Gregg DeGuire/WireImage
Michele Corriston
August 29, 2015 04:15 PM

Almost three years after Gossip Girl signed off with a final “xoxo,” Chace Crawford is returning to prime time with ABC’s new show Blood and Oil as one half of an ambitious, working-class couple hoping to strike gold in a North Dakota boomtown – and he’s pretty excited not to be playing a prep schooler.

“It was a great situation, and I get to play a completely different character than the one I portrayed for 6 years,” Crawford told PEOPLE. “I wouldn’t take those years back for anything.”

Still, “It’s nice to be able to play something that’s closer to home for me,” he added, joking, “And to not have to shave my face off every day.”

But don’t worry: Based on the steamy trailer, Crawford, 30, is still rocking Nate Archibald’s super toned body on the oil rush drama.

PEOPLE caught up with the actor before he began the Nautica Malibu Triathlon, presented by Equinox and benefitting the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, on Saturday and Sunday, and he told us all about his fitness regimen.

“I was about to turn 30 and I figured these are the type of things people do in their 30s,” he said of his motivation for signing up for the endurance competition. “Ya know drink vegetable juice, buy curtains, learn to crochet the usual.”

Read on to learn about his new role and exercise routine, and catch Crawford on Blood and Oil when it premieres Sept. 27 at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

How have you been training for the triathlon?
I’ve been working in Park City, which is at 7,000 feet elevation. After getting over the first two weeks of training and feeling like Rudy trying to make the team. I’m more confident now.

Why are you passionate about the cause?
I’ve done some things with the Children’s Hospital during my time in New York, and getting to spend time with the kids is just something that means a lot to me. This event raises more and more money every year and it may be the best run event of this type out there. I’m proud to be a part of it.

How do you keep in shape on a regular basis?
The biggest problem with exercise is boredom. So that’s one of the main reasons I took to the training for this, it switches it up, gets you outside. I also try and get in the gym four days a week, sometimes five if I hit McDonald’s at the airport.

What drew you to the script for Blood and Oil?
I met with [executive producer] Tony Krantz and [creator, director and executive producer] Jonas Pate, and we talked about the way we’d be working, and it seemed like a great fit. They’re fantastic. That and the prospect of getting to live in Park City. I love it out here.

Why should people tune in?
Honestly, I’m lucky to be a part of such an amazing cast. Everyone is really strong, and the episodes from what I’ve seen look great. It’s going to be a fun show. There’s something for everyone and there’s not anything out there like it right now. Check it out.

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