In his first four NFL seasons, Jon Beason made an astounding 540 tackles. Then the injury bug stung him, derailing his 2011 and 2012 seasons. But after taking a new approach to how he trains and prepares his body, the veteran linebacker again surpassed 100 tackles during the 2013 season. We spoke with Beason at the Arnold Classic RSP Nutrition booth to learn what he did to get back to the top.
STACK: Do you have a specific pre-game routine?
Jon Beason: I would go from being a laid back, chill dude on Friday to really serious before a game in college. I’d have my headphones on and wouldn’t talk to anyone. But I felt like I played stiff.
So one week in college, I went out and I was like, "man, I am going to have fun, be loose and crack jokes." It’s a party out there—you’re making plays and having fun. So I try not to give way to superstition. I am going to show up and have a great time. I know when I have to focus.
STACK: What do you do after a game, and what does it feel like Monday morning?
JB: Usually your adrenaline is still pumping. Whether you played well or you didn’t, you are still kind of on this high. You’re just trying to wind down. You’re sore a little bit the next day, but Tuesday is when atrophy sets in and you are hurting.
On Tuesday you are just trying to make it in. Everyone is off, so you come in on your own merit. The best thing to do is get a workout in. Unfortunately, you want to run because it flushes the body. You may get a massage, hit the ice tubs or take a contrast bath [hot and cold]. If you need treatment, that’s when you get it. You don’t feel so great at practice on Wednesday, but you start feeling better as the week goes on.
STACK: What does your training program look like?
JB: I have a great trainer in Pete Bommarito down in Aventura, Florida. We alternate upper- and lower-body days throughout the week. On Wednesday, we do our same active movements in the pool to take some stress of the joints.
Monday is a linear speed day where everything is straight ahead, but it’s over-speed. And then Thursday is specific to your position. I go and train with the defensive backs because I want that footwork.
Friday is our extended cardio day, where we run 200s, but we call them play drives. We go from a long sustained run to a short 30 or 40 where it’s quick.
At the same time, I like to do my own thing at night. I may double up on a lift or run 110s on the beach. It’s to the point where I’m almost paranoid, because I don’t know what someone like Patrick Willis is doing.
STACK: We heard you spin. Is that true?
JB: Yes, I’m in spin class. In our sport, you always try to get your body back to normal, especially after an injury. So you need to modify your workouts to where you’re not going to stress it, but get some work at the same time. So for me, it’s great to get a secondary workout coming off of a knee surgery.
STACK: What are some of the things you learned about training smarter?
JB: I was always trying to get ahead of the competition, do more and train longer. But that wears on the body because our sport is high impact. A guy like me who’s had some injuries from football should stay away from things like CrossFit. It’s a great workout, because you feel like you accomplished something, but I know I can’t do that. I went three and a half years and didn’t miss a snap. I practiced the same way I played. And all of a sudden, I wake up and my Achilles is bothering me. My knees are bothering me. So learning how to recover is huge.
STACK: What have you learned about recovery?
JB: In my first game back from my Achilles injury, I went out there and was actually upset because I wasn’t in the best possible shape. Not because I didn’t want to train, but because I was forced to relax and let the injury heal. And I went out there and was winded and said to myself, "man, I always pride myself on being in the best shape so I can play at a high level the longest."
But then I hit my second wind. It was more mental. I believed in myself and in my ability. So, I don’t have to actually go and run miles after I train or do this and do that. I can do what my trainer tells me to do and then spend all of my time recovering in terms of nutrition and rest. Knowing when to stop is the most important thing.
STACK: What do you eat on a regular basis?
JB: It’s funny, the meal plan never changes from team to team. We eat four hours before a game. You’ll have your pasta and broccoli for complex carbs, and breakfast will be out there for the guys who want that. I’ll eat a little chicken, but not too much because I want to actually be hungry when the game starts.
STACK: What’s your favorite food? Do you have a cheat meal?
JB: I am not a big sweet guy. If we go to dinner, you will never hear me ask for dessert. I don’t crave it whatsoever, but I love to eat. I would say my favorite meal is probably surf and turf. But, if I am cheating, I want fried chicken. Anything fried, really. I want macaroni and cheese. I want pizza. All of the fat greasy stuff is right up my alley.
STACK: What have you learned from your seven years in the NFL and four years of college ball that could have helped you back in high school?
JB: I was fortunate that I had people around me like my mom and head coach who taught me about hard work and doing what’s required. My high school coach would always say, "you can do everything right, have great talent, go to class on time, work hard and win every game, but it still just gives you a chance to be a champion at the end of the day." If you don’t do those things, you simply don't have it.
So for me, it’s about setting small goals and being in the moment. A lot of times I was like, "I want to win a Super Bowl." Well, we all want to win a Super Bowl, but how are you going to get there? So, I just take it day by day. I ask myself what I did to make sure that I’m better than the competition every day.