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FDLE agent and novelist shares his fitness tips

Sun Sentinel Correspondent

Since 2004, James O. Born has published five Florida mystery novels and in June, under the pseudonym James O'Neal, he published a sci-fi mystery set in a futuristic Miami. To write these books Born makes use of his law-enforcement career, including his current work as a special agent for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He previously worked with the U.S. Marshals and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

A husband and father, Born works out seven days a week to stay in shape — and to set aside time to imagine new plots and characters. He finds that mixing up his routine keeps his body and mind fresh.

Why do you keep fit?

I work out solely for fat. I'm not worried about "beach muscles" of chest and arms. The only muscle I'm concerned about is my heart. I literally don't feel well unless I'm working out every day. And I use the solo time to think about my novels.

Which exercises do you do?

I mix it up. I always go a minimum of 45 minutes total: 25 minutes on weights and 20 minutes of cardio or vice versa. Some days are just aerobics, so I'll run, bicycle, do the elliptical machine, StairMaster. I never do just weights for the 45 minutes.

Do you work out only in a gym?

I get bored with cardio classes at the gym. One of my favorite workouts in summer is a half-hour run on the beach followed by a 20-minute ocean swim, without a break. It's never a fast run. And I ride a mountain bike. I don't care if I'm on a road or grass as long as it's causing me to work hard. I live on a lake and sometimes I'll run 15 minutes, bike 15 and then hit the kayak hard for 15.

Have you ever competed in endurance sports?

I have been a marathon runner, a physically big one weighing over 200 pounds in every marathon I ran. But I'm not training for them now. I earned my black belt in karate. In college, I started working up through the ranks of Shotokan, one of the main Japanese systems of karate. Because of my books I don't have time to devote to class like I used to, so I do it on my own now.

Do you play recreational sports?

On Sunday mornings, my buddy Jim Boyette and I play tennis, but we call it "return the ball." It doesn't matter if the ball bounces more than once, you have to hustle to get it. This forces us to work our legs and muscles. And it's fun. I've also gone windsurfing and scuba diving for occasional fun.

Has your workout changed as you get older?

At my age, it's important to do something different every day so I won't get repetitive movement issues. If I run one day, the next day I ride my bike, and the next day I go to the gym and use the elliptical. I alternate weights when lifting, nothing too serious. As long as nothing falls apart on my body, I'm happy with that strategy.

How physically hard is it to be a special agent with FDLE?

You don't run down bad guys on a daily basis, but if you have to do it then you can't say, "I don't feel like it." So it's in your benefit to keep in shape.

What's your diet?

My downfall is I don't have a special diet. I eat everything, including a lot of sweets. But I figure that since I never smoked and don't drink much anymore, you got to have a vice. I try to eat healthy, but I always eat a sweet at night: cake, cookie, ice cream. Every night, always. I try to eat vegetables.

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