Steve Aoki is one of the most in-demand DJs in the world, and the means he’s onstage 240 days out of the year. Hopping through time zones to meet his demanding tour schedule is a big drain on his mental and physical strength, especially since his day job is leading high-adrenaline shows in venues packed with thousands of people.
“I love what I do, but it means I am constantly on the move,” Aoki told Men’s Journal after a quick HIIT workout in Manhattan. To stay healthy on tour, he has become highly efficient at making room for his daily rituals.
“During my dates in China last week I was working out after my shows at night, showing up at the gym at 6 a.m. before I went to bed,” he said.
It’s a wonder he finds the time. Between his unrelenting tour schedule and running his company Dim Mak, he also produced his forthcoming album Neon Future III, which he is currently promoting in New York. His creative time management and passion for personal fitness made Aoki the perfect partner for Diesel’s stylish new Full Guard 2.5 touchscreen smartwatch.
Aoki sat down with Men’s Journal to share his secrets for staying fit while traveling, his relationship with technology, his love for Tokyo, and how he once snoozed during an outdoor music festival in Brazil.
How was your workout?
It was great. I knew I only had a little window to get it in. We did assault bike, 100 burpees, and a mile run. I knocked it out in 20 minutes.
Is that pretty typical?
I like to mix it up with cardio, HIIT workouts, and sometimes strength training. I used to be a big Crossfit guy, but since I had to get a shoulder surgery I have adjusted what exercises I do from there. HIIT workouts are my favorite though: Going in hard, and you can feel your body still burning even when you are done. The day just seems longer and fuller because of the endorphins you release.
Speaking of long days, when do you actually sleep?
I am a professional nap thief. I can nap pretty much anywhere in the world. I have to say that learning how to nap well is a major life hack for all those busy people out there. You need to get your REM and brain repair going or you are going to burn out. There is no schedule when it comes to sleep, because some shows will go well into the night. I have to say that I am constantly on the hunt for Zs.
Where is the craziest place you napped?
I grabbed a nap at an outdoor festival show in Brazil once. People were next to me raging hard. That is how they do it down there. The music was pounding. I was right behind this giant LED wall and I decided I needed to take a little nap. So I curled up right there. One of the crew rolled up and said, “You’re on in 5 minutes.” I said, “Give me 2 minutes.” And I was immediately in dream state. When it was time to go up, I felt completely energized.
What is your relationship with technology when it comes to finding that time?
Speaking about tech in general I think that it can have its detractors, but when used in the right way, it can really help your overall wellness. For example, I always try to get a little meditation in. It’s good to be able to set a reminder somewhere. That’s when tech can be used to actually help remind us to stay human. Our schedules aren’t going to get any less crazy, so it has become finding how to combat that.
What did you like about Diesel’s smart watch?
I like to know stats. It is not a gimmick or something like that, it is information that helps me make my workouts better. I perform better with a challenge, so knowing my heart rate or how much I burned during a certain exercise makes me want to do it better the next time around. I treat it like my score. Because I could be walking into any gym in the world, it’s nice to have a piece of technology that is constant and can keep me on track.
What do you like about using a smart watch over just using your phone?
I think it is tough to truly get into the right mind when you have your phone in your hands. Your entire life management is there. Not to mention with the size they can be cumbersome. You want to be free when you are moving around, and not carrying a brick around. Those armband things never look cool.
Do you have a favorite function?
I have gotten into finding out how many calories I’m burning during my shows. I will do a two hour set where I’m jumping around here and there, throwing cakes at people. Just raging. Now that I know, I try to beat how many calories I burned during the next show. I had a show recently where I burned around 1250 calories. I also love bodyweight training, so I have really been digging the push-up and sit-up challenge functions. People these days love to play games, so this is a fun one that also gets you strong. Sometimes just having the watch on will remind me that I need to get my push-ups in and I will crank them out right there. It will also remind me to meditate.
How often are you meditating now?
I used to do it right when I woke up and then right before I went to bed. That used to be my ideal. But through practice I have gotten better about getting it in whenever the opportunity presents itself. I will do it in an airport, on the plane, or sitting in the lobby waiting to check into a hotel.
You are pretty great at social media. Do you have any rules around that?
It is such a big part of my brand and my life, so I just have to run and gun. I don’t follow any guidelines, like when you are supposed to be tweeting or posting. I just throw up what I want and when I want. So I feel like my relationship with it is better than most. I have a lot to share, and I like sharing it, so I am going to keep giving people a look into the amazing adventures that I get to go on.
You did an awesome video with the Japanese airline ANA. Is Tokyo still your favorite place to go in the world?
I probably talk about Tokyo too much, but I can never get enough. It is the land of craftsmanship in all arenas, so people have focused on one technique or skill and you get to experience that, whether it’s food or fashion. You will find the best of everything in Japan, like the shops in Harajuku run by these small designers. There are also experiences that you will find in Tokyo, like the robot café, that are just so distinctive to the setting that they wouldn’t work anywhere else. There are cities where you get the feeling that everything has been discovered or written about, but in Tokyo you can find yourself walking down a dark quiet alley and stumble upon the best meal you ever had in a hole-in-the-wall space. I have been going there since I was a kid, and there are still places I am finding for the first time.
I imagine it is hard not to eat everything when you are going to these amazing places.
I am a foodie. I love to try all kinds of foods and I don’t like to limit myself to what I am eating, except for when it comes to eating cows and pigs, for ethical reasons. I get my protein mostly from fish. Let’s be honest, I could probably be leaner if I cut that part out of my life, but balance is key, and it is important for me.
On that note, do you ever eat the cakes you throw at the audience during “Cakeface”?
I do a little taste test from time to time. I want to make sure that they are great if someone is eating them off a face, which is hopefully what happens.