My Weekly Workout: John McDonald

The New York City restauranteur and co-founder of both Tasting Table and Eboost shares a seven-day snapshot of non-stop fitness, including two obstacle races.

To the average gym goer (or skipper), John McDonald’s non-stop seven-day workout week—including two obstacle races—may seem slightly intense. Especially since he’s not exactly twiddling his thumbs professionally. McDonald owns four New York City restaurants, including the popular Lure Fishbar, and co-founded both Tasting Table and Eboost.

“To be honest, I don’t even notice that I do it. I don’t over-think it,” he says, referring to his fitness routine. Of course, you won’t find him pedaling moderately in a spin class or enjoying 90 minutes of restorative yoga. Efficiency, he says, is key.

“No matter how busy I am, I don’t think there’s ever a time where I can’t find 30 minutes to do something. And I do something that counts,” he explains. “It’s just a matter of if you really want to make it count, you have to really push yourself for those 30 minutes.”

The ripped restauranteur does take an occasional break: “I would say I take every tenth day off depending on how I feel, and every 30 or so days I’ll do absolutely nothing for two straight days.”

This was not one of those weeks. Here’s how McDonald’s routine played out over seven recent days… —Lisa Elaine Held

Sunday: Today there was no gym or typical routine. I raced in the Spartan Tri-State 9-mile obstacle course with about 150 fellow Eboost team members. This is the third such race I’ve done, and the longest to-date. The course was at the Mountain Creek Ski Resort and Waterpark, so essentially we navigated up and down the hill while being faced with about twenty-plus obstacles. It’s a lot of hills, mud, rope climbing, swimming, and a general military style fitness. All together it’s a great team activity. I highly recommend it. I finished in two hours and four minutes.

McDonald crossing the finish line at the Spartan Race.

Monday: In preparation for the upcoming CMC (Civilian Military Combine) competition, I decided to do a mock of their seven-minute “Pit” workout followed by a three-mile run. The pit is quite simple: you perform seven reps of an overhead press, seven overhead kettlebell swings, and seven burpees with a box jump, counting cumulative reps for the seven-minute period. I completed five full cycles plus seven overhead and three kettle for a total rep count of 115. This is not a great result; I should be above 130 by the end of the week.

Tuesday: Trained with a friend George Vafiades who owns a studio called As One Fitness. His workouts are relentless and extremely results-driven. Today we did a combination of a machine called the Jacob’s Ladder, which is a human-powered climber made mostly of wood. We started with 90 seconds on the ladder, then five pull-ups, then 10 burpees, 10 box jumps, then 90 seconds on an Airdyne bike, and 60 seconds of rest. I repeated this series eight times.

Wednesday: I like mid-week days; I feel good today. This is a particular session that I try to do every two weeks. If done fast, it really crushes the entire body in well under an hour. I start with 50 burpees, resting when needed, followed by 25 pull-ups, wide grip, no swing (rest in between as little as possible). Then, 15 push-ups wide stance, rest five seconds, 10 push-ups medium stance, rest five seconds, five push-ups narrow stance. Then, right into 15 air squats, touching the ground and jumping as high as you can reaching your arms up to the sky. Three minutes in plank—one minute in the middle, one left, one right—and finished with a sprint, half a mile under 3:15. Lastly, three minutes of mixed abdominal reps.

Thursday: I don’t do it as often as I should, but today I went up to a hot yoga class at Yoga To The People. The founder Greg Gurmicio was in town and he always pushes me in a direction that is way out of my normal routine. I need to do this at least once a week to improve flexibility and overall balance.

Friday: Pre-CMC day, so I went to Equinox Soho and did a simple session on the step machine: 100 flights of steps on a pretty moderate speed, followed by a slow mile jog with slight incline, and then five minutes of mixed abdominal reps.

Saturday: My Eboost partner Josh Taekman and about 50 fellow team members tackled the CMC Brooklyn Urban Assault Course. It’s similar to other obstacle courses but incorporates a trademark “Pit” that’s a seven-minute starter before you begin the course. After a two-minute rest, you’re sent out on a four-mile course that involves a series of climbing, crawling, carrying, pushing and more. Toss in some mud and water and a beer at the end for added value. It’s very competitive as they grade on a bell curve style system.

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