Chris Hansen has made a long and successful career out of catching “Predators,” but in order to maintain his decades-long on-screen pursuit for justice, the last thing he wants to begin worrying about is needing to have a seat, er, catch his breath on the job.
That’s not to say that the veteran journalist—whose career has spanned from a local NBC affiliate in Lansing, MI, back in the early ’80s to most notably his NBC Dateline series To Catch a Predator (which began in 2004) along with his Daytime Emmy Award-winning show Crime Watch Daily (now True Crime Daily)—ever let himself go, physically.
In fact, when the cameras are off and the creeps are in bracelets, Hansen makes use of his limited downtime to maintain an active lifestyle and keep his conditioning in check. His goal is longevity, and to accomplish that the broadcaster would normally rely on a trio of activities: tennis, skiing (during getaways with the family), and his Peloton for quick home workouts in his New York apartment.
“My whole goal was to be able to ski for free on the slopes when I turned 67,” Hansen says, laughing. “Now they keep bumping the age to 72 or 75.”
And just as busy as he is staying fit, the 63-year-old has aimed to stay one step ahead in his media career. After leaving network television in 2013, he has continued to find ways to stay in the game (his ongoing work has helped arrest more than 500 predators, with all but a small fraction receiving convictions). He has his weekly crime podcast, Predators I’ve Caught, and a new streaming series, Takedown with Chris Hansen” that recently debuted on the investigative channel TruBlu.
Yet, since pushing past 60, the chasedowns have admittedly become a little more exhausting. That, plus, even with law enforcement on hand, the looming threat of a situation going off the rails requires Hansen to remain quick and reactive at all times, especially if a situation was about to go down.
At the same time, Hansen not only needed to add strength, he noticed his on-camera posture starting to take a turn for the negative. As the episodes kept rolling, Hansen began seeing the slouched, slumped-over shoulders causing that he felt made him look years older. And although he can make some visual fixes in the editing room, it was time for a shift in his fitness routine.
The journalist began working with Robert Brace, a New York City-based coach who immediately prioritized weight training in Hansen’s routines. Previously, only lower weights that would accompany Peloton workouts found their way into Hansen’s routines.
“I would normally do my weights on the Peloton—three to five pounds of weights or the kettlebell I had lying around,” Hansen says. “Now, in terms of endurance, posture, at the end of the day, physically, I’m doing so much better because of the weights.”
He went through the dreaded phase many lifters go through: realizing that pressing an empty bar from his chest can be a struggle when you’re not yet schooled on form or practice. However, soon after, Hansen began loading weights onto the bar, hitting a 135 pounds. Sure, it’s not powerlifting numbers, he admits, but a PR nonetheless.
Hansen was getting better by the day, both physically and visually. Next, Brace added boxing drills into the mix with a focus on jabs and footwork to keep the HIITs (and progress) going.
Stretching both pre- and post-workout was paramount to get Hansen standing upright when the camera turned on.
“I can tell the difference. You know, I wasn’t really looking to lose weight or anything, but I did want to gain muscle mass, I did want to improve posture and I did want to you know, kind of improve focus in a way and it’s all happened and it’s you know, become a very important part of my weekly schedule.”
Whether it’s by R train to Brace Life Studios in New York City’s Little Italy when he’s in town or back home in Michigan, Hansen takes an hour a day for his health. Because professionally, there’s still a lot of predators to catch, and he’s not quitting any time soon. But at home, he wants to become a wellness role model for his family. Hansen’s Winning Strategy for wellness and longevity begins with making changes, using the resources you have to succeed and finding comfort in getting out of your comfort zone.
“There’s a little bit of me that feels pride in leading by example,” Hansen says. “I think, all my kids tend to be me, like, they see their own man doing this. I encourage them to follow suit. My wife has been to Robert’s studio, as has my son and stepdaughter. “It’s great fun, you know, they really get a kick out of it when they’re in town.”
1. Chris Hansen Is Fit to Catch the Bad Guys
It’s television, and it’s on camera, and although the people who are viewing may understand about being 63 years old, they expect to see a certain presentation of a human being who’s going to tell them the story. You’re allowed to age, but you’re supposed to do it gracefully.
Physically, especially in the “Predator” investigations, you’re on your feet for up to 16 hours a day. You have to move and adjust, especially if it’s a volatile situation. And even though law enforcement is present to make it as safe as we can possibly can, there’s inherent risk there. You need to be sharp, focused, and you need to be able to defend yourself. So you need to be physically fit in case something does happen and be able to get out if the situation gets volatile.
I wish I’d done it five years ago. I’ve always been active, I’ve been a runner, play tennis, ski, and go to the gym. I’ve worked out, pretty steadily over over my lifetime, in one way or another. And just by being a New Yorker, I get in a lot of steps just by walking around to get to the places you need to go to. But I wish I would have gotten into it earlier.
But having said that, [training] came at a great time of life for me. Entering my 60s, this sort of exercise, especially focusing on stretching becomes part of the routine. It’s about longevity and continuing to do a demanding job both physically and intellectually to the best of my ability. And I have to say, I feel tremendous. I have very little pain, I don’t suffer from any knee or hip ailments or low back pain. I can just sail through the day. And I think a big part of that is the training methodology I have with Robert.
2. For Chris Hansen, It’s About Looking and Feeling Good
There’s a little bit of vanity here, for sure. When you see a profile shot of yourself and your sport coat’s open and you’re hunched over, it’s not a great looking shot. And it’s not good for your body either.
The stretching that we do after the workout is critical to me, at my age in and it goes hand in hand with the posture, which has improved phenomenally. Before Robert and I started, I was looking paunchy. Today my posture is much straighter. I don’t have back pain, and I don’t feel as tight when I get off an airplane.
I have to sit in the editing room and look at the shots, I have to see everything from all angles. I can choose which ones to use and not to use at some times, but even though the goal is not to edit around how you look, you need to be to tell the story.
And it’s just better for overall health and well being. My dad was overweight and my mom had very severe osteoporosis in her later years—I watched her struggle with that. They were not necessarily horribly unhealthy people, but you learn these things and you pay attention to them as you as you grow older.
So everything I’ve learned from Robert and his team suggests that the best way to stay ahead of it and to be comfortable in your 70s is to live a certain way in your 60s, and you the decade prior your behavior, there is going to dictate what the next decade is. So what I’m doing now not only makes me feel good every day, and it helps me to be better at my job, happier in my personal relationships, but also is going to bode well for me when I turn the next corner.
3. Start Making a Wellness Shift for Your Long Term
I have this conversation with my family. My dad died of congestive heart failure. He was a heavy fellow, and had established a lifestyle pattern that, you know, came out of the ‘50s and ‘60s —he was a three-martini lunch guy working in the auto industry. Back then that was very acceptable, that’s how people did business, but it wasn’t necessarily linked to a healthy lifestyle unless you changed things around at some point.
I made up my mind a long time ago that I was not going to go down that way. It became really clear to me that, to be in this profession for another 10 to 20 years, as some of my colleagues who are older than me have done successfully, you need to really focus on your physical ability and to create an environment where you feel good, it doesn’t tear you up to get on a plane and go coast to coast, or to work till two in the morning on a sting operation. I think that the physical fitness and the mental acuity go hand in hand, I think there’s very definitely a link there. And I think scientific studies now show that.
I have pals who are older than me who are still in the game. Joseph Smith, who owns Bobby Vans steakhouse here in New York and other cities, just turned 75, and I’ll take him as a tennis partner any day of the week. That’s where I want to be in 12 years. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by those people. It keeps you keeps you focused on what you need to do both from a business angle, professionally, and a personal angle as well.
4. Chris Hansen Built a Lifestyle of Crime
Crime stories are as old as the Bible—it’s good versus evil. People are very much fascinated by it. And the way we report and produce these shows, we take people inside the crime. In many cases in the “Predator” and the “Takedown” franchises, they’re seeing the commission of a felony in real time. They’re seeing justice when that guy comes face to face with me and then gets arrested by authorities in real time. They get to see things and hear things they wouldn’t normally see and hear. And even if it’s not a sting, necessarily, there’s usually a confrontation.
One of the reasons why we started TruBlu was during the last couple of documentaries I did that were on Discovery+. By the time you go through the entire process, a five-hour series can take, start to finish, 12 to 24 months in production.
At TruBlu, we’re leaner and more focused. We can be more nimble and turn these things around in a fraction of the time and get the content to the consumer. We’ve applied the same kind of enterprising techniques that we use in reporting, whether it’s a predator investigation or any other of the documentaries we’re working on.
We have access because I have 40 years of being on television. And having a brand, largely because of the “Predator” franchise in which I have access to law enforcement information, and people are willing to open up and talk to me. And that’s a that’s a real advantage in this business.
5. Find a Way to Fit In Your Fitness
There are a lot of workouts that you can do independently. I use peloton a lot—I’ve got one in the apartment. And in our house, we have a treadmill and we have weights everywhere. We stay fit, but there is no substitute for a guy like Robert—you’re driven to surpass what you did the day before.
I’m not really crazy about getting up at 5:30 in the morning, but you get on the train, listen to music, then you get down there by 7, get fired up, and you do it. And once you’re finished at 8 a.m., and you have the entire day ahead of you, you feel a lot better than you did at 5:30. There’s a sense of accomplishment.
Working with Robert, it’s a very unique setting for me because I have personal relationships with Robert and his team of trainers. So, you know, I get more out of this than just being physically fit. We’ve become good friends, we advise each other on business matters. So it’s become more than just “get your ass down there and give me 20!” It’s a unique thing. I’m not suggesting that people can’t get what I get in other programs, but it’s a very different, special bond and experience that I have there. And I look forward to it every time.