Former Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell enjoyed a long, successful career, spending time in Jacksonville, Washington, New Orleans and New York.
But like all NFL players, the day came when his services as a player were no longer needed. Gone was the weekly schedule that built physical and mental preparation towards Sunday (or Monday or Thursday).
That started with adjusting his workouts from explosive, performance-based exercises into day-to-day maintenance that would set him up for a lifetime of fitness.
“Four days a week I run three miles and I lift weights two to three times a week,” he said in an exclusive interview with Health and Wellness. “I don’t lift too heavy and I mostly stick to machines. I stretch quite a bit; I do a lot of core strength.
“I’m not trying to get big; I’m not trying to get strong. I don’t have the play on Sundays anymore. I’m just trying to maintain a certain level of health.”
For the first time in his life, Brunell found himself with a choice to work out, and that choice isn’t always an easy one to make.
“In the NFL, it’s your job. They handed you a workout program and you were required to do. You had strength coaches to spot you or kind of take you through a workout,” he explained. “Now, it’s tough because I don’t have a personal trainer and the only person there to push me is me.
“Sometimes that’s not easy to do but you’ve got to do it. I’m 43 now and so when I was playing as far as diet and nutrition, I was a quarterback so I just ate everything well I’m not 25 anymore so I have to be mindful of my body.”
Brunell’s motivation stems in part of his post-playing careers. Not only does he currently serve as a an NFL analyst on ESPN, but Brunell works full-time as the head football coach for Episcopal high school in Jacksonville, Fla.
“As a football coach, you have to set an example to these young guys,” he said. “For me personally, it’s hard for me to be saying you guys need to be lifting and taking care of your bodies, working out, running, staying in condition and I can’t be saying that if I’m 280 pounds.
“Plus I’ve got three sons are trying to get their bench press weight bigger than mine, so I’ve got to keep up with those guys too. They have a ways to go, but they’re getting bigger and stronger and I’m getting older and weaker so it’s just a matter of time.”
Even without the weekly motivation of gameday performance, Brunell understands that he only gets one body maintain, and the best time to get started is now.
“It’s very important to stay active for anybody; ex NFL players, coaches or writers or anybody,” he said. “It has to be an important part of your life to take care of your body. You have to fight to find time to workout; it’s not easy to do. It’s hard for anybody that has a fulltime job but it’s important.
“You want to be around as long as you can and if you don’t take care of yourself now, it makes it a lot harder to get up later in life. I think it’s critical to have a long-term concept as far as staying active and physically fit.”