Lessons from a Football Player

My alma mater’s high school football team gearing up for a little Saturday afternoon game.

Every year, I look forward to the start of football season. High school, college, professional, doesn’t matter, I love it all.

Last weekend, my dad and I went back to my high school for their Saturday afternoon game. As I was watching them, I thought a lot about high school and my workout routine back then. Most of it relied on cheer practice and weekly beach runs.

But I also remember seeing the football players during their practice and how hard they worked. It got me thinking about the things that they have drilled into them day in and day out and how I could probably benefit from those things. Here are the top five lessons I came away with:

  1. They focus on functional strength. You rarely see football players doing bicep curls during training. Why? Because they never do anything resembling bicep curls during the actual game. Instead, they focus on exercises that are going to help them come game time. Ever since I started doing Fit Club at my last job (a Crossfit-esque workout), I’ve come to realize the importance of exercises that mimic everyday activities. Crossfit and kettlebells are two great workouts for functional strength. Squats, lunges, presses, and push-ups all strengthen muscles I use all the time. Endless leg lifts may burn calories, but they certainly won’t help me run faster or more efficiently.
  2. They have a goal. Every week during practice, they know why they’re training: to win their next game. They see that “W” in their mind and hit that much harder on the next drill. Training without a purpose it pointless. And you’re so much more likely to give up on any training schedule if you don’t know WHY you’re doing it. For me, I run so that my heart gets stronger (more on that later), and cross-train so that I can run faster and longer. Because the longer I run, the lower my stress levels. And starting next week, I’ll be training for a half-marathon… just one more reason to run!
  3. They emphasize their strengths. Offensive linemen protect their quarterback, wide receivers go deep for the catch, running backs break through the defensive line. But you don’t see quarterbacks on the defensive line or strong safeties going for the field goal. That’s because they play to their strengths. And while I do believe in improving areas you’re weak in (I hate push-ups at the moment), we all have things that we’re naturally good at, and it’s important to hone those skills.
  4. They leave it all on the field. Football players train hard so they can play hard. In order to do this, they give 100 percent all the time. When they show up for practice, they SHOW UP. And when they’re competing, they give it everything they’ve got. I know I’m so guilty of not giving it my best effort. I make up excuses, promise to go harder next time, blah, blah, blah. The truth is, I know that if I make excuses for myself one day, I’m more likely to do the same thing the next day and the next day. But it’s gotta be go big or go home!
  5. They work as a team. You can tell when a team works well together. Passes get caught, fumbles are rare, the defense has a consistent read on the opposing team, and for the most part, they look like they love what they do. That last part is incredibly important. To love not only your workout but the people you workout with. I know I’m way more likely to stick with something if I’m doing it with friends or have the opportunity to meet new people. Admittedly, It’s been a while since I’ve done any group exercise class, but I’m going to challenge myself to start. First up, yoga class.

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