W.O.W! Al Roker & Deborah Roberts



Photography by @Imagista

Al Roker and Deborah Roberts are just like any married couple raising a family, except a little more high profile. He is the jovial weatherman known to more than 30 million viewers as one of the stars of the Today show; and she is the venerable ABC News journalist and 20/20 correspondent, regularly making her own appearances on morning television as a reporter for Good Morning America. With sixteen Emmy Awards between them, Al Roker and Deborah Roberts are the first couple of television news.

Been There, Done That: Family Wisdom For Modern Times by Al Roker and Deborah Roberts is the new book this powerhouse duo have co-authored. Presented in a back and forth, “he said, she said” format, with stories told by each, the book gives an inside look at their daily lives as a couple, as parents, and as a family — that off camera are not much different from our own. In a funny, heartfelt, and honest collection of personal anecdotes, Al and Deborah share the life lessons learned and wisdom gained facing the challenges of a busy professional couple, raising kids in New York City, while focusing on maintaining a successful relationship of their own.

With two distinctive personalities, what makes the book a fun read is Al and Deborah’s different ways of looking at the same thing. This holds true when it comes to fitness. They have opposite body types, and while Deborah, naturally slim, loves working out and running in Central Park, Al, now half the size he once was, will tell you “I hate it.” Regardless he gets it done at 4:45 every morning before he goes on air.

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So for this segment of “WOW: Working Out With” the challenge would be to find a workout both would want to try. It was recent article they had read with intrigue in The Wall Street Journal, “The Least Likely Star to Emerge From ‘House of Cards’: A Rowing Machine”, about the WaterRower on which Frank Underwood takes out his frustrations, that inspired our workout at CityRow.

Classes at CityRow take place on the WaterRower, a very smooth gliding rowing machine that uses water for resistance. The workout consists of rowing intervals, alternating with different exercises like planks, push-ups, sit-ups and other full body moves, all done at a high intensity pace. CityRow set up a condensed 30 minute class for Al, Deborah and me to demo. Following the workout the three of us sat down to talk about their new book, and health and fitness in the Roker/Roberts household:

SOS: So what did you guys think about the workout?

Deborah: I actually liked it. Neither one of us is really a class person, but I actually thought it was fun. I loved the energy, the music, and the instructor’s personality. I would try it again.

SOS: What’s your regular routine?

Deborah: 3 days a week I work out with a trainer and do my individualized stuff, and then I run on my own because I like the solitude.

SOS: Al, how about you? I could see you weren’t really feeling those planks!

Al: No. I, uh… I hate planks. I don’t like classes. I don’t like working out. I do it because I have to, but I don’t find it amusing. I don’t find it fun. It’s just the worst.

SOS: You just get it done.

Al: I just gut it out. If I could get away with killing my trainer, I would.
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SOS: With your crazy schedule that none of us can imagine — being on camera everyday at 7am — when do you fit it in?

Al: I work out at 4:45 in the morning everyday.

Deborah: Can you believe that!

Al: 4:45 – 5:30

Deborah: I could never do that!

Al: Plus, the other thing is, when you try to do it in the afternoon something always comes up.

SOS: I think you’re either a morning or an evening workout person.

Al: Or you’re not a workout person at all!

SOS: Let’s talk about diet for a bit. Obviously you two have very different body types. Al… you’ve become half your size, which is quite impressive. Deborah… you look like someone who can eat whatever you want. I’m sure that is challenging as a couple.

Deborah: Everybody says that to me. To a degree, yes, but I’m not going to look like this if I ate everything I wanted. I watch my diet. I’m kind of the food police in the house. It’s been a whole issue for us. Everyone kind of gets upset with me because I try to bring in the brown rice, the low sugar.

SOS: Do you both cook?

Deborah: Al mostly cooks, but I cook some.

SOS: What are typical meals at the house?

Deborah: Al has really come around to this, but typically fish, brown rice, quinoa, salad, green vegetables. I mean every now and again we’ll go off the rails and do something kind of crazy, like ribs in the summer time.

Al: Or pork chops or something. Like last night we had rack of lamb, quinoa, steamed broccoli, grilled shishito peppers, and a salad.

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SOS: That’s super healthy. Where’s the junk?

Deborah: Well, Al might want to do something he’s tried on the show – like some glaze. Or every now and again I might decide to fry some chicken because I’m from the south — or something that’s a treat for the kids because they get like, “Mom and Dad, you’re always so healthy!” But we order in a fair amount too and that’s when the kids get to do Chinese… or Thai…

Al: …or sushi.

SOS: Speaking about the kids, so much of the book is about them, and being parents, and trying to do the best job you can. I was interested in reading abut Leila who has more of Al’s genes when it comes to body type, and Nick has inherited more of Deborah’s. That has to be challenging in the family. As parents what sort of message are you giving about body image and being healthy.

Deborah: It’s been hard over the years and we’ve learned a lot. When Leila was little she was a bit of a chunky girl. She shook a lot of that off by late middle school, but it was tough during those formative years. The other girls were leaner and running around and doing different things.  Leila wasn’t the most athletically inclined and didn’t really like working out a lot. Now she does. I made some mistakes I think going a little heavy with the food and the nutrition, as much as I was trying not to talk about body type. We’ve found a balance over the years. Al’s been a great teacher because he’s learned so much. Now we all seem to be in a pretty good place. We make it up as we go along, but for the most part I think we’re a pretty healthy household.

Al: For the most part…

Deborah: We’ve got our share of chips and popcorn, too.

SOS: Life’s too short. You gotta have a little fun. Just don’t go crazy.

Deborah: That’s what he says.

Al: Just enjoy. Everything in moderation.

SOS: Just getting back to the book for a little bit, I was really drawn in by the Whitney Houston story. The singer had just died and Deborah had secured an exclusive interview for 20/20 with a well known singer, one of Whitney’s closest friends. Unbeknownst you — and Al as well — the Today show then reached out to that same singer, and secured the interview for Al instead. I read that chapter and was feeling so much for the both of you. You two are in the same business and putting that in the framework of sport, you are competitors. That has to be really challenging as a couple. I’ve known a lot of athletes in different solo sports. Tennis players… they are cutthroat. In my experience, they don’t care about their opponent’s feelings when it comes to winning, even if they’re best friends. Whereas in other sports, like snowboarding for example, if you’re in the half pipe at a competition, they are all stoked when their buddy does well, even if they lose. So how do you two manage that in your marriage?

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Deborah: It used to be easier because Al almost solely did the weather. Every now and again he did an entertainment interview, but I mostly did the real journalism. Now his role has morphed a little and truth be told we almost had another Whitney incident. Recently he got an interview with the First Lady. He didn’t necessarily go after it, but the First Lady and her staff came to the Today show. I was a little jealous because I would love to do an interview with the First Lady this last year they’re in office. When Al got the interview and was telling me about it, I was kind of holding back a little bit of jealousy there. While I was happy for him, I would have loved to get that interview. It’s not often that we go head to head, but that interview with Whitney, while it was not Al’s doing —

Al: It was like a drive by.

Deborah: It arrived in his lap. It just happened.

Al: And you’ve got to do what you’re assigned to do. Although, I still said if you have to do it with one person can you do it with Deborah.

Deborah: I was really upset.

Al: But at the end of the day, Deborah dug down deep like a competitor and found another way and another interview which was ostensibly better. So it all worked out.

Deborah: But in retrospect it was not fair to him because the competitor in me really came out.

Al: I was frightened.

Deborah: You were upset.

Al: I was upset and afraid. It’s a bad combo — a very bad combo!

Deborah: That was a dark moment in our lives as journalists and competitors.

SOS: The way you guys told that story in the book I really felt it from both sides.

Deborah: But you know, we got through it, and at the end of the week on that Friday night and Saturday morning we realized nothing is as important as —

Al: Fear

Deborah: Us!

Al: Oh, us… right.

SOS: If you can sum it up, what’s the takeaway you both want people to have from the book.

Al: I think no matter who you are you still deal with the same issues whether it’s your family, or your job, or your interpersonal communications with your spouse. You’re all dealing with the same stuff. You gotta work just as hard whether you’re driving a tractor trailer or are on TV or are a police officer. Every job has its difficulties and every relationship has its weird quirks and you just have to kind of push through.

Deborah: Yeah, what you said! Laughing… usually in an interview I do all the talking and it’s ‘yeah what she said.’ But I think you said it aptly. That’s the takeaway as far as I’m concerned. Women, daughters, sisters, mothers, wives… we’re all in it together. I make the same mistakes and goof up and stress over the same things that so many other people do. It doesn’t matter that we have these big jobs and a privileged life. At the end of the day we’re just trying hard to raise good kids and stay connected. For some reason I just wanted to put it out there.

SOS: Well, it seems like you’re in agreement here! Thanks guys!!