By los­ing some weight, Red­skins’ Gru­den takes a load o≠ his mind

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - JERRY BREWER jerry.brewer@wash­post.com For more by Jerry Brewer, visit wash­ing­ton­post.com/brewer.

rich­mond — Here at Camp Svelte, the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins boast many fit­ness feats. Trent Wil­liams, the star left tackle, went (some­what) ve­gan and lost his jolly cush­ion­ing. Ju­nior Galette, the snakebit line­backer, dropped 24 pounds af­ter re­cov­er­ing from two Achilles’ ten­don tears that robbed him of the past two sea­sons. Rob Kel­ley, the run­ning back wrong­fully nick­named “Fat Rob” as a child, now looks like he ought to go by “Non-Fat Rob.”

In the back­ground stands Coach Jay Gru­den, cel­e­brat­ing his play­ers’ com­mit­ment and flash­ing an aw-shucks grin when he is asked about his own trans­for­ma­tion. Gru­den is qui­etly dis­ap­pear­ing, too. You see it in the cheek­bones resur­fac­ing on his face. You see it in the ab­sence of his tummy, which must have been shipped to the Ber­muda Tri­an­gle.

At the end of last sea­son, Gru­den weighed 241 pounds. On Mon­day, he re­ported proudly that he is down to 218. It’s the light­est he has been since 1991, when he was a 24-year-old, 215-pound quar­ter­back start­ing his Arena Foot­ball League ca­reer with the Tampa Bay Storm.

“You want to know how I did it?” Gru­den said, smil­ing. “You’re go­ing to have to pay ex­tra for that, man. You’re go­ing to have to YouTube my video, and it’s go­ing to cost you $39.95.”

Gru­den will get to the “how” later. It’s the “why” that mat­ters most to him.

While his play­ers al­ter their bod­ies to com­pete in a game full

of world-class ath­letes, Gru­den has a more re­lat­able mo­ti­va­tion. He was aching be­cause of the ex­tra weight on his 6-foot-2 frame. His blood pres­sure was high. He was a lit­tle em­bar­rassed. He turned 50 in March, and he was tired of mak­ing ex­cuses. He needed to do some­thing or risk slip­ping from husky to obese.

“I just didn’t feel healthy,” Gru­den said. “I hit 50 years old, and maybe it was part midlife cri­sis. I don’t know. Who knows? You start look­ing around, and peo­ple are walk­ing the streets, and you see peo­ple that are your age, and they look bet­ter and younger and health­ier. And you’re like, ‘[Ex­ple­tive], I shouldn’t be this big.’ ”

Two years ago, CBS Sports ra­dio host Scott Fer­rall called Gru­den a “fat ass” on the air. Af­ter learn­ing of the cheap shot, Gru­den ref­er­enced it dur­ing his next news con­fer­ence. The com­i­cal coach tried to have fun with it, but the words both­ered him.

“I re­ally dis­like the guy that called me a fat ass,” Gru­den said then with a laugh. “That re­ally ticked me off. I don’t mind you cri­tiquing my coach­ing style, but to make fun of my weight, that’s un­fair. I’m only 225.”

As he re­called the ex­change last week, Gru­den was still up­set.

“I’ve never con­sid­ered my­self, like, fat,” he said. “I know I’m thick and a lit­tle heavy at times.”

A more per­sua­sive com­ment came at the end of last sea­son. An­thony Lanier, a young defensive end who needs to add weight and strength to re­al­ize his po­ten­tial, was hon­est with Gru­den.

“Man, Coach, you’re too big right now,” Lanier said.

The coach and player made a bet. Gru­den vowed to lose as much weight, if not more, than Lanier gained. Gru­den won. He is down 23 pounds. Lanier is up 22.

“But he’s not pay­ing me,” Gru­den said, jok­ingly curs­ing at the player. “I told him I’ll take the money when he gets his next con­tract.”

Gru­den won’t charge $39.95 for his weight-loss se­crets be­cause he didn’t re­ally do any­thing spe­cial. Over the past few months, he has paid more at­ten­tion to what he is eat­ing and be­gun ex­er­cis­ing. That’s it, ba­si­cally. He started by sup­ple­ment­ing his break­fast with “a shot of ap­ple cider vine­gar” in the morn­ing. That helped him lose four pounds in the first week or so. Since then, he has been com­mit­ted to a bal­anced diet and reg­u­lar ex­er­cise. He has been amazed at the re­sults.

“I did it be­cause I was sore all over,” Gru­den said. “My joints were sore. My an­kle, my knee. I’ve had shoul­der is­sues. And I’ve used that as an ex­cuse for not work­ing out or ex­er­cis­ing. Then I lost an ini­tial four pounds. I felt a lot bet­ter, and then I kept go­ing. I started eat­ing bet­ter, watch­ing por­tion con­trol, not eat­ing late at night. And then the more I lost, the bet­ter my joints felt, so I was able to ex­er­cise more. It’s amaz­ing.”

For years, Gru­den thought foot­ball — mul­ti­ple in­juries, mul­ti­ple surg­eries — was to blame for his aches. He would wake up some morn­ings and strug­gle to walk to the bath­room be­cause his Achilles’ ten­don was sore. He had platelet-rich plasma in­jec­tions in his knees. He took anti-in­flam­ma­tory med­i­ca­tion to get through the daily grind of coach­ing. But now that he is al­most back to his play­ing weight, he feels good.

It sounds easy, but in a re­al­ity all too fa­mil­iar to many peo­ple (my­self in­cluded), it’s eas­ier to re­main un­aware and mind­lessly pun­ish your body by in­dulging in the wrong foods and save the work­outs for another day. De­spite be­ing a for­mer high-level ath­lete, Gru­den suc­cumbed to bad habits.

Food is al­ways avail­able at the team’s prac­tice fa­cil­ity in Ash­burn, and Gru­den munched of­ten. His job is ac­tive for about two hours of prac­tice, but the bulk of his day is spent in meet­ings and sit­ting in rooms watch­ing film late into the night.

“The choices that you have at lunch and din­ner are pretty big at our place,” Gru­den said. “I would go out and have a sen­si­ble lunch, and then we’d al­ways have pizza there, and I’d take a cou­ple of pieces of pizza, and I’d take a cookie up­stairs.

“Now I just have a small plate and I get the hell out of there, as much as I want to eat the pizza be­cause it’s so damn good.”

Dur­ing train­ing camp, Gru­den used to bike 31/2 miles from the ho­tel in Rich­mond to the team’s site. This year, he started walk­ing ev­ery morn­ing. Then he ad­vanced to jog­ging and walk­ing. On Mon­day, he ran the en­tire way for the first time. Ear­lier in camp, he played quar­ter­back and danced in the pocket for the en­tirety of a long pass rush drill. He is not a coach who has to stand back and eval­u­ate any­more.

“Last year, I couldn’t do any of that,” Gru­den said. “I didn’t do any of that hardly be­cause I was sore. Last year, I couldn’t even walk from the ho­tel to work. I never even tried walk­ing it. Now I ran the whole way, and I didn’t stop. That’s how good my joints feel.”

Gru­den looked away and said softly, “Let’s hope I don’t put it back on, be­cause it’s easy to put back on.”

Ac­knowl­edg­ing the threat is the first step to re­sis­tance. Be­sides, at Camp Svelte, there is am­ple peer pres­sure to keep Skinny Gru­den — or, bet­ter yet, Healthy Gru­den — mo­ti­vated.

PHO­TOS BY JOHN MC­DON­NELL/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

JULY 2016 AUGUST 2017

Jerry Brewer

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.