Television correspondents and news anchors have stressful, demanding jobs, especially in today’s never-ending news cycle. We asked Norah O’Donnell, anchor and managing editor of “CBS Evening News,” how she takes care of herself. After many years as a TV correspondent and a recent stint as co-anchor of “CBS This Morning,” O’Donnell, 45, became the third solo female anchor of a network evening newscast when she took over this summer. She will also anchor the network’s election specials and continue to contribute to “60 Minutes.” She lives in New York, but she and the evening show will relocate to Washington later in the fall. The interview has been edited and condensed.
Q: What do wellness and self-care mean to you?
A: I really appreciate that you used the word self-care because I do think that health, exercise and wellness should be put in the category of self-care. Several years ago, I was sitting next to a friend of my husband’s at an event, and he said: “How are you doing?” And I said, “Well, I’m doing fine. I’m doing this at work, and work is really busy, and you know the kids are really busy.” And he said, “Okay, but I’m asking about you and how you are doing.” It really became this lightbulb moment that probably a lot of people can relate to: Our lives are defined by our work, and they’re defined by our families, but we also need to be selfish when it comes to self-care.
I try to approach a lot of this stuff, whether it’s what I eat or when I exercise, by asking: What am I doing to my body so that I can do the job that I do every day? I’m putting fuel in my body so that I can do all of the things that I really want to do and not worry about it. I approach nutrition that way, too. For breakfast I try to eat eggs, or blueberries with yogurt. Lunch can be hard when I’m running around, but I like to eat a spinach salad with walnuts and raisins. And I always try to stay hydrated. Exercise is something I enjoy doing but also to me it’s a way of preventing injury and having fun. I look at it more from that happiness standpoint.
Q: Are you more of a morning person or an evening person? With the move from “CBS This Morning” to anchoring the evening show, you’ve switched your routine around.
A: I’m definitely a morning person, so it’s terrific. I still wake up between 5 and 6 a.m., and so I’ve really enjoyed reading more in the morning and doing exercise very early in the morning.
Q: Are you still working out with Kira Stokes, your trainer?
A: Yeah, I work out with her two times a week. Her whole fitness philosophy is functional movement that adds strength, tone and endurance without any injury. A lot of it is band-focused, balls, and weights — it’s not like the traditional stuff you might think of at a gym with weights. When I don’t see her, I use her app, which is just incredibly easy to do. She really makes it fun. I play a lot of golf and a lot of tennis and run, too, and the way she trains prevents injury.
Q: What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
A: I chug a bunch of water. I always keep a large bottle of Evian by my bed and I usually drink about 16 ounces right when I wake up. Then, I usually try to help my kids get out the door to school. The nice thing is they’re off to school by 7:45 a.m., so by 8 o’clock there’s an opportunity for me to work out.
Q: How do you fit this all in when news is constantly breaking?
A: Exercise is just as important as the six newspapers I read every morning to get informed. Exercise is just as important as the phone calls I make every day to touch base with sources or to try to book big interviews. Exercise is just as important as the editorial meetings I have in the afternoon to prepare for the job. I think exercise is so fundamentally important to physical and mental health and endurance to get through a long day. If I wake up in the morning, and I have a really busy day, I get in that exercise right away because it gives me the stamina to make it through the day.
You really need to spend at least an hour a day focused on yourself. Focused on exercise, making sure your heart rate gets up and releasing those endorphins. My husband [Geoff Tracy, a Washington chef] and I always say you never regret working out. It’s hard to get started sometimes, but once you’re finished, you never say, “Oh I regret working out.” It just sets the whole day up.
Q: Do you involve your family, too?
A: I have 12-year old twins and an 11 year-old. They eat some junk food every once in a while, but they eat pretty healthily for the most part. We eat a lot of home-cooked meals, and we encourage them to exercise a lot. We’re either outside the garage playing basketball, or on Saturday afternoon, we all play tennis together. When we’re on vacation, we play tennis together every morning. Everyone has to be out on the tennis court at 9 a.m.
Q: How did you approach self-care when you were still working your way up in news and building your career?
A: I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten a lot better about incorporating it into my daily routine. I don’t remember ever going to the hotel gym when I was on the campaign trail because it’s just a grind. I went to the gym every day [during her recent trip to] Saudi Arabia. I was the only one there, but I was there.
Q: You’ve interviewed a lot of powerful people, such as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. Do you get nervous, and how do you deal with stress?
A: I don’t really get nervous anymore, to be honest, because I prepare. For me, preparation builds confidence and confidence builds success. The way I tackle nerves or nervousness is just to prep more and do more research. It was the same when I ran my first half-marathon. I had the chart out, checked it every week to see how much I was supposed to work out, and I followed the plan.
Q: How do you like to treat yourself?
A: I think honestly the treat for me is going to sound so lame. Getting a manicure or a pedicure or a massage (laughs). I just think it’s relaxing. Having a moment to go get a manicure or a pedicure or a massage is a way to power down.
Q: What’s your bedtime routine? Is there anything you need to do before you can fall asleep?
A: I usually read before I go to bed. Sometimes it’s biographies, sometimes it’s a binder full of research. I think reading is an important element of relaxation. I also think removing one’s self from one’s devices is part of self-care.
Q: Is there anything you’re looking to add to your self-care routine that’s not in there now?
A: I want to run more road races, and I want to do more yoga classes. I think that flexibility is an important point of strength, so I’m trying to incorporate more yoga and more Pilates. Those are my goals.