Tom Brady has had a lot of free time on his hands these past four weeks. But while most would probably look at this as an opportunity to sleep in, you can rest assured New England’s star quarterback hasn’t missed a step in his training.
“I haven’t been bored in ages,” Brady told Men's Journal over the phone. Even coach Bill Belichick, who is not known for dealing out compliments, has made numerous press conference references to his “tireless work ethic” and “preparation.” Perhaps that is what makes it so difficult to picture Brady kicking back on a cozy couch in a pair of slippers like he does in photos from his latest UGG For Men “Do Nothing” campaign.
But Brady assures that those moments of relaxation are actually as critical as his daily four-hour-long workouts. Sure his detractors — usually fans of other teams — may criticize his choice of footwear, but unless you have four Super Bowl rings, you should probably take a seat yourself. The 11-time Pro Bowler filled us in on how he has maintained his competitive edge over 17 years.
How you feeling about getting back on the field?
It’ll be nice to get back to work. I’m excited to see what we are able to accomplish. Every team has cycles at the beginning of the year. I always enjoy the process of seeing what the team is made of and what we can build out of it.
How have you been staying in playing shape?
I’m training five or six days a week this time of year. Just trying to get my body ready for what this season is going to bring. I’ve got a pretty good routine right now that I’ve refined over about 17 years with the team’s body coach, Alex Guerrero.
How long are these workouts?
It will be anywhere from two to four hours. It’s hard to expect your body to perform well during the season if you aren’t exerting yourself to that level in the off-season. I think you really need to train the way that you play. Ultimately that’s the way you’ve conditioned your body to react. You have to consider that an NFL game is about three hours long plus an hour warm-up. So for four years your body has to be able to handle that. Sure, hypothetically, some guys like to work their way up to that during training camp, but really you are going to do better if you have already set that bar before training camp even starts.
What are your goals when you go into the gym?
My goal is to always be long and lengthened. Once I’ve broken down my muscles, I’m going to put almost equal time into rebuilding them and lengthening my tissues out. I want all of my muscles to be support of my movements. If I take care of myself in that way I’m going to see myself able to go day after day.
Is there any one workout that you particularly dread?
I like all of it. There isn’t going to be one action that you make that is going to be the secret ingredient to success every time. As long as mentally I know it is making me better, I don’t mind doing it. It is frustrating finding out that you’ve wasted an hour or more on moves that aren’t helping you ultimately. I know what isn’t going to help me out in the long run. So if it isn’t functional toward me being a better player, I’m not doing it. I need to be better on the field every time.
So what areas are you focusing on?
Strength, conditioning, and pliability are the three items that I spend the most time on. The strength training allows me to perform better. The conditioning helps me perform better for a longer integral of time. And the pliability and focusing on my muscle tissue helps me prevent getting hurt. I think a lot of people are not putting the necessary time into making sure that they don’t get hurt.
How has your training changed over the years?
I ask a lot of my body, and let’s be honest, it is my asset. I need to treat it well. It’s a lot different than when I was 22. There used to be more leeway, but I’m 39, so I need to approach it all a little differently. The kinds of workouts I do are all focused on what my lifestyle is right now. And that is all focused on being able to perform my best on the field every week.
What exercises do you find yourself avoiding?
Cardio isn’t important to me. Some people enjoy cardio and running. It just doesn’t benefit me for the work that I am doing. In football there are some positions that require more running, but for how I’m performing most, it doesn’t make sense. I was doing more of that when I was younger. Now that I’m older I’m starting to cut it out and focus on what helps me best. Every move that I’m doing relates somehow to what I have to do for my job.
How do you start your mornings?
Smoothies in the morning are probably my favorite. Some good greens mixed with some nuts and seeds. Then I have a protein that I helped develop, called TB12, I add in. For me it is important to supplement protein throughout the day, and I’ll take that just about every four hours.
How strict are you about your diet?
Everyone’s body is different, but I eat pretty well. I’m relatively disciplined with what I put into my body. Again, when you are 22, you don’t have to care as much. I don’t exactly remember what I was eating when I was 22. But I just know it is much more disciplined now.
Speaking of getting older, you have a family now. Do you ever get time to decompress by yourself?
I get the drive to the game and back. It is about 30 minutes, and that’s where I really get revved up. I’ll throw on some music by someone like Jay Z, Coldplay, or Pearl Jam. I use it to get into the right frame of mind. When you get older you have to create that space for yourself, and that’s the space that I use.
How do you spend your evenings after training or a game?
The perfect night in is usually just at the house with my family. It is usually being at the house and giving the kids their bath at night and then maybe reading a book. It is very low key. Any time when I’m at home and get to do nothing is amazing. Just being with them is a hugely comforting part of my day.
Do you manage to get a good amount of shuteye?
I’m for sure going to bed earlier than I used to, and I also get up pretty early. I try to get a nice sleep, especially during the season. I’ll lay down somewhere around 9 p.m., and then I’m up at 5 a.m., ready to start it all over again.
Do you ever think about when you may step away from the game, and sleep in?
There will definitely be an end at some point, but I don’t think it is any time in the near future for me. I love working hard and I love playing hard. I like being there for my teammates and I love my job. I don’t want it to end. So I’m going to just try to keep working as hard as I can so that it doesn’t.