborhood. I end up at Tessa, a lot of time at Equinox, and Playa Betty's during the summer, because they have this frozen paloma, and after two of those on a good Friday, you're feeling just how you need to feel—nice and right. [Laughs] My favorite restaurant is Milos though, I love going to Milos. It's always fresh.