Feature Story: Tim Tebow on Changing His Training Methods, Transitioning From Football, and Why He Loves the Keto Diet

New York Mets, Port St. Lucie, USA - 20 Sep 2016 Tim Tebow Tim Tebow is shown, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback practiced at the New York Mets' complex during his second workout as part of their instructional league team 20 Sep 2016
Wilfredo Lee/AP/Shutterstock

As a high-level athlete, playing professionally in one sport is pretty fantastic. But two? That’s damn near unheard of. For Tim Tebow, former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback, it’s just another day at the office—or rather, at the batting cage. While Tebow is well-versed in the pressures and attention that being a star athlete can create, he had quite the learning curve while changing sports from football to baseball.

“It’s been a huge transition, to be honest with you, and every day is still a learning activity for me,” Tebow told Men’s Journal. “I’m continuing to learn about my own body, and about the differences in each sport. Baseball is so different training-wise than football. I’ve trained for, probably, the last 17 years or so for football, so it’s been a major adjustment.”

After opportunities for a job in the NFL dried up, Tebow decided to do something he hadn’t done regularly since high school: He picked up a bat and tried out for Major League Baseball teams. While many fans scoffed at Tebow’s attempt as a lost hope, the New York Mets had other thoughts.

Following a tryout that showcased his strong athletic ability (albeit with some rough-edged fielding and hitting skills), the team signed Tebow to a minor league contract, and so far, they’ve been rewarded. The team has seen increased attendance for the games in which Tebow has played, and guess what? He’s been pretty good with the bat, too.

Since being promoted from the Class A Columbia Fireflies to the high Class A St. Lucie Mets, Tebow has been on a tear, hitting for a .317 batting average with four home runs, 15 RBI, and a .947 on-base percentage in 25 games. While that’s certainly a small sample size, it’s pretty impressive for someone who hadn’t played organized baseball in basically a decade.

Nationals Mets Spring Baseball, Port St. Lucie, USA - 02 Mar 2018 New York Mets' Tim Tebow bats during the second inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals, in Port St. Lucie, Fla 2 Mar 2018
Mets prospect Tim Tebow bats during the second inning of an exhibition spring training game against the Washington Nationals, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Jeff Roberson/AP/Shutterstock

But for as exceptional an athlete as Tebow is (or was during his record-setting college years), changing his mindset and his training philosophy from football to baseball was no easy feat. Tebow is “passionate” about training and working out (“I love doing squats, I’m still a huge believer in squats,” Tebow said), but he realized he had to re-think his usual methods when he decided to change sports.

“In football, you would train to have your body be fully prepared on Sunday to go as fast as you can go,” Tebow said. “In baseball, you can’t just train to peak for one game because you’ve got it the next day, and the rest of the month. It’s the mindset, too. You can’t do as much ‘willing your team to win,’ so I’ve been focused on the things that I can control.”

For as much as things have changed for Tebow in his new sport, some things remain the same. Tebow remains heavily involved in community service and philanthropic programs, including working with the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which spotlights college athletes who make a difference in their community. Tebow was a member of the program when he was a student-athlete at Florida.

“It was a blessing for me, years ago, to be part of the team, and now, seeing all 146 nominees and what they’re doing in their communities,” Tebow said. “What’s so powerful is that these young people, they have perspective about what really matters. That they can impact and use their platform to help people in their communities that are hurting, and that they can make a difference for them, it’s really incredible.”

Tebow spoke with Men’s Journal about the transition from football to baseball, the training methods that help him the most, his favorite exercises, and what it feels like to hit a game-winning home run.

MEN’S Journal: How have your training methods and philosophy changed with your transition from football to baseball?

Tim Tebow: The biggest overall difference is that, in football, I was training to peak my body for certain times of the year and then also, certain times of the week. That’s how you train through the offseason and even into the season, and peaking your body for that week. But baseball is so different that you can’t just train to peak for just one game. So, there’s not a lot of time to necessarily have a down day and then build back up, which is honestly how I’ve trained for most of my life.

It’s so different for me and such a big part was learning how I can modify that to not necessarily have the highs and lows that I’m used to in training, but have more moderate training more times per week; but be able to do that before a game where it doesn’t affect my play on the field, but I can still maintain and even try to get a little bit stronger in certain lists. And it’s hard but I’m still actually in the process of trying to make that adjustment, but getting better at it. I’m learning how I can maximize my training, my diet, nutrition and supplementation to stay ready for each day. I have truly, really enjoyed the transition.

What’s your usual workout routine like? What are some of the things you do when working on your upper body?

One of the main things I’ll do for upper body is the push-pull workout. For example, yesterday I did flat bench, and I started where I would do my chest and then use a two board and then go to a three board. So you’re getting all the different ranges of motion. I’ll superset that with weighted pullups, so those would be my first two exercises. Then I would go to incline dumbbell press, seated rows, and you try to push yourself to a certain level. Yesterday was trying to, for the flat bench, it was to go to 315. Something I can handle pretty well, but at the same time, not too much where it’s going to affect me on the field.

What are some of your favorite things to do when you’re working on your lower body?

My favorite thing to do is lower body. I love doing squats. I love doing jumping squats, step ups, stacked or elevated split squats. I’m still a huge believer in squats, even as a baseball player because you get power from your legs, and so I’ll still squat at least twice a week. I’m a huge believer in it as an athlete, and just overall to stay fit and as good a shape as possible. Training is something I’m so passionate about.

What are some of the methods and training programs you use to keep yourself in baseball-ready shape?

I think it’s really important to push yourself to your max. That doesn’t mean that you have to load up the bar with all the weight that you can do, but I do believe that you need to be able to push yourself to the max. What that means is, it could be just doing 225 on bench, but lowering it down and exploding as fast as you can. Or doing clapping pushups as high as you can.

Those aren’t actually the same load and strain on you as maybe heavy bench, but you’re still going as hard as you can. I think it’s important to be able to go and at least hit that 90% threshold of as hard as you can do something. I don’t always want to load up my back with hundreds of pounds on it for squats, but what I’ll do is, I’ll do jump squats as high as I can, so I don’t always necessarily have to put that load but I can go as hard as I can.

What’s your diet like? What are some of your favorite foods to eat to supplement your training?

I’m on a diet called the Ketogenic diet, and I’m so hooked on it, I love it. I’ve been on it for a little over five years, and I’ve tried to get my entire family on it. My dad who has Parkinson’s, it’s been something that’s really helped him. It’s something that I’m extremely strict on, but I also love. People sometimes, they think if you’re on a diet, it means no fun. But for me, the ketogenic diet, first of all, you’re able to eat fat, and as much fat as you want, so there’s a lot of good things you can eat. My favorite being avocado. I generally probably eat at least three avocados a day in some form or fashion. In a shake, straight avocado, or in guacamole, because it’s my favorite. But there’s so many other things that I love, that I’m so passionate about with the diet. I love steak, salmon, chicken, cauliflower pizza is great, and I love making a breakfast casserole.

What did it feel like to hit a game-winning home run?

It felt really good. It was a tough game, and we’d been going back and forth, and to get a shot in the bottom of the ninth to help our team win it. It was special. It was a lot of fun, and things like that don’t necessarily happen every day.

New York Mets v Houston Astros, Spring training baseball game, West Palm Beach, USA - 14 Mar 2017 Tim Tebow, Tom Goodwin New York Mets outfielder Tim Tebow shares a laugh with first base coach Tom Goodwin (26) before a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros, in West Palm Beach, Fla 14 Mar 2017
Mets outfielder Tim Tebow shares a laugh with first base coach Tom Goodwin (26) before a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros, in West Palm Beach, Fla. AP/Shutterstock

What’s it been like working with the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team program?

Last year was my first year as the ambassador, and getting to do it again has been a blessing. The kids have been incredible. It’s so inspiring to see these stories, to hear these stories, to read and be able to talk to these young people. To be an ambassador for The Good Works Team, honestly, it’s just something that’s so cool because out of everything I get to do, I get to talk about people that are helping other people change lives. That’s special.

Who are some of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team members that have stood out most for you?

Whether it’s Ryan Stratton of Edinboro University, who held a prom for people with special needs. He got limos and everything, to make them feel special. Or whether it’s Shaq Jones at UAB, while going through everything that UAB went through [in 2014, the school ended its football program, which has since been brought back] and he stayed the course, stayed at the university, graduated, while there was no football. In the meantime, he helped a bunch of orphans and foster care kids find jobs, and mentored them and loved them, and now he’s going to be a captain this year leading them onto the field. And it’s just a perfect way to slash forth in competition, but also helping people and loving people, and that’s pretty special.

How does it make you feel to have once been a part of the team and now you get to be involved in it years later down the line?

It was very special to be named part of the team because you want to be able to transcend whatever game or whatever you’re doing to something more than that. To be part of the team was very special. There’s so many awards these kids will be nominated for this fall, but I don’t know if there’s going to be something more important or more impactful to the rest of the world than what these young kids are doing. In a day and age where it’s so easy to get caught up in money or your draft stock, we get 146 nominees of people that aren’t thinking about themselves, that are thinking about other people and how they can go out of their way to change other people’s lives. I think we really need that right now.

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