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Friday, January 2: Coach Zorn Talks Fitness

Posted by Matt Terl on January 2, 2009 – 9:29 am

Hey, look, it’s 2009! One more year until the year we make contact, and three years until the Mayan calendar completely runs out and we all vanish (or something).

If you’re anything like me, at least one of your resolutions has to do with being healthier. And, if you’re anything like me, this isn’t the first year you’ve tried that. Somehow, it’s much simpler to DECIDE to start running again — especially the night of the 31st, after a drink or two — than it is to ACTUALLY start running again in the new year.

Well, Jim Zorn is here to help.

Megan Imbert, one of the excellent folks over at Redskins.com TV, conducted a long interview with Coach Zorn for the latest issue of Redskins Health & Wellness Magazine. The interview covered all aspects of his personal fitness philosophy, how he spends his spare time, and what advice he’d give to people trying to get into better shape, but Megan was only able to use a small portion of what he said for her article. Since the rest of that material was just lying around unread, she was kind enough to offer me the transcript, and today — as so many of us are setting ourselves up to fail at our resolutions — seemed like an excellent day to run it.

So enjoy, and have a happy start to 2009.

All right, Coach Zorn: what activity do you use to stay in shape?

“I’m a mountain biker. Probably the thing I do the most of, and I’ve had a few opportunities to even go during the season, but normally it’s an off-season program.

“Another thing I do to work out is I work on the Stairmaster, the gauntlet and basically that’s the one apparatus that I frequent and compete with myself on. I don’t compete with anyone else, I just sort of compete with myself.

” One of the things I did in Seattle religiously was there’s a mountain about fifteen minutes away called Tiger Mountain. It’s not a big mountain, but it would be a good workout to go out in the morning and come back down. The trail I took was about a 40 to 43 minute walk and if you are in great shape you could even do it under 40 minutes. All of those things help me out. I don’t run because I have severe arthritis in one of my ankles, but I’m active in those arenas.”

What’s your Stairmaster program like?

“If I first start … like right now I’m not really in Stairmaster shape, so my normal workout if I’m in Stairmaster shape 40 to 45 minutes, at varied levels. I like to vary my workouts, but you can’t cheat easily at the Stairmaster.”

Where do you like to do your mountain biking?

“Every year for the past three or four years we’ve gone up to Whistler Mountain which is up in Canada north of Seattle by about four hours. There is some wonderful mountain biking up there. But every place I’ve been since I moved to Boise, ID, Boise, Idaho has some great mountain bike trails.

“I got into mountain biking when I played. At the stage where there weren’t even mountain bikes, we were making them. As the industry grew I moved away and started mountain biking in Boise, Idaho — there are some great rides in Utah. There are three or four of the best mountain bike trails in the world in Utah and so I’ve been on all of those.

“Then we moved to Minnesota and there wasn’t quite the mountain bike trails, Minnesota or even Detroit. You have to drive. I’m talking about areas you live in where you just go out your door and within five or 10 minutes you’re there.

“This area offers mountain biking, not so much major hills, downhill or uphills, but there are some excellent trails, single track trails, dirt roads where you can go and get a great ride.”

What’s the longest you’ve ridden?

“When I played, they have a ride from Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon. It’s called STP — Seattle to Portland. I’ve ridden that, so that’s probably the longest distance I’ve ridden in any one group. I do a lot of different styles of mountain biking, cross country, down hill.”

What about your love of kayaking?

“When I was in Utah a friend of mine was an excellent kayaker. He raced C1’s, which is a different kayak. Most kayaks are called K1’s or K2’s where you are sitting down in the kayak with your feet out in front of you. A C1 or C2 you are on your knees like a canoe and you have a single bladed paddle instead of a double bladed paddle. That’s what I learned initially when I started kayaking was C1 and C2.

“My friend and I actually raced in a couple of international races in the C2 class. We took dead last because we weren’t up to snuff, I was just learning-had I been better we may have been able to compete. This was in the early 90’s.

“In this state you are offered some great opportunities to kayak and I hope to do that this offseason. I hope to get my son interested because those are sports you can do together as father-son and he’s already mountain biking with me — and he’s a very good rider as well.”

What other sports have you played?

“In Seattle I played softball. We had a softball team, and I was a coach. Stump Mitchell, he also played on our team. We won some games. “There’s a lot of things that I did that I don’t do anymore. I snowboard. You would know me as a snowboarder. My problem as a snowboarding in recent history is my ankle. I could go snowboarding for a maximum of about three hours and then my ankle is about done. I was snowboarding when I would be the only guy on the whole hill with a snowboard. I kind of enjoyed that new idea. I’m not easily embarrassed over trying to learn a new skill and you have to go through a learning process-snowboarding, there is a lot of pain involved if you are just starting to learn it.

“I rock climb. I speed-skated through college. I’m an ice-skater, I can ice skate. I in-line skate. I would do that.

“I don’t think I would hang glide because the danger there. I would not skydive but I think that’s a tremendous sport, you risk a lot. If you mountain bike you can break an arm, break a leg, dislocate fingers — you have to wear the proper gear because you can get hurt, but not as many people die than I think they do doing those other things.

“The other thing I really like is dirt bike riding, hill climbing. My son in-law is a dirt bike rider, I really enjoy that. It’s really fun.”

Do you have a philosophy on health?

“My philosophy … it has to do with moderation. My wife is most excellent in creating the kind of meals and healthy choices in our household. We’re not such sticklers that we don’t have chocolate around or candy around or a good dessert. It’s all in moderation, not in gorging or unhealthy habits or unhealthy lifestyle.

“If we are out we’ll often stop at a grocery store. We will go to a fast food restaurant if we’re on the road, but the next time we stop it will be at a grocery store and we will get into the deli section and buy healthier choices- fruits, vegetables — and the next meal it may be fast food again. I wouldn’t say I was a health food addict, but I would say we sorta watch what we eat.”

What’s your advice on living a healthy lifestyle?

“One: first of all there has to be a starting time. You have to decide that you are going to start to do something.

“Two: you have to turn off the TV to do it, you can’t come in and relax. I like television, I like to sit in and watch it, but it creates idleness. I talk to our players about this too, it creates the ability to disengage your mind and disengage – people call it vegging out, but it’s not a healthy kind of vegetable. So you have to do those things before you can even take one step out.

“Then what I would do is … if you are grossly out of shape, I would start by doing this: I would say, ‘Okay, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to get out of my door and look at my watch and I’m going to walk five minutes. That’s all. I’m going to walk five minutes out and five minutes back.’

“And that’s what you start with. If you did that the whole first week, say I’m not going to do anything more, because part of working out is there’s a grind of working out. You’re getting sore, and a lot of people get discouraged because they blast it all in one outing and they don’t know that if you do things over gradual period of time you can actually build up. Your body makes these adjustments, your body is saying, ‘Oh my gosh, he wants to walk! I guess we have to do something now.’

“You’d begin to communicate to your body that things have changed and we are actually going to do something here and I would say that once you start walking five minutes out and five minutes back it starts getting pretty easy. Then all of a sudden you start going six minutes out, oh my gosh! …and you do those things then maybe you add ten push ups, three sets of three and then one at the end.

“You start just inching your way. You start improving. “You start thinking, I can really do this and little successes add up. It’s like a solid investment. If you spend a little time over a long period of time and start building you’d be surprised how much better you feel about yourself and then you start looking at yourself and your body all of a sudden looks different and then you get really excited. I’ve seen it happen to people dramatically in my life, I’ve helped people in that avenue.”

How do you balance fitness with everything else in your life?

“I think the number one way to relieve stress is don’t isolate yourself. There are certain things I have to do all alone and there’s certain things that I have to do to grind through, make decisions about.

“When I’m out of the building I’m not isolated, I don’t have an isolated life. If I didn’t have as active a family I would have to choose some friends that were active as well to help me be active. I’ve said this in my coaching, there’s this idea about acting medium.

“Part of it is not be so self-consumed with any one area that the scale is so tipped one way that you become an unhealthy person. I believe in a balanced lifestyle spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially … all of those things create an enjoyable interesting life.

“I spend so much time at football that when I’m away I devote all my other time to not-football. Because while I’m here, and even at times when I’m not here, as a head coach I have to be thinking about the responsibilities of what it is to be a head coach, and there’s a lot of decision-making in and out of this building.

“When I get a chance to get away I’m totally away. That’s why I can enjoy mountain biking. When I’m mountain biking I’m not thinking about – I’m just totally enjoying it.””

What can people do to help them achieve a similar balance?

“There’s a statement I’ve heard before-The fantasy you feed is the one that grows. It’s really a true statement. The problem with a healthy lifestyle-most people who are battling with a healthy lifestyle have created fantasies that they have fed over and over again and until they stop feeding that it doesn’t matter what we say-if you have some habits that are bad for you, bad habits are hard to break.

“I’ve heard on the radio Dr. Laura Schlesinger — she is a talk show host that has some real sense, I admire her a lot — and I always remember her saying, ‘The only irresistible impulse a person has is the one he hasn’t resisted.’ “There’s a lot of people around our country that are making excuses for doing the wrong thing, and we live in a victim society. We’re always the victim. ‘I don’t’ have enough time’? What do you mean, ‘I don’t have enough time’? If you are going to achieve the decision you make you make time.

It really is up to the individual and it doesn’t have any thing to do with money. Can you eat better food? Yeah, I think that has to do with some finances but you can make some healthy choices that are cost the same that unhealthy costs. As a rule of thumb that it does cost more to eat healthy and really search out the right combinations.”

How can someone promote a healthy lifestyle to the people they know?

“I don’t know if it’s our job at changing others, but when you have your family over, serve a healthy meal and don’t judge that this is what they should be eating. You go about your business. Why are you eating this stuff, I wouldn’t have chicken fried steak…but I might have grilled chicken or bbq salmon that has some flavor and is not totally unhealthy.”

“It’s so hard to give advice in this arena. There are so many simple ways people can go out and create an environment for themselves and everyone has a little different story. Some people like to wake up really early in the morning and go and go hard so your body can’t talk to you later and tell you ‘I’m too tired.’

Some people can’t get going until the afternoon. Everyone finds there own niche. I would say major stresses in people’s lives require attention in other areas, or the stress consumes. If the stress is consuming you that’s when a person has a very difficult time of seeing it and is unaware of it and finds themselves in a trap.

“I feel like it’s hard to give advice. Who may be in that situation? That person would have to take a step back and have an honest evaluation of, where am I really?

“It’s not a simple little test, but you may want to ask some people you know would be candid and quite frank — but who you know love you and care about you, so if you hear it you would be able to accept it.

“It’s very hard to accept criticism, especially about health, food, tastes because you are trying to achieve something for that person. You can’t do that. Some of the menus have to deal in economics, what is your budget? And yet some of the food budgets are so thin in people’s budget it’s easier to buy food that’s not as good for you because it’s cheap, and if that happens you have to pay so much more attention to what you are doing activity-wise since you are probably consuming more calories than you need to.

“I mean you can eat on a limited budget maybe some unhealthy food but if you are active you may be able to get away with it until you can earn more or establish a better eating regime.”

Do you have any fitness goals that you’re not meeting?

“I know that if I was a weight lifter along with all the cardio I do I would look like a million bucks. My muscles would be bulging. I’d feel super fit. I’m embarrassed that I don’t weightlift. Have I? Absolutely. So my weightlifting has been put aside so that’s one thing that I wish would be different about me if I took the time.

“Could I? Sure, I would have to eliminate other cushy things, idle things, but right now I limit myself to activities with my son, mountain biking, Stairmaster … those kinds of things more than the strength training.”

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