Latest Stories

Why Leo Valdez is fit to be king

The star of ‘The King and I’ has been an avid runner since the ’80s, and likes pounding the pavement when the world is asleep


LEO VALDEZ with former fashion director Wanda Louwallien, who jogs daily.

When the star of “The King and I,” Leo Valdez, takes off his shirt and bares his chest to whip a slave girl, he’ll be showing off his 29-inch waistline and a lean runner’s body.

“Running is a huge part of my lifestyle. My social life can take a backseat so that I have the stamina for the work with all the dancing and running onstage. When I’m training for a marathon, I’d come to party in my running gear. I won’t stay long—leave after 10 p.m., then run,” says Valdez.

His favorite time is when the city is asleep, like 1:30 a.m., and he does trail runs between Makati and Taguig. Aside from having the street all to himself, with no cars and people, he doesn’t need sunblock, and the weather is cooler.

Valdez recalls that in Pontevedra, Negros Occidental, he would cut through the Cojuangco hacienda and pass over a haunted bridge. One midnight, he challenged himself. Although he felt the chilly air, he crossed it. “Although it was pitch dark, nothing happened,” he says with a chuckle.

“I’M MORE fit than ever before.”

Friends said he was gutsy. No, it was acting.

In the past few months, Valdez has been ensconced in a pied-à-terre in the city in preparation for the title role in “The King and I.”

He gave up his computer and television to concentrate on his part.

To fit running into his schedule, he would sleep at midnight, wake up at 3 a.m. and run for 10 km, sleep in the morning then go to rehearsals in the afternoon. On weekends, he would build his stamina by running 20-30 km.

“WITH running, you avoid the visits to the doctors, and all that expensive stuff.” PHOTOS BY JIMGUIAOPUNZALAN

Valdez’s passion for running began in the ’80s, when he starred in the musical “Magsimula Ka” and got more job offers. Successful and focused, he felt he had mastered every aspect of his life except for one territory—his body. He challenged himself to shape up through an endurance sport.

In the ’80s, his personal best in marathons was 4:25.

Uphill battle

After playing the Engineer (“Miss Saigon”) abroad for a long time, he decided to take it easy  and concentrate on being an endurance athlete. Since he resumed serious training three years ago, Valdez has joined three full marathons.

The Subic International Marathon was his biggest challenge. Before the event, Valdez was told that the course was mostly downhill. When he joined the run, he realized that it was uphill and downhill.

“From the Floridablanca exit, you go the way of the mountains of Zambales and Subic. It’s like ‘Climb Every Mountain.’ My mind would say ‘OMG, look at the incline!’ When I started, I’d say, ‘Thank you, Lord, for a wonderful race. After 15 km, it was ‘Thank you, Lord, I’m having a great time. At the 30th km, I was still saying, ‘Thank you, I’m holding up well.’ For others, after 30 km, the legs usually feel like rubber. In the last 4 km, I felt a  twitch in my leg. I cried, ‘Lord help!’” he recalls with a laugh. Still, he made it in five hours.

LUNGES for the buns

In the past two Condura marathons, his record was sub-5.

“No full marathon this year, but I’ve joined most of the big local races and always in the longest leg, the 21k half-marathon distance,” he says.

Valdez attributes his success to mind power. Even when he’s tired, he psyches himself up that he can still run the extra mile. That attitude is also reflected in his work.

“Running is like a statement for life. If you prepare, it will be easy. Pile on the mileage. The training coach, John Lozada, holds drills so that my muscles are well-conditioned. Distance is not a problem. Speed has been my downside. I’m not fast, but I can run like a diesel engine. I don’t overtake.”

In training, the pacer tells Valdez if he is slowing down or tells him to maintain his speed. Still, the singer’s self-discipline and drive are more than enough to push him to his limits.

Asked what’s on his mind when he’s running, Valdez replies, “Nothing.” It’s like Zen and the art of running.

Sometimes he pits mind against muscle by reviewing his songs. Once, while running in Pontevedra, he sang at the top of his voice. “Then I heard dogs barking.”

No Wagyu


Although running seems repetitive, Valdez doesn’t get bored because the sport brings contentment.

“I’ve achieved something. When I reach the top of the hill, I see a nice view. It’s one of the best things I’ve done for myself.”

The sport requires a controlled diet. “I avoid salty foods and eat a low-fat diet. I avoid tasty and delicious food without depriving myself. I’ll have a grilled salmon. I like sinigang with kangkong, kamote alugbati, saluyot and feel good about getting all the nutrients. When I’m hungry, I’ll have a cereal, skim milk, raisins and banana.”

When Valdez flew to Hong Kong to perform in a private party, he eschewed the eight-course dinner which included truffles, Wagyu beef and champagne.

As a result of his discipline, he’s down to size 36 from size 38. “My suits are hanging loose. I never thought it would come to this.  But, I’m trim and healthy.”

After the musical run, Valdez hopes to prepare for the Condura Marathon next year.

“It’s very organized. The water stations are a mile long so we don’t need to elbow each other. The marshals clear the road. You run up the Skyway and the overpasses, which feel as if you’re running uphill. It’s not daunting if you’re used to it.”

At his age (“I’m over 39”), the still-youthful Valdez doesn’t allow anybody to define his limits. “I’m more fit than ever. This is my second wind.”

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Leo Valdez , Lifestyle , People , The King and I , Theater

  • 12JEM

    Not original…..

    RJ….Hey buddy, have you seen THE KING AND I?

    RMB….Yes.  But I did not see Elvis Presley.

  • akramgolteb

    If somebody runs at past midnight, specially 1:30 am (!?#$%^&*) then this person is not normal both mentally & physically. Something is keeping him awake & running is his trip during this period.

    You can ask any top ranked marathon runner or certified physiologist, what running past midnight, when one is supposed to be sleeping, will do to your body.

  • DarkSideOfTheMoon2

    i bet he is single. no kids.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Q3QGG5QHBLRMZTIYWUFURY6J2E Night


  • Bond88

    I agree. So f*@#ing what?? What a disgrace. How could a big homo portray that role?? That musical should have been entitled QUEEN & I. 

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  2. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  3. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  4. This is not just a farm
  5. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  6. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  7. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  8. Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  9. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  10. Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  6. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  7. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  8. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  9. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week?
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • Prosecutor says mate in SKorean ferry steering waters for 1st time
  • Malaysia asks world to pray for missing plane clue
  • 13th body pulled from snow in Everest avalanche
  • Pope sends condolences for S.Korea ferry victims
  • Drone kills 15 ‘Qaeda,’ 3 civilians in Yemen – security
  • Sports

  • MLB pitcher donates $100,000 for Sewol ferry victims
  • Hamilton takes pole at Chinese Grand Prix
  • Duke’s Rodney Hood joining Jabari Parker in NBA draft
  • Phelps entered in 3 events at comeback meet
  • Boston prepares for huge wave of marathon visitors
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • Myx TV premieres Asian American ‘docu-series’
  • A nutty finale for ‘Scandal,’ TV’s craziest show
  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Business

  • Fiat-Chrysler to produce iconic Jeep in China from 2015
  • US commerce secretary spells out economic facet of ‘pivot to Asia’
  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • 5 Filipinos with MERS in UAE reported in stable condition
  • PH boosts MERS monitoring after UAE nurse scare
  • Canadians back PH plea to take back waste
  • We treasure our Sierra Madre
  • OFW from UAE tests negative for MERS-Cov–health chief