NFL Player’s Off-Season: Swapping Cleats for Yoga Mats
Posted at WSJ.com
Article by Jen Murphy
Brent Celek of the Philadelphia Eagles swaps field drills and wind sprints for yoga and Pure Barre
Brent Celek does pushups using suspended rings.
After taking a pounding every week during the NFL season, Brent Celek, a tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles, goes into recovery mode. In the off-season, Mr. Celek swaps field drills and wind sprints for yoga and Pure Barre classes.
Heading into his eighth year in the league, Mr. Celek, 29, says during the season he puts in at least two hours a day on the field doing drills and one to two hours three days a week in the weight room. By January, his body is ready for a break. He took about three weeks off after the season ended to recharge his batteries at his lake house on Torch Lake in Antrim County in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. “I relax, let my mind wander, and take a little vacation focused on eating healthy, staying hydrated and taking care of myself,” he says.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who joined the team last January, is partly responsible for Mr. Celek’s new focus on rest and recovery. The shift in training philosophy meant players now followed up practice with made-to-order smoothies, stretching sessions and massages.
He has embraced Mr. Kelly’s approach to fitness. “This year, coach talked a lot about getting more sleep and eating right,” he says. “I never felt better than I did this season and I want to keep up those habits.”
During the off-season, Mr. Celek focuses on flexibility and functional movements. Two to three days a week he attends yoga class or Pure Barre, which combines yoga, Pilates and light weights. “Sometimes I go with my mom and sister,” he says.
He uses the Eagles training facility to get in a light weight workout. “Our training gym is literally next to my house so I can pop over and often find a workout partner,” he says.
He says his new weight program emphasizes performing fewer reps at a higher intensity. He often does squats, pull-ups, dumbbell bench presses and seated rows. “I want to maintain versus add muscle,” he says.
He also performs exercises with resistance bands and wooden rods to improve posture and body alignment. He holds a wooden rod above his head while doing squats. If the rod drops down on one side, he knows one of his shoulders dropped and his body is out of alignment.
One or two days a week, he’ll hop on the bike or elliptical machine or go to the football field to run sprints.
Mr. Celek says this past year he focused more on keeping his muscles healthy with regular deep-tissue massages. He tries “to use the foam roller as much as I can,” he says.
He sits on the floor with the roller under his hamstrings and rolls it up and down the length of the muscles. To work his IT band, which runs along the outside of the thigh, he places his left hip on the roller and cross his right leg over the left. With both hands on the floor for support, he rolls his thigh back and forth over the roller, and then switches legs.
The Eagles started stocking healthier snacks in a lounge near the players’ locker room during the 2013-2014 season. “Now we have fruit shakes, chicken salad made with Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and baked chips,” he says.
He has a shake a day at home. He’ll often combine spinach, carrots, broccoli, frozen berries, orange juice and almond butter. Lunch is chicken and some greens in a wrap.
Mr. Celek enjoys cooking dinner. “I mix it up and prepare steak, fish, or chicken,” he says. “In the winter, I use the crock pot a lot because I can let things sit in there for nine hours and when I come back it’s turned into something amazing.”
As the co-owner of Prime Stache restaurant in Philadelphia, he has to sample and approve all of the dishes on the American bistro menu, which might mean tasting pork belly mac and cheese and edamame ravioli.
The Gear & Cost
Mr. Celek pays $40 a month for his gym membership. Drop-in yoga and Pure Barre classes cost around $20 each. He works out in shorts, a T-shirt and Nike sneakers. He loves his Powerbeats by Dre earbuds, which retail for $150 and don’t come off during a workout, he says.
Mr. Celek says he “listens to everything.” He likes to exercise to R&B and rap but also enjoys alternative music. On his playlist right now: Drake and 2 Chainz.