by Erin C. Healy - Monday, February 4, 2019
Whether you love New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady or love to hate him, you cannot argue with his impressive statistics or winning partnership with Coach Bill Belichick. He’s still playing at age 41 and plans to continue into his mid-40s. After leading his team to victory in Super Bowl LIII yesterday, Brady has the most Super Bowl wins by a quarterback (six), most Super Bowl MVP (Most Valuable Player) awards (four), three National Football League MVP awards, most games won by a quarterback—he’s doing something right. If Brady’s lifestyle and workout routine can keep him in peak football condition into his 40s, maybe it can keep us mortals in the woods, fields and mountains as we continue hunting into our third and fourth quarters. We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to be mentally and physically capable to take on the challenges of hunting and mentoring late into our lives.
Brady’s book is called “The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance” and is based on his lifestyle and fitness routine with his trainer, friend and business partner, Alex Guerrero. There are many within the sports and medical professions who benefit financially from maintaining the status quo: strength train and condition, get injured, have operation, go through rehab, strength train and condition, get injured, repeat. It is why Brady and Guerrero have received so much flak from those within those industries about their method. Call them new age wackos or call them trailblazers, but I, for one, want some of the mental and physical toughness Brady displays both on and off the field. I define toughness as the ability to be flexible, adaptable and resilient both mentally and physically.
Muscle pliability is what’s causing all the pushback. Although Brady does not use this analogy, it applies. In the old day, cars were made of indestructible steel. They could weather a crash with barely a dent, but the soft people inside were either seriously injured or killed. There was no place for the energy from the crash to go. Engineers began making what amounts to collapsible cars. The energy from a crash is absorbed by the crushing metal and exploding fiberglass and the people inside are kept safer. The same principle applies to muscles.
If your muscles are hard, dense and constantly contracted, one, they’re always pulling on your tendons, ligaments and joints, and two, they cannot fully contract or fully relax. They are like steel, unable to absorb a hit, and as Brady puts it, his body goes through a car crash every week. The objective is to have long, supple muscles that are pliable and able to do the job you ask them to do. That will be different if you’re a 20-something linebacker or a 50-something elk hunter, but the same theory applies. Brady wants his brain to be working with his muscles to stay long and relaxed during a game. When he takes a hit, the energy has somewhere to go: It is absorbed by his muscles.
Brady spends time conditioning, but he doesn’t need to run a marathon and that would be bad for his joints. He doesn’t need to push against a 300-pound defender either, so he doesn’t lift weights. In fact, lifting weights would make it harder for him to throw a football without shoulder and elbow pain, which he suffered from early in his career and since applying this method has never suffered from again. He needs to be able to send said football perfectly spiraling downfield into the waiting hands of the receiver, so he trains hard with bands. What he does before and after any workout, though, is pliability training.
Guerrero applies deep pressure to Brady’s muscles while Brady rhythmically contracts and releases them. They are training Brady’s mind to tell his muscles to stay long and supple—even when experiencing up to 90 pounds of pressure per square inch, mimicking a tackle. The movements are always done toward the heart. It takes about 20 minutes to do his entire body, and he completes the therapy both before and after a workout. If you want to try it and don’t live near the TB12 Sports Therapy Center at Patriot Place in Foxborough, Mass. or have a TB12-trained body coach, then study up at the TB12 website and get a vibrating roller for larger muscles and a vibrating sphere to get at smaller muscle groups. (The two items are bundled for $280 at TB12; they’re similarly priced at Amazon.) The book lays out how to treat each muscle. You can also do it with a partner or without a device. Brady hopes one day parents and coaches are doing it to kids before they ever experience injury. We’re asking our bodies to sit or stalk for long periods of time, and hope to be less stiff. We want our muscles to be pliable too.
Brady drinks half of his body weight in ounces of water per day, and he does it with electrolytes. I tried adding plant-based powered electrolytes to my water and it made it easier. When I reached the right level of hydration, I saw a difference, mostly in digestion, energy level and being able to detect thirst from hunger. Brady avoids caffeine and alcohol because they are dehydrating. He recommends two extra cups of water for every cup of coffee or glass of wine. Like Brady, hunters are outside a lot, being physical under the sun and in drying winds. We need to hydrate.
Brady eats a mostly plant-based diet, but he eats chicken, turkey and fish, and he’ll enjoy an occasional steak or ice cream. He avoids anything fried, processed or white (white rice, white potatoes, white bread, added sugar or salt). He also doesn’t use much from a box or bag, or from the dairy aisle—though oddly enough his protein powder for his shakes is made with whey. Brady also recommends taking a multivitamin and B-complex daily. Your body recovers more quickly from physical stress when you eat similarly.
Brady goes to bed each night at 9 p.m. and sleeps until 6 a.m. He’s looking for every advantage he can get over the competition, so he wears recovery sleepwear with a far infrared print on the inside. The electromagnetic radiation therapy helps you recover from physical activity as you sleep. Teammates were understandably skeptical; now many of them swear by it.
Brady’s job involves seeing many moving pieces on the field and processing those movements into patterns within fractions of seconds. Like we do on a hunt. You can get daily brain exercise for free on the Brain HQ app and subscribe if you feel like doing more. Brady does not meditate, but he takes time to get into the zone by immersing himself in things he enjoys. By nature Brady is a positive person. He never sees himself as a victim, and with any failure only seeks to learn and better himself. It’s highly motivating to hear him admit that life isn’t easy and that he knows there are people out there suffering from severe injuries and illnesses, and that he is inspired by them.
What I’m inspired by are the adventures awaiting me afield. I’m game.
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