Andre Reed went from being a wide receiver at relatively unknown Kutztown University to becoming one of the best wide receivers in NFL history. The Hall of Famer and Buffalo Bills legend retired after the 2000 season but has maintained an active lifestyle during his retirement. Reed recently spoke with NFL Up! to give readers some insight into his workout routine, and also talked about how the fitness regimens of NFL players has evolved over time.
What fitness and nutrition advice would you give rookie receivers coming into the league this year?
AR: It's funny because I think that while kids are in college they don't think that fitness and nutrition are really important things. But once they get to the NFL it's a job, and just like any other job you've got to be at your best to a certain point, especially with a job like this. You've got to be fit and you've got to eat the right things. You've got to get your rest, and that has a lot to do with your longevity. I mean, you can only go so much on your talent. A lot of times it's what you put in your body and how you work out and rest yourself. And that's going to tell, really, how you play on Sundays.
You had a 16-year career, so you obviously know a thing or two about longevity.
AR: Oh, yeah, I was a gym rat and I always thought that was a part of my success, especially playing in Buffalo where sometimes the weather isn't favorable. You have to be in extra better shape because of that.
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What was your routine like as a player? Did it change much from your rookie season to your last year?
AR: I think it did. When I came into the league in '85, the regimen for working out was just basic, and as I got older it became more about the core and keeping your body in balance. It wasn't just about bench press, deadlift and squats; it was more core and balancing and all that kind of stuff, because with skill positions you've got to have balance and your core has got to be tight and it's got to be good. Plus, there are a lot of injuries. Guys get injuries and there's a reason why these injuries happen. A lot of time you're going to get your knee injuries and your ankle injuries, but sometimes if a guy's back is hurting it might be because his core isn't balanced with his back.
You're still in great shape today, so what motivates you to continue working out so much even in retirement?
AR: I've always been doing it. It makes me feel good about myself and, of course, it's definitely healthier. Again, it's something I've done my whole life. So I thought, 'Why stop just because I don't play anymore?' I think it's the case with any sport. You're going to do what makes you feel good. I don't work out like I used to, but I do the things that are necessary to keep me level.
We've talked to players before who have said you can't exercise a bad diet. What's the importance of a diet and what are your nutrition habits right now?
AR: I usually eat anything I want (shakes an open bag Fritos and holds his bottle of grape soda). I'm not a big junk food guy, really. I'm not the kind of guy who goes to Whole Foods and just eats the right things all the time, but I'm very aware of what I put in my body and what it does. I think as you get older and things don't work as much as they used to, you've got to have a tendency to do what's right for your body. You can get away with it when you're younger, but once you get older you can't get away with that stuff anymore.
If you had to go back and talk to your 20-year-old self, what kind of advice fitness advice would you give him?
AR: When you are younger you tend to overtrain and you don't realize it because you're so high on adrenaline and stuff. I think guys overtrain and they burn out. And also just knowing what your body needs. Again, I think rest is really important. Some guys don't have to work out as hard as other guys do, but if you balance all that together then your longevity is definitely going to be greater. So, I would tell my 20-year-old self not to over-train.
What's a good exercise NFL fans can do at home that doesn't require going to a gym?
AR: There are so many things out there now like these 30-minute workouts. I don't know if they work, but a lot of people have jobs and they don't have time to go to the gym. They can do those little 30-minute workouts they see on TV, or get one of those little portable gyms for their house. I think that's a good start. A lot of times I go to the gym and I see people and they don't know how to work out. There's no routine or anything like that. I saw a guy who I haven't seen in five years and the guy looks the same as he did five years ago. But your diet has to be number one. If you don't eat the right things, it doesn't matter who you are. Sometimes those foods treat people differently.
Today, you have all these Paleo diets and the Atkins diet. How has nutrition changed from when you were a player?
AR: Well, again, with technology all these people get a hold of information and they can do a certain diet or the Atkins thing. I think it's all well and good, but you've got to go where your heart tells you and what you think is right for your body. Again, when I came into the league there was no such thing as [that kind of diet]. It was, 'Don't eat that. That's not good for you. Eat all this.' It was salads and greens. I mean, you were taught to eat greens when you were a little kid, so that hasn't changed.
How has the world of fitness changed between now and the time you were drafted?
AR: It's so much more demanding now because guys are faster, they're bigger and they're stronger. I think that's probably the main thing. And that's not just in football, I think it's in every sport. I'm not going to say the athletes are a lot better, it's just the way it's evolved, the way the game has evolved. It has to make you better and you have to do the best stuff to stay at that level. If I played in the game now and tried to do the same things I did at 28, there'd be a big discrepancy in everything.