Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was no stranger to "the grind." He was a two-sport player throughout most of his college career, going from football season directly into baseball with hardly any break. But even with that experience under his belt, Wilson says the demands of playing in the NFL surprised him. "It's such a long season," he says. "Sixteen games, plus four pre-season games, plus the playoffs—it's a long time, so you have to learn to take care of your body. I'd always heard that you need to take care of yourself when I was a professional baseball player, but I never really tried it to the full extent like I did during my rookie [NFL] season."
How his eating habits changed in the NFL
"I only ate three times a day when I was in college: breakfast, lunch and dinner. At breakfast, I'd have a little bit; at lunch, I'd have a little bit more; then, at dinner, I ate a whole lot of food. I mean, I had a ton of food [laughs]. That's not the way you're supposed to eat. You're supposed to eat [smaller meals or snacks] five to six times a day. I didn't understand that back then."
How he felt during his first season in the league
"When you play in the National Football League, and you're starting every game—especially at the quarterback position, where you're getting hit all the time—your body can wear on you. When I go over all of the things I did well last season, the number one thing was how I took care of my body. I started every game and was out there on every play. One of the reasons I could do that is that I paid attention to the little things. I learned how veteran guys took care of their bodies, like waking up early to do the ice tub and the hot tub. And of course, proper hydration."
How he hydrates during, and recovers after, training
"I drink original Gatorade during workouts and practice. And I also drink the Gatorade protein shakes as soon as I come off the field. At practices, I usually can get it within 10 to 15 minutes; after games, since we have media interviews and everything, it's about 45 minutes later. It's vital to my recovery, but I didn't really understand that before [becoming a pro]."
Did that approach help?
"Guys always ask me, 'Did you hit the rookie wall?' I never hit it. Not even close. I felt like I was ready to go every single day. Because I took care of my body. I ate right. I drank right. I really believe that lifted my game as the season wore on. I love being on the field, and I want to perform my best on each and every play."
How he trained during the past off-season
"I did a lot of leg stuff to keep them really strong. In terms of my upper body, I did a lot of flexibility work and a lot of work to strengthen my core."
His advice for younger athletes
"Prepare your body, but before you do that, prepare your mind. I'm big into details. Paying attention to them is really important for how I live my life, both on and off the field. It's important in how I go about what I eat and what I drink. If you want to play at a high level, you have to bring your A-game to everything."
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock