Jesse Metcalfe spends plenty of time in the gym, which isn’t a surprise for anyone who has seen his famously ripped abs. But the actor says his workouts aren’t just about looks — they’re also for his mental health.
“The most important facet of exercise for me is what it does for me psychologically,” Metcalfe, 38, tells PEOPLE. “It really anchors me, and I love to get up early to workout. I really feel like it sets my day in a positive direction. And a very close second is aesthetics, because it has to be for my line of business.”
“I don’t keep it typical,” he says. “I really feel like that’s the key to continuing to shock your muscles and blast through plateaus you may hit. Plus, I get bored. I’ve really had to do a lot of different things, and I think that’s important for reaching higher and higher fitness goals.”
“Group fitness is all the rage right now, and I enjoy the energy and the communal aspect of working out with other people,” he says. “And because I’m so busy, I want to just completely crush it in 50 minutes to an hour instead of dilly dallying around in the gym. That’s why group fitness classes are amazing, because you can get in there and know that you’re going to give maximum effort and get out.”
He’ll even go to group classes in random cities in the U.S. when he’s shooting movies and TV shows. Metcalfe admits that he’ll get the side eye from other people in the class who recognize him.
“I kind of love it, and it’s not really about the attention, but it’s kind of like this extra pressure that I better be the guy working out the hardest in the room,” he says. “If I have anyone next to me who is crushing me I’m definitely motivated to work harder. But that’s the beauty of group fitness.”
Metcalfe says he really pumped up his workouts during the shoots for his most recent film, Escape Plan 2, which comes out in 2018.
“I figured, if I’m going to share the screen with Sylvester Stallone, I gotta make sure I’m pretty pumped,” Metcalfe says. “I really trained hard for that. I was doing two a day workouts some days. I like to really weight train hard in the morning, and in the afternoon do a really hardcore ab session and run sprints.”
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The key thing for him, though, is to always mix it up, especially now that he’s 13 years removed from his days as the hot young gardener on Desperate Housewives.
“Now that I’m older I have to be more strategic with my workouts and my diet to get the results that I want,” Metcalfe says. “It doesn’t get easier, it gets harder.”