In the 10 years since Tim McGraw decided to cut out alcohol, the country singer has completely revamped his life to focus on fitness.
McGraw — who had to cut his set short at the Country to Country festival in Dublin on Sunday after collapsing due to dehydration — went sober in 2008 after friends started to worry.
The country superstar, now 50, used to drink before every show to calm his nerves.
“It was exactly my process,” McGraw told PEOPLE in 2013. “Basically, I am an unsure, self-conscious, shy person. That is how I started — even when I was in college, before I would get on stage, I would start drinking. I would start drinking to stop shaking.”
And he would never have just one drink — it would always be in multiples. “It was a pattern for me, for sure,” he added.
“People said things,” McGraw admitted. “People were worried about me … It wasn’t something that I didn’t know as well. But ultimately, it is really about how I want to be around for my kids. I want to be around to see how they grow up. I want to see what their lives become. I want to see what their kids look like.”
He added: “I felt like I had to change it. I felt like I had to change my life. And it wasn’t like I was out doing crazy things, it was just that I was drinking too much. You know, some people might look at it and say — hey, I drank twice as much as that. But for me, it adversely affected my life and it was time to change it.”
McGraw cut out alcohol entirely, and focused on exercise, which he had been neglecting.
“That’s where my workout program came into play,” he said. “It took the place of alcohol and it is really important.”
An ideal day for McGraw is filled with two workouts a day, for up to two hours at a time.
“I do [the] elliptical. Or a treadmill. I will go back and forth between those two. On tour, I do that routine in the morning and in the afternoon, I do a CrossFit routine and all the guys in the band do it with me,” he told PEOPLE in 2013. “It is two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. Sometimes it gets into three hours because we are loving what we are doing.”
And when he knows a busy couple of days are coming where he’ll have to go without a workout, McGraw will do a little extra.
“I try to work out every day,” he said. “Days like today — today I won’t have the chance to work out … But I know days are coming where I will have a chance to work out. Or I will go hard for hours knowing there will be days I don’t have a chance to work out. I try to keep it very constant.”
And now, instead of soothing his nerves with a drink before he goes on stage, McGraw will head out with his bandmates for a run.
“The ritual now is to run,” he said. “Me and a few of the guys in the band — I do my meet and greet and right after the meet and greet — we take off and run for 4 or 5 miles. It is literally timed so I run straight into the dressing room, get ready and hit the stage.”
“By the end of it, you are done,” he added. “You are exhausted. We work out in the morning, have a whole day, then we run and do the show. Our show is pretty high energy. Now at the end of the show, I have worn myself out.”
McGraw said that feeling of exhaustion keeps him from drinking after the show.
“For so many years, I would go do the show and right before you finish the show, you would feel like you were just getting warmed up and you were just getting in gear and you wanted to go and do it another hour,” he said. “And I ran into a lot of problems after a show where you wanted to keep drinking and keep the party going after a show for a while.”
McGraw told PEOPLE in 2015 that his workouts are generally the same as they were two years prior, but he’s in the gym for a little less time.
“I’ll do a 30 minute walk on the treadmill to warm up,” he said. “[And] swimming, that’s my go-to workout. I mix it up. On the road, it’s more strict, we do CrossFit every afternoon and weights in the morning. But at home, I’ll mix it up, I’ll swim or I’ll lift one day or I’ll run.”
Between ditching alcohol and ramping up his exercise routine, McGraw unintentionally lost 40 lbs. in about two years.
“It wasn’t like I was trying to lose 40 pounds, I was just wanting to get healthy,” he said. “For me, it is more about feeling good and being where I want to be physically and on stage. When I am on stage in 98 degrees out there, you want to feel good. And my show isn’t stand out there and not move around.”
He wasn’t following any strict diet, however.
“I am going to eat a cheeseburger today. I love Coke. Not as much as I used to. I like to eat, I like food. That is one of the reasons that I throw that extra hour [of exercise] in,” McGraw said. “Sometimes you watch it, sometimes you don’t.”
And he had no interest in cleansing.
“I don’t know if I could do the cleanse,” he said, laughing. “You don’t want to go for that last note of ‘Live Like You Were Dying’ and have something bad happening… like ‘Whoaaa… look out for the front row.’ “
Overall, McGraw said he was in the best shape of his life.
“I think that I am firing pretty much on all cylinders,” he said. “I’m in a good place all the way around … I feel like I’m better than ever, better than I’ve ever been. I don’t feel like this is as good as it’s going to get … but I am better than ever.”
He also recognized that his wife Hill saved his life. McGraw said that without her, “I’d be dead.”
“I would have partied too hard,” he said. “Faith saved my life in a lot of ways — from myself more than anything. I can go down a dark road sometimes, when you’re not feeling good about yourself, and she pulls me out. My wife makes me a better man.”
And in 2015, McGraw reiterated that he stays healthy for his kids.
“I just want to be around. I want to be around for my kids, I want to be around to see their kids, I want to be around to watch them grow up and do things,” he told PEOPLE. “And I feel like the best years I have are ahead of me. I want to be ready for them. I want to be ready for whatever life comes at me later on down the road.”
- With reporting by ALICIA DENNIS, KATIE KAUSS and GILLIAN TELLING