Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Dec 2013

From Quarterback to Giving Back

Former Pro Bowl NFL icon Joe Theismann is also a star in the campaign to raise awareness of the need for at-risk individuals to be screened for abdominal aortic aneurysm. Supplements, exercise, and a sensible diet are elements of his overall strategy for healthy living.

By Jon Finkel.

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Whether it’s in the broadcast booth or a booth at his restaurant, football star Joe Theismann projects a healthy lifestyle wherever he goes.

He’s donned the famous golden dome football helmet for Notre Dame and the storied jersey of the Washington Redskins, but these days, a simple pair of orange suspenders suits NFL icon Joe Theismann just fine. No, the suspenders don’t provide any protection from blitzing linebackers or inspire Skins fans to do the wave, but they do bring attention to a cause near and dear to his heart: raising awareness for AAA screening.

“AAA stands for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm,” Theismann explains. “My dad is an AAA survivor, and because of this, I’m working with the ‘Find the AAAnswers’ campaign to help raise awareness about this silent killer and encourage at-risk individuals to go get screened.”

Theismann, a former Pro Bowl NFL quarterback accustomed to studying film for hours to prepare for a defense, has taken the same approach to learn about the dangers of AAA.

“AAA is a very serious health problem” he says. “And the risk factors are fairly common. If you’ve smoked more than 100 cigarettes in your life, have a history of heart problems, are over 60 and male – you could be at risk for AAA. Getting screened is important.”

As Theismann talks, his voice takes on a commanding, yet congenial tone; clearly, leading a cause comes to him just as easily as leading an offense, which is why we can now add AAA Advocate to the seemingly endless list of titles he has accumulated over the years, including Notre Dame All-American, NFL MVP, Super Bowl Champion, Pro Bowler, Restaurateur, and Sportscaster.

Although this isn’t the first time Joe has been involved with a cause; in 1982, he was selected the NFL’s Man of the Year for his community service and dedication to the health and welfare of children.

Muscle Maintenance

“My experience with the NFL has given me the opportunity to lend my voice to help raise awareness about important public issues,” Theismann says. “When I am asked to do a presentation I am representing what I believe to be a healthy lifestyle. I pride myself on my appearance.”

At age 64, Theismann’s appearance is still strikingly similar to how he looked during his playing days, where he filled out his six-foot frame with around 190 pounds of muscle.

“When I was younger, working out was about getting stronger,” he says. “Now it’s all about maintenance. As I’ve gotten older, I try to maintain muscle density.”

In addition to the health benefits of maintaining a strong physique, he cites another, more practical reason for his maintenance routine. “As you get older, you invest in suits, pants, and shirts. As far as I’m concerned, if I were to commit myself to a full lifting program, I’d need to buy a whole new wardrobe!”

He says the last line with the trademark laugh that we’ve heard countless times from the broadcast booth. But sartorial concerns aside, he happens to stick to a very impressive workout routine, including weight training two or three times a week in addition to cardio four times a week.

“There are three elements of exercise that are very important,” he says. “Cardio, flexibility, and strength. People tend to confuse flexibility with stretching, but it’s different. Flexibility involves having the full strength of the muscle throughout an entire range of movement. I want to be flexible.”

He also advocates listening to your body, particularly in the area of needing rest. Where once he would workout for days on end without a break, he acknowledges that his body takes a little longer to recuperate, and that if you don’t give your body adequate time to recover, you defeat the purpose of exercise. Of course, finding the time is also a challenge when you travel to football games for a living.

Theismann’s Greatest Hits
Theismann’s Greatest Hits
  • 1971 Led Notre Dame to a Cotton Bowl win Against Texas
  • 1971 Drafted by the Miami Dolphins of the NFL and the Minnesota Twins of Major League Baseball
  • 1978 Theismann wins starting job as Washington Redskins quarterback
  • 1982 Led the Washington Redskins to a Super Bowl victory
  • 1983 Won the NFL MVP Award
  • 1985 Called his first Super Bowl in the broadcast booth
  • 1988 Debuted on ESPN’s Sunday Night Football coverage
  • 2003 Elected to the College Football Hall of Fame

Staying Healthy On The Go

Staying Healthy On The Go  

“I feel that I’m disciplined enough to find time for it,” he says. “I’ll work out early in the morning or late at night, but I’m comfortable with the fact that I’ll find time for it somewhere in the day, even if I have to be creative.”

By creative, he goes on to explain that if he’s at a hotel that doesn’t have a great workout facility, he’ll create an entire workout in his room. These on-the-fly exercise routines include doing curls and triceps kickbacks with his briefcase, dips on the edge of the bathtub, angled pushups on a bed or desk, abdominal work on the floor, and a series of stretches that he can do anywhere.

“There can be fifty excuses for why you can’t workout,” he says. “But once you get going, you feel like you can go on forever. You just feel great.”

Traveling also poses a problem when it comes to eating correctly. In general, Theismann sticks to what he calls a “king, prince, pauper” diet, where he eats like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch, and a pauper for dinner.

“I usually eat a big breakfast,” he says. “I’ll have some raisin bran with fruit, some toast, and eggs. For lunch I’ll have maybe half a sandwich with soup and a salad. And for dinner I’ll have a small portion of pasta and some roasted chicken. Then I’ll have an orange or apple before bed. If I’m traveling and I haven’t had a chance to eat before I go to sleep, I probably won’t eat and I’ll just give my stomach a rest. I think it’s hard to sleep when you have a ton of food in your stomach.”

Supplements are an important part of his diet as well. Because of his family’s history of heart problems, Theismann takes CoQ10 in addition to his daily multivitamin. He also takes a vitamin B supplement and lysine.

But the supplements, the exercise, and the eating plan are all part of a bigger overall strategy for healthier living.

“When I get up in the morning, my hip is sore, my back is sore, things are sore,” he says. “I used to be able to get up and go. Now I get up, I walk around, I get all the parts going. You think you can do the same things you did 5 or 10 years ago, but it just takes a little longer. The body doesn’t take very long to get going. You just have to work your way up. You’ll eventually get back there.”

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