Number one: "Hit the gym even when you are exhausted." Two: "Don't obsess and count every olive you eat." And three: "Stay away from the spandex. The first thing people do when they decide to work out is go crazy with the spandex. Not necessary."
At the next table a silver-haired lady-who-lunches type leans in to say, "I am not sure who you are, but everything you said makes so much sense. I am going to follow it. I really will."
If enough others feel the same, the rapper-slash-actor turned fitness-book author may have a bestseller on his hands. LL Cool J's Platinum Workout details his favorite low-fat recipes and workout routines. "If you follow this even three days a week, it will change your life," insists LL, 39, who hopes the book also will dispel rumors that have dogged him for years. "I constantly get, 'Did you have plastic surgery?' 'Did you take steroids?' It's disheartening," he says. "Find a plastic surgeon who worked on me, and I'll give you a million dollars."
His transformation has been remarkable, to be sure. Once a scrawny rapper from Hollis, Queens, LL hit it big in 1985 with "I Can't Live Without My Radio." Eventually he got big too, packing on 40 lbs. By 1999 the extra weight, he says, "was making me sluggish." With the help of trainer and coauthor Dave "Scooter" Honig, 51, he started lifting weights, boxing and running up to five times a week. It wasn't easy. "My calves were burning before I finished the first mile," he recalls. "I felt like I was running in hot chicken grease."
It helped that Honig was committed. When a tour stop in Tennessee offered only a greasy spoon for dinner, the trainer talked his way into the kitchen to prepare LL a healthy meal. "I'll be real—the recipes in the book aren't exactly delicious. I like seasoning, and you have to cut out the salt. But Scooter keeps me in line." At home, he's got wife Simone Smith, 36, who also trains with Honig, and their four kids looking on. "His dedication amazes me," says Simone. "And of course, that body."
For six years LL has kept his weight between 210 and 220 lbs. Before a job, he steps up the routine, as he did for the June film Slow Burn. He wants to appear toned, but not too toned. "I have to be careful: You want to look like Everyman."
As if. Honig points out, LL "out of shape is better than 95 percent of people in shape." Out of shape? LL? "I hit White Castle every now and then, and I love my Häagen-Dazs and cake," says LL. "If I have an eight-pack one day and a five-pack after a big meal, I am all right with that."