Andrew Whitworth has had a hell of a year: In February, the 16-year NFL vet won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, given in recognition of a player's charitable work off the field in the community. Three days later, he got it done on the field, too—Whitworth won the Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams, becoming the oldest offensive lineman to win a title. The 40-year retired after the game, walking off the field as the winningest left tackle in NFL history, and the second-oldest player in the NFL (only Tom Brady was older).
When you’ve had a start to the year like that, especially after decades of success as an athlete, what’s next? Whitworth’s still figuring that out. But in the gym, it’s started with dropping some of the excess weight linemen carry to keep their quarterbacks upright. “I’m trusting that I've built a life of muscle mass and having strength,” he says. “And I'm going to let that go a little bit for a little while and just worry about getting myself down to where, being somebody as big as I am, I feel better about moving around, feel better about being more active and conditioning.”
Part of that activity, like many retirees, means hitting the links—Whitworth’s handicap has been as low as 2 in the past, and he’s hoping to improve it even further. But his retirement won’t be all plaid slacks and strolls down the fairway. The former NFL big man had just finished a near-max effort training session when we caught up with him. “I spent the last week traveling, so I didn’t work out as much last week, and my trainer just murdered me,” he says. “I’m trying not to throw up.”
Whitworth kept his lunch down long enough to share what he’s eaten to drop 25 pounds in the past few months, his post-retirement training plans, and tips for guys who want to get involved in their community—or get after it fast in the gym during a busy week of travel.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Now that you don’t have to train to hit the field in the preseason, what’s your new goal? What’s the focus of your training now that you’re in retirement?
My focus really since the Super Bowl has been eating better, eating less, really cutting down my portion control and eating a lot healthier, and preparing when I know there's going to be a trip or something. Preparing my diet to say all right, maybe the one meal's bad, but the rest of the day is really good.
Then training-wise, I'm probably down 20, 25 pounds, and I've literally just walked. I just play golf and I probably walk 20 to 30 miles a week. I just try to every day get out and walk four to five miles, listening to music, audiobooks, those kind of things. I'm plenty strong, and muscle mass is not an issue for me. So I'm going to spend three to four months trying to get my weight down, and just walk and not really put the body under a ton of stress so that I can get myself down to a weight where then it's the next phase. Then it's like, all right, let's pick it up—some version of HIIT training or CrossFitting or, what's going to be the new thing? Jiu jitsu? Muay Thai?
I look at it as in this phase, I'm trusting that I've built a life of muscle mass and having strength. And I'm going to let that go a little bit for a little while and just worry about getting myself down to where, being somebody as big as I am, I feel better about moving around, feel better about being more active and conditioning.
So I think the first goal for me is getting to under 300 pounds. It's really getting down to probably, like I always say, “power forward shape,” finding a way to kind of look somewhat like a power forward in the NBA. That's that's kind of the goal.
I don't know if I want to put an arbitrary date on it, but I think maybe like August 1 or the end of the summer, when really football season starts again, which would be normal for me, kind of in my mind to get started again saying, "All right, here's where I'm at. What are the goals going forward?"
You’re not just walking, though—you mentioned when we hopped on the phone that you’d just finished a killer session. What kind of stuff are you doing with your trainer, Ryan Sorensen?
Ryan trained our offensive line group the last couple of years in the off season. He's trained Cooper Kupp, Christian Yelich, a lot of different guys. But he really specializes right now in kind of this one on one training thing. You go from one exercise to the other. There's no break, there's no rest, there's no time down. You just constantly move it.
You might be doing something as simple as some kind of T-spine opening, but there's never a stopping point. You're going straight from that to a lunge, straight from that to an RDL, or a step up or an RFE [Bulgarian split squat]—you're just constantly moving. There's times when we're just trying to move and tax the lungs a little bit. And that's kind of the focus right now, three days a week with him, it's that kind of thing. Opening the body up, moving really well, balance stuff.
And then Tuesdays and Thursdays is some kind of healthy knee and ankle type day. We're working some mobility, some balance. There's a program called Knees Over Toes. It's gained a lot of traction. We do a lot of that type stuff, with some band stuff.
You mentioned you’ve changed your eating to drop 25 pounds. What’s your nutrition like now?
Probably the first two months or almost three months, I did literally egg whites and spinach in the morning. I love tuna, so I would do tuna steaks just sliced up, kind of seared with white rice and some spinach for lunch. And then I would do some version of either salmon, sea bass, something like that, and some rice at night... with some spinach as well.
If you hear the recurring theme, I can't stand greens, so I eat spinach. It's the only one I'll eat. And it's probably only because I loved Popeye when I was a little kid. But Eric Weddle and I, who played an eternity in the NFL, both can't stand greens, so we're big on the "greens are overrated" train just because we think we're living proof that it's not that important. But it probably is, and we're just idiots.
Now I've kind of moved into a phase of fasting. I'll do like 16-hour intermittent fasting. Sometimes I'll mix in a 24-hour day. For me, just in general, I have always seemed to lean out and do better, weight-wise by not eating breakfast. No matter how lean I eat, or how good my diet is, for whatever reason, breakfast has kind of always been a trigger for me to eat more or be hungrier throughout the day. And with fasting, I've always seemed to be good—have a window, eat in that window, and then don't eat. And I just seem to do better, weight-wise.
Are you a fasted cardio guy, then?
I get up at 5-ish every morning and I'll get in the infrared sauna for an hour before we wake the kids up. I'll spend like an hour in the sauna at like 130- to 140-degree heat—and sometimes I'm like half-asleep still—but I just kind of lay and then sweat a little bit every morning. Then I get the kids up, have a cup of black coffee, and then once they're gone, I'll usually either go for a walk or I'll do my training in the morning. And then usually my first meal's at noon, so I go from 12 to 8.
You’re an avid golfer, and you mentioned thoracic spine mobility. Does your post-retirement training have some stuff in there to improve your game? What are some of your favorite moves to improve your swing?
Guys that are 6-foot-7, 330 pounds aren't meant to be swinging golf clubs. But I constantly send [Sorensen] different guys doing golf fitness on Instagram, and we'll kind of build little things into the workout time. But also I think what golf has really done for me is alignment. It feels crazy to say golf would have anything to do with an NFL player's regimen, but for me it's always been, about just crossing the "X" of your body.
When I was younger, it was like 6 a.m. workouts, and then I would go the driving range and put in headphones. I didn't play many rounds of golf, but I just would hit golf balls for hours a day. Two hours in the morning, eat some lunch, come back and hit for a couple of hours in the afternoon and just sweat. I lived in Louisiana in the offseason—it was 100 degrees, 100 percent humidity. I really believe that extended my career and gave me the ability to really handle the heat and training camp and all the feet time. For linemen, when you're 300-plus pounds out on the practice field, walkthroughs, practices—that's three, four hours standing on your feet. And what's very similar to that? The game of golf. So, I mean, I would spend July every year walking the golf course with the bag on my back and just hitting golf balls, sometimes myself, sometimes with people. It was a part of my regimen to play every year. So it's kind of always been a little part of my workouts.
But now, yes, to your point, I'll do a lot more stuff, a lot of rotation, a lot of stuff that you need to make sure you get low back health, hip health. Opening the spine up in the hips and really getting a chance to get in some of those RDL positions and do some deep spine rotations while getting the hips involved. And I think for me, it's really learning how your hips rotate and move in the spine as well—and how in the game of golf, which is interesting, how they rotate at different times.
You mentioned that you’re traveling a lot. What’s your go-to routine when you’re on the road? Anything our readers can try?
A lot of guys joked with when I was first at the Rams, because I would not practice on certain days of the week. So the days I was off, I would do 100 push ups, 100 sit ups, 100 squats, like every day. So I'd be sitting out there at practice, they'd be on the field and I'd be over there doing my squats and stuff. And the guys would laugh at me because they'd catch me on tape time to time on days supposed to be resting, and I'm working out.
That's always been a regimen of mine. I'm going to hit 100 squats, 100 sit ups, 100 pushups every day while I'm traveling.
I also love to throw in 30 on, 30 offs, or 40 on, 20 offs. I'll put on a 30-minute timer—I have this app on my phone and I literally put on a 40-second on, 20-second off timer, and I'll just sit there for 30 minutes and get after it. Whatever comes to mind: sometimes jumping jacks, running in place, push ups, sit ups, bodyweight squats. I love just a 30-minute window of getting after it. For me, that's easier than sitting on a treadmill or jogging or any of that type. Get your heart rate up and try and maintain that workout for 30 minutes and you're almost getting that same effect.
Now, you also have to know to how to tinker. You could do that and blow it all out in 5 minutes. You're exhausted and you can't even finish the workout. So it's really having that knowledge: maybe I'm lunging one time, maybe I'm doing jumping jacks, maybe it's a situp. But if I've gotten to a point where I'm really exhausted, then this round may just be curls. I just want to keep moving. That's the ultimate goal for these 30 minutes.
I think that's an easy way to just get after it, blow out some calories and not make it so complicated. Because I think sometimes sitting in a weight room trying to figure out how to do all the reps and what body part it is you have to do that day... it can get a little boring and sometimes hard to do.
Who’s a player you were really impressed by in the weight room or in training during your career, and why? And what’s something you took from him that you’ve kept as part of your training over the years?
Over my time there's been some really special athletes to watch, but none more impressive than Aaron Donald. I mean, he's he's definitely the number one of one when it comes to training. I’ve been impressed over the years, whether it’s Roger Saffold, James Harrison, Aaron Donald, Geno Atkins at times early in his career. T.J. Houshmanzadeh, I can remember, just the ability to get after it and have a plan. Even Carson Palmer—I tell all the young quarterbacks when I meet them.
It's the regimen, the plan, day in and day out—that consistency is really the key. That's the reason I brought up the thing about the 30 minute workout, or 100 pushups, situps, and squats. You really learn that it's more about consistency than it is about exactly what you're doing all the time. If you know yourself and you know what you need, and you can just force yourself to be consistent... that's really what the special ones have. All the special guys that I've been around, whether it be players, trainers, fitness guys, MMA fighters—I'm more impressed by the consistency they live with and in their training. They have this ability to just make every day count. Even the days when it shouldn't count because you're exhausted or you're just not in the mood, they find a way to get something out of the day. And I think to me that's really important.
You’re transitioning to a new training goal: What are your tips for our guys if they want to do that? How should they decide on a goal? How should they get started?
When people ask how were you good in the NFL? What made you a special player? I think in training it's no different. It's being a really good evaluator of where you're at, what you're good at, and what you're not. Make yourself uncomfortable and be willing to say, here's something that I could do a lot better and it would make a difference in my training.
And I think that's why I've always liked to challenge myself. I'm a big dude. It's not that fun to do something like hot yoga. It's like the last thing I think I want to do. But I also know that it's really good for me. So when I lived in Cincinnati, I used to play on Sundays. On Mondays, I'd do our morning lift with the team, and then Monday afternoons I'd go to hot yoga every single week. I got to a point where I craved it. Just that ability to get all those toxins, all the swelling and stuff out of my body.
So I think it's finding what you need. There's so many guys throughout the NFL that I watch that don't make it—they come in with a talent, and they only work on what they're good at. They never really address the things that they're not that good at. And that's really what ends up being the thing that dooms them. When you look at a guy like Aaron Donald, when you look at Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, what's special about those guys is not their talent—every player that walks in the NFL has some version of a talent. It's that the things that you wouldn't consider their talent are constantly rising. Maybe they'll never be as good as their special talent, but they're getting better at those things and it's making their special talent stick out even more.
And that's really to me how training is as well. If you already know you're really, really strong and you're just not getting where you want to go, then work on mobility, work on your conditioning. Find ways to to back off a little bit in the lifting and keep a little more balance in how you're training. If you're really weak, make yourself spend some days learning to get stronger. Find your weaknesses and put some attention to those things.
If you keep having these little things to get better at, you create more confidence. And that inspires you to work out harder and go further and make it more exciting.
I know people who really want to get involved in their community, but don’t know where to start. What are your tips for that?
You can lose sleep thinking about what the perfect thing to do is all the time. It's really just about the act of getting involved. And that could be sitting beside somebody who's going through a tough time, that could be sitting at a Boys and Girls Club and just conversating with people. It could be actually getting physically involved in wanting to build something or do something. It could be advocating for people. It could literally be your time, your money, your voice—whatever it is that really you want to do. But don't worry about it being perfect. Just do something. You'll never regret doing a nice gesture. You'll never go, "Man, I wish I wasn't nice. I wish I wasn't kind. I wish I wasn't humble." You don't look at those times and regret those things.
It's going to be one of those things that will inspire you, and it'll create this just rolling ball of, "How else can I get involved?" And you'll realize that just doing something and getting in the door will be what will jumpstart everything, just because you didn't wait and let the moment pass by without doing anything. You'll get inspired, and hopefully you can develop a consistent manner to keep going back. And I bet it's going to be one of the best things that ever happened to you.