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Want to Be in Great Shape? Try Prehab

By Melvin Gordon | October 12, 2018 | Rally Health

When I first started playing football, that was all I focused on: practice and game day. I didn’t worry about how I was sleeping, what I was eating, or any kind of stretching routine before or after practice. But when I started playing in the NFL for the Los Angeles Chargers, I saw that small injuries — and later, bigger ones — were beginning to wear my body down. I tore my meniscus a couple of years ago, and since then, I’ve had smaller injuries, plus some aches and pains. So I realized I had to start paying attention to more than just practice and playing.  

I’ve always sort of known that I needed to take care of my body, but I wasn’t always great about doing everything I should to stay healthy. Since I started focusing on my overall health and wellness, especially my pre-workout routines, I’ve found that I don’t get injured as much, and that when I do, I bounce back faster. Trust me, prehab works.

Video: Why You Should Prehab 

Here’s what I do to make sure I’m ready to perform at practice and in games. This is actually pretty straightforward — you don’t have to be a pro football player to try prehab.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

I never paid much attention to my water intake until I was weighed going into a game and then again at the end of the game. I went from 216 pounds at the start down to 209 pounds — you lose so much while you’re sweating out there. I needed to start paying a lot more attention to how much I was drinking in practice and during games, but also throughout the day. If you head into practice already low on water or dehydrated, it’s going to be hard to come back from that.

Pro Tip: Start carrying around a reusable water bottle and sipping from it throughout the day, instead of just drinking at meals or in a workout.

Stretch Dynamically

One of the biggest things I’m focusing on this year is regular stretching. I’ve picked up a few stretches that I do every single day to keep my muscles from getting tight, because I always see guys with tight hamstrings on the field, and I know for a fact it’s because those guys don’t stretch. Personally, I focus on my hamstrings, glutes and hips — my coach warned me that as you get older, flexibility is one of the first things to go, so I’m trying to stay on top of that. I spend a few minutes before and after each practice just stretching my lower body. I also do longer stretch sessions: A lot of the guys on the team have started doing yoga, and I started doing it as well. I found that I really enjoy it.

Pro Tip: Just try a yoga class — you might like it.

Strengthen Your Core

When I messed up my knee, I wanted to do whatever I could to avoid that happening again. My trainers suggested strengthening my core. So I started practicing Pilates during a training camp and now I try to work it into my schedule once a week. Having a strong core is key for preventing injuries and building strength, and Pilates is core-focused while giving me a good stretch. I feel more in control of my body and stronger overall — Pilates is surprisingly tough. That once a week class is intense enough for me. It hurts but I know I need it.

Pro Tip: It doesn’t take much to make big gains in core strength, so try to add some small core strengthening every day, like holding a plank for a even few seconds.

Eat Smart

Prepping for your next workout starts the minute your last one ends. Recovery is my biggest priority lately, and food is a huge part of that. When I came into the NFL, I wasn’t that informed about nutrition. But as I grew as a player I learned from trainers and nutritionists how food can make a huge difference in your performance. Everyone works hard in the NFL, but your eating habits can give you that little edge. I’m a really specific eater now. I used to be into junk food, but now I try to avoid things like fried foods and focus on healthy proteins to boost my recovery.

Pro Tip: Make a smart swap every day, like having a salad at lunch instead of fried food.

Rest More

Adding more sleep is another big change that I’ve made since I started playing professionally. I didn’t use to pay attention to how many hours of sleep I was getting. But I don’t sleep super well and I’ve learned that every minute counts. After injuries, you can even have nightmares that disrupt your sleep.  I’ve seen a lot of guys go through that. Waking up feeling tired makes recovering even harder. Sleep is when your body can start to really recover, so make that a No. 1 priority.

Pro Tip: Finding enough time for eight hours of sleep is hard, but you can make small improvements, like turning off the TV a little earlier every night or putting down that phone at least half an hour before bed.

Melvin Gordon is a Rally® Health Ambassador.

Melvin Gordon
Rally Health