National Geographic's Mireya Mayor is 'old school' when it comes to working out

AETN / Photo by Brent Stirton

Mireya Mayor has studied primates around the world and hosts shows on the National Geographic Wild Channel. An ex-Miami Dolphins cheerleader with a Ph.D. in anthropology, the South Florida native calls herself "girly-girly." In fact, her new book is titled, "Pink Boots and a Machete: My Journey From NFL Cheerleader to National Geographic Explorer" (National Geographic; $26). The wife and mother of two daughters is pregnant with twins.

Why do you keep fit?

I've always been athletic. Danced ballet for 12 years, was a cheerleader in junior high, and played basketball and ran track in high school — I didn't make the cheerleading squad in high school. And then I was a Dolphins cheerleader for four years. Now when I'm on expeditions, I need to hike up mountains and through impenetrable bushes, and be quick on my feet to run from elephants.

What's your workout routine?

I'm very old-school. I love to run and do boot camp: sprints, jumping jacks, lunges. When I do lunges and sit-ups, I integrate hand weights. I usually do boot camp four times a week. Before starting, I run 20 minutes, and after boot camp, I run for another 20. If I don't do boot camp one day, I'll run with my dog.

But I stopped running because I'm pregnant with twins, although I ran with the other pregnancies. I'm swimming now because I feel great in the water. I swim freestyle laps for 20 to 30 minutes. And I walk a lot.

I'm not much of an indoors person, and I travel so much, so it's silly to get a regular routine at a gym.

Do you work out when you're on expeditions?

If I'm in Madagascar's capital, I'll run. When I'm in the field, exercise takes the form of hiking with gear on my back.

Sometimes we have to capture animals for genetic tests. Once we dart the lemurs, for example, they bolt and the chase begins! After getting close, four of us will pull a net open, but if the lemur doesn't fall, we'll have to climb the tree. Lemurs cling to trees even if darted with tranquilizers.

How does "femininity" play into your scientific fieldwork?

When I did "Expedition Africa" with "Survivor's" Mark Burnett [for the History Channel in 2009], I didn't know who I was being teamed up with, but I knew it was testosterone-driven and I was the only woman. So wearing pink boots was a statement. I've always been girly-girly in the field.

There is a mold out there, an expectation of what you're supposed to look like. But how does that look make me a better scientist? I had been a cheerleader so I was flaunting that part. I was a girl.

I came across a lot of discrimination — women can be harsher than men. "You shave your armpits? You can't be in the field doing research."

Does your family keep fit?

My husband runs every single day and bikes a lot. We're thinking of doing a marathon after my pregnancy.

Do you do any recreational activities that are fitness-related?

I'm a scuba diver and recently went diving in West Palm Beach with bull sharks. I walk on the beach when I can.

What's your typical daily diet?