Nelly was one of the first rappers I listened to. Although I consider myself more of a country girl (um, his collab with Florida Georgia Line in this summer’s smash hit “Cruise (Remix)” was the soundtrack to my windows-down car rides...), back in my early teens my friends and I would “Ride Wit” him en route to field hockey games, sporting Band-Aids on our cheeks and all—just like he did. Yes, it was a trend that lasted a few weeks in my preppy shoreline town. Don’t ask.
I’ve followed Nelly’s career ever since, and when his seventh album, M.O., was released last month, I couldn’t pop it into my running playlist fast enough. “There’s a bunch of good workout songs on it,” Nelly told me when we recently chatted. “From top to bottom, I think you’ll find there’s a lot of great music on there to do your thing.” He called me “sweetheart” at the end of our conversation, I might add, but I digress.
Featuring Nicki Minaj, Pharrell, Nelly Fertado, T.I. and others, Nelly’s newest pace-pushing beats are sure to get your rear in gear as you take your runs indoors. And if you’re anything like Nelly, maybe that athlete mentality will translate into your career. “The competitiveness, the will not to quit and basically being in attack mode definitely helped me,” he says, explaining that the new album's title not only stands for his home state of Missouri, but also “Method of Operation.”
So what is the workaholic’s method of staying in shape? I mean, don’t mess with those biceps! “The majority of the men in my family are super duper skinny, so the hardest part is putting the weight on,” he admits. “If I’m working, I probably get to the gym three times a week. I’m not going as heavy, just trying to maintain.” And when it comes to cardio, you won’t find the singer on the treadmill, but on the court. “I think basketball is the best cardio in the world, especially with all of the movements—the stops, jumps, the agility part of it and just the constant running.”
When I asked the former vegetarian about his diet, Nelly couldn’t emphasize enough the importance of watching what you eat. To keep his pumped-up physique, the artist tries to take in a lot of protein and loves turkey burgers. “When I started filming The Longest Yard—they wanted me to play a running back—I started eating chicken and turkey again because I only had two months to get as big as possible.” Another staple in Nelly’s daily eats? Oatmeal. “I eat a whole lot of oatmeal with cinnamon. I’ll chop up some bananas and put some raisins in it.” Whoa, Nelly! We’re impressed!
In honor of his new album, here’s a Nelly-fied playlist (a nice mix of old and new) to “Shake Ya Tailfeather” to. Sporting a Band-Aid? Optional, but strongly encouraged.