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Gary Player: Staying in shape with 'world's most traveled athlete'

Story highlights

  • Golf great Gary Player calls himself "world's most traveled athlete'
  • He says he has notched up more than more than 15 million air miles in a stellar career
  • Player says exercise and diet are key to staying healthy on the road
  • Aged 76, Player still does 1,000 sit ups when he works out

That's what puts bread and butter on the table!" chirped golfing great Gary Player as he putted a ball effortlessly on the green.

The man who has trademarked himself as the "World's Most Traveled Athlete" says he has racked up more than 15 million air miles traveling the world in a stellar career that saw him win 165 tournaments and nine major championships over five decades.

But a lot has changed since his early days on the pro golf circuit.

Watch video: Golf legend Gary Player

"When I first traveled 60 years ago there were no jets. We traveled from South Africa to America for example, it took us over 40 hours -- four stops," said Player at a golf course in Kent, an hour outside of London.

"We used to stop at a place called Cocos Island and I remember the captain saying 'Folks we're going to be here for two hours -- lie on the beach, you can have some coconut juice, there's some sun screen, have a drink and when you hear TO WOOOO, come and get back on the plane.'

Gary Player: Staying healthy on the road

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    Gary Player: Staying healthy on the road

Gary Player: Staying healthy on the road 02:53

"It really is amazing how things have changed. Now, even though you fly non-stop all over the world, planes are never on time and there's a delay to get off the plane. I think airports should make it easier for people coming through -- I know they do try but that's not good enough."

Having only landed from South Africa a few hours before the interview, Player was on good form with his trademark enthusiasm and humor.

"When you talk about exercise and eating correctly it's easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle," he said.

Athletes are the ultimate road warriors, crossing continents and oceans, fighting through jetlag to compete and perform at the highest level. Jet lag is the bane of long-haul travelers, especially red-eye flights, and everyone tries to cope in different ways, with the rule of thumb being "one day to recover for one hour time difference."

See also: Paralympic stars on fast track to London

Player is very specific when giving his advice on how to stay healthy on the road, especially before your journey begins.

"You've got to be very fit," he said. "Before I left last night I had a strenuous workout which helped me to sleep on the plane.

"I didn't have any dinner of any sorts. All I had were a few grapes and a banana. And this morning I didn't have any breakfast. You must make sure you drink a lot of water; when you arrive at your destination try and have a hot and cold shower to get the blood circulating, sleep for an hour, not too long and just get and go about your day normally."

See also: On the road with sports stars

Player said his favorite golfing victory was the 1965 Australian open -- not because of the tournament itself but what he put his body through beforehand.

The day before the tournament began, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Player had to fly from Paris to Melbourne, Australia -- via New York, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Fiji and Sydney, he said.

"Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus said no, they weren't prepared to play -- but I did," Player recalled. "I got there three hours before. I'd never seen Melbourne in my life, they gave me a brand new set of golf clubs and I won the Australian open by seven shots. I just putted and held every single putt."

This year, at the age of 76, Player became the 10th recipient of the PGA Tour's Lifetime Achievement Award. He is still as active as ever, traveling the world designing golf courses and breeding horses on his stud farm in South Africa. With such a busy schedule, exercise is still a major part of his daily routine.

"I exercise my entire body. I work out, I punch the bags in gyms sometimes, but I ride horses, I work on my farm.

"I do a thousand sit-ups -- some on a ball, some on a bench, some on the floor, some on these crunch machines, I do a whole variety because you don't want your body to know what you're going to give it that day."

Player then makes a fist with his right hand and thumps his torso three times. "You got to keep this -- see? That's got to be HARD! Because your core holds your body together."

Ayesha Durgahee is the resident reporter on CNN's Business Traveller. Follow Ayesha on Twitter at @AyeshaCNN.

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