Legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman says that, in March, when the pandemic was just beginning, he decided he was going to get in the best shape of his life. Then he laughs, catching himself.
“When you say you’re in the best shape of your life, usually what that means is that you’re old,” the now 54-year-old adds with a chuckle. “You don’t hear 20-year-olds saying, ‘I’m in the best shape of my life!’ But I feel really good. I think it’s as healthy as I’ve ever been, physically, mentally and emotionally.”
If he is indeed in the best shape of his life—and he looks like he might be—that would be quite a feat considering that, in the 1990s, he won three Super Bowls in four years as the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. Forced to retire in 2000 because of back pain after a 12-year career, it’s not clear that Aikman has spent any time in the intervening years out of shape. (Thanks, in large part, to a workout regimen that, until two years ago, kept him working out 360 days a year.) Keeping tabs has been relatively easy given that he’s been on TV since 2001 as part of FOX Sports’ NFL broadcast team. Now the lead analyst, he’ll call this Sunday’s NFC Championship game between the Tampa Bay Bucs’ Tom Brady and the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, two quarterbacks who’ll eventually join Aikman in the Hall of Fame.
GQ caught up with Aikman earlier this week to see how he’s stayed fit into his fifties, what he’d change about his workout and diet routine in his 20s, and how he’s adjusted to exercise during the pandemic.
For Real-Life Diet, GQ talks to athletes, celebrities, and everyone in between about their diet, exercise routines, and pursuit of wellness. Keep in mind that what works for them might not necessarily be healthy for you.
GQ: I don’t think I’ve ever seen you out of shape. Have you been in good shape since you stopped playing?
Troy Aikman: I’ve always worked out. I’ve always been pretty strict about it, and worked out pretty hard. So that hasn’t changed. My diet has. I’ve gotten really strict since the quarantining started last March. I felt that people were going to go one of two ways: they were going to be in the best shape of their life or they’re gonna be in the worst shape of their life. I decided that I was gonna be in the best shape of my life. So I’ve just tried to take it to a little bit of a different level for me. I’m eating a lot more fruits and vegetables, whole foods, and a lot of fish and lean meats. I feel really good.
When you say super strict, are there certain things you’ve cut out?
I love peanut M&M’s—I’ve got a big bowl right here on my table in my office—and vanilla ice cream and oatmeal cookies. I haven’t had any since last March. I cut out all sweets. I bought a juicer about that about a month ago, because I read how a celery juice was a big thing. I’ve been doing that each morning and I’ve really noticed a huge difference in the way that I feel.
How does it make you feel?
I’ve had a sinus issue for years. I’ve had a couple of surgeries. My doctor gave me a new antibiotic just a couple of weeks ago. I did that and it cleared up some of the issues within a couple of days. I didn’t want to stay on the antibiotics. That’s when I was told about celery juice, that it might be a preventative deal going forward. So that’s why I got the juicer and started doing celery juice. It’s made a huge difference. I never really had an answer for it.
What a typical day of eating and a week of working out?
I do the juice in the morning. At lunch, turkey chili is my general go-to. And then in the evenings, I’ll have a big dinner relatively early. Usually around 5:00. That’s when I eat a lot of vegetables: broccoli, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, asparagus. And fish, things like that.
For my workouts, I lift four days a week. As for cardio, I’m 54 now and I feel like I may have been overtrained in the past. I’m trying to take more days off. It used to be, in a year—365 days—I would maybe take five days off from cardio. Then I started taking Sundays off during the football season before broadcasting games. I would just use that as a day of rest. I found it to be helpful. Now, I’m mixing in more days off and not beating myself up so much mentally when I do it. I’ve just read more and more about how you need to give your body a break, and rest is important.