If anyone has a legitimate excuse for skipping a workout or healthy meal, it’s Russell Dickerson.
He just wrapped up co-headlining The Way Back Tour with Carly Pearce. And after April’s ACM awards—Dickerson is nominated for Song of the Year—he’ll be back on the road in May with Thomas Rhett for the Very Hot Summer Tour. (And don’t forget to listen to Dickerson’s new single “Every Little Thing“.)
Even though he’s constantly on-the-go and under pressure to nail his performances, he still prioritizes (and optimizes) his fitness.
We spoke with Dickerson about his college days in the weight room, what he’s learned about his body since then, and how exercise fuels and inspires his work. Plus, his take on the Keto craze, and how he works off the occasional detour to McDonalds.
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HumanFitProject: Fitness means very different things to different people. Different motivations, inspiration. What does it mean to you?
Russell Dickerson: Oh, man, I really fell in love with fitness after I took a weight training class in college, actually. Really understanding my body and understanding the weight room and how good it feels after a good, solid workout, and I kind of got hooked after that. For me, it’s just a part of life, honestly. It’s a part of what I do, and it’s a part of stress relief. It’s so many things to me.
HFP: Does a workout ever help you with your creative process?
RD: Yeah, especially on runs, that’s kind of my creative space of just dreaming and coming up with ideas. You can just let your mind go as you’re on those trails.
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HFP: How would you describe your style when it comes to working out?
RD: My style is all over the place because I never know where I’m gonna be at any given time. If it’s a hotel gym or we have adjustable free weights out on the road or are we gonna find the nearest Planet Fitness or whatever? There’s always a Planet Fitness somewhere.
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HFP: Yes, true, there is a Planet Fitness everywhere…
RD: We hop all over the place. So my style would be like just roll with it, whatever you can do, whatever you can do for at least a quick half hour intense little cardio, or whatever it looks like.
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HFP: You mentioned running as a time to let your mind go wherever it wants, but is there anything in particular that you tend to think about when you work out? Is there a mental routine that you get into?
RD: Yeah, it first starts with prayer and meditation. I know it sounds contradictory while you’re running, but prayer is a lot of who I am and what I do. So getting out on these trails, getting out into nature, is such an experience for me, and to just get my mind off all the stressful things and focus on what’s the next steps of like, you know, business ideas. That leads to business ideas and song ideas and show ideas and all that kind of thing. It’s really a creative process for me.
HFP: So this could be a fun one, given your career, but is there anything you listen to when you work out?
RD: Honestly, most of the time I don’t listen to music because it’s kind of a break for me, you know?
HFP: Alright, interesting… Very different than most folks, huh?
RD: Yeah, sometimes, on the road, if there’s a bunch of people working out together, then we’ll have some music, like Get Turnt on Spotify, that’s a classic workout playlist. Or sometimes I might listen to some worship music or something.
HFP: Yeah, got it. But if you had it your way, it would be a break…?
RD: Yeah man, especially being on a bus. There’s always the noise of a generator or an engine or music or loud this, loud that. It’s just like, we need time. My wife and I actually are headed right now, we’re going on a little hike, so it’s just like, shut the noise off, get the screens out of your face, and just enjoy life and nature.
HFP: Digital detox.
RD: Yep. That’s a nice phrase. Love it.
HFP: What’s your take on how to eat right? Any beliefs? Disbeliefs?
RD: Balance. I think every human being needs balance. You try these super-strict plans, but I’m more of a low-carb guy myself. I enjoy that lifestyle. I feel better being very low-carb. I tried the keto thing and it’s cool, it’s … I don’t know, I feel like keto isn’t for active people, though. You know what I mean? Like, you have to have carbs and protein.
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HFP: True. A lot of our readers have given us that feedback as well. Research looks great for body comp, but not so great for performance.
RD: That was just my assumption, but I’m glad we agree on that.
HFP: 100%. So, you’ve been working out since college. What would you say you’ve learned about your body over the years?
RD: I’ve learned to just listen to my body more, but to have grace for myself. Like looking in the mirror like ‘Yo, last night we had a bunch of McDonald’s, so there you go. A little swole this morning’. Or, not getting to work out today, whatever it is. It’s really about being balanced, like don’t beat yourself up over small stuff. You can always get back on track.
HFP: Yeah. It’s gotta be tough with the amount of travel you’re doing.
RD: It’s tough, man, because you can’t pack a meal plan. We’re out on the road during the week, flying everywhere, and then we get in the bus for three days and it’s so inconsistent and it is really hard, but then, you just find ways around it. You just find your little thing. Like the Starbucks sous vide bites. I do those all the time. Low carb, high protein, it’s not the greatest thing in the world, but it’s better than just going and getting a cheeseburger, I guess.
HFP: Speaking of all the traveling you do, are there any rules that you follow when it comes to how exercise fits in to the plan?
RD: I did for a while but like I said, it’s all about listening to my body. My energy level might be like ‘Boom! Soon as we land, we’re getting to the hotel, we’re working out.’ But my mind is like, ‘Hey, actually, you’ve gotta play a show tonight and you slept four hours in the last three nights. You should probably take a nap.’
RD: I know all these movie stars and fitness people that wake up at 3 a.m. and hit the gym, like Dwayne Johnson. I follow them, but I gotta listen to my body, and I gotta sing, I have to perform.
HFP: It’s a different type of intuition.
RD: Yeah, totally. And the voice, man, the human voice is so fragile, especially when it comes to fatigue, and that being my livelihood. That has to be my first priority over getting a solid workout in. I love working out, but my wife usually is the one who calls me out. She’s like, “Uh, no, you need to rest.”
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HFP: I don’t know how you keep the energy level up doing what you do. It’s incredible.
RD: Thank you.
HFP: So, what’s next?
RD: In May we’re hopping on the road with Thomas Rhett all summer. It’s called The Very Hot Summer Tour, and it’s gonna be crazy. We’re playing Madison Square Garden, all these crazy iconic venues.
HFP: That’s great!
RD: Yeah, man. Just found out that my first single, “Yours”, was nominated for ACM Song of the Year, so that’s been on our minds the last week. It’s just been like, holy cow. It’s been huge!
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.