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5 Things Aging Athletes Can Learn from Tom Brady

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By Paul Ruggiero
CTS Triathlon Coach

You’re not lukewarm on him. There’s no in between here. You love him or you hate him. He’s possibly the most polarizing person in sports and for the third year in a row, and fourth year out of five, he’s led his team to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady, at the tender age of 41, not only has his team on the verge of another Super Bowl Championship, he beat an opponent just about half his age to win the AFC Championship. Tom has University of Michigan sweatshirts older than Patrick Mahomes.

People are YELLING at TV screens and ranting to sports radio talk show hosts. Look – I’m a guy from Buffalo, NY and hating Tom Brady and the Patriots was imprinted on my DNA. But as a coach and an athlete, I have respect and admire him. Love him or hate him, Tom Brady practices things all athletes can learn from. And as aging athletes, how can we learn from what he’s done to stay on top?

Work Ethic

Don’t get out worked. Ever. Tom Brady was drafted after 198 other players in the 2000 draft. Being selected behind all those guys made him work harder to prove he belonged in the game, and he never gave up that work ethis. He likes being the underdog and thrives on being told he can’t do something. He’s never going to be outworked. Tom demands to take every snap at practice. He’s obsessive, and carries around notes in his pocket about how to throw a football so he can always be reminded of the basics and to never overlook the small steps. He’s first in the gym, last to leave. If a player arrives at 6:30 am, Tom has already been there for a few hours and greets them with a “Good afternoon.”

FOR YOU: Don’t get outworked. Be obsessive about effort. Construct your days for optimal training.

Body

Brady micromanages everything. Every calorie, every ingredient, and right down to the time he eats his meals. He’s heavy on vegetables and lean protein and stays away from alcohol, caffeine, diary and sugar. Avocado ice cream is his guilty pleasure.

FOR YOU – Think about what you’re eating, and when. Sweat the details. If you’re making changes, make one small change today and another small change next week. They start to add up, but they have to be sustainable. Remember, garbage calories in, garbage training out.

Mind

Tom’s in bed at 8:30 pm. He knows quality sleep can improve reaction time, increase overall health, increase focus and accuracy, and prevent mental errors. He naps. He solves a series of brain puzzles before bed. And he almost has zero screen time (aside from studying) in his life.

FOR YOU – Sleep more! Besides the above-mentioned sleep benefits, late at night people make poorer choices with food and alcohol. Shutting it down on the early side can reduce those temptations. Throughout the day, take time to rest when you can. Think about your craft or sport – in a positive way – before going to bed.

Confidence

Tom doesn’t doubt himself OR his team. Rather than listen to haters, he uses them as fuel. When drafted as a backup and trying to make the team, he approached the team owner, looked him in the eye and told him drafting him was the best choice he ever made. Then he worked hard every day to back up those words. He’s humble in giving thanks to others. He’s the first to thank teammates for his success.

FOR YOU – Don’t doubt yourself. Find the fuel or reason why you’re trying training and put it in the forefront. Focus on the process, because your confidence comes from knowing you have put in the work and are prepared.Tom uses his draft pick, and being told he wouldn’t make it, as motivation. What’s yours? Find your why, and then be relentless in pursuing it.

Longevity

Every season is predicted to be Tom’s last. Every summer the columnists and commentators declare he’s too old to perform at the top of the sport: He should retire, what else does he have to prove? He should exit on top, with his legacy intact.

Tom is the only person who knows when it will be time to stop. As an aging athlete, and a coach to aging athletes, there are societal pressures to stop pushing ourselves. Physically, our peers are slowing down, easing into their recliners, and succumbing to lethargy. And they want us to join them! Professionally, our peers are retiring or cutting back, and the younger generation views us as dinosaurs!

FOR YOU – Forget everyone else’s narrative for your life and your activities. If you have the passion for your work or your sport, there is no reason to stop. It is also important to remember that once your stop it will be difficult to start back up or reach the level you have already achieved.


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Comments 12

  1. Kudos to TPB but just for once can we get a similar article about someone who can’t afford to eat the most perfect diet, isn’t paid to be in optimal health and fitness, can’t afford coaches, nutritionists, etc?
    Maybe it’s just me but trying to match or even take some learnings from this is incredibly difficult. I don’t have the cadre of support Tom has or his resources.
    Yes, I do realize that if I improved my diet and training by 50% I’d more than meet and exceed what I think I could do. But managing that by myself ain’t easy.
    Apologies for the complaining I just loathe aging and having little to no support in trying to reach my fitness goals.

  2. I alpine ski hard, real hard. And always thought I was pretty good for a 59 y o. Last week I got totally schooled (and will be forever grateful for it) by a 75 year old dentist from Connecticut. He showed me age is only a number, if that is how you choose to live your life.

  3. Unfortunately, it’s statistically likely Mr. Brady will eventually suffer from some form of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) no matter his current regimen. He apparently denies this, but that seems be be the so-called optimism bias at work. One may emulate his lifestyle, as it were, but there is no reason to believe he or she will enjoy the same benefits as Mr. Brady. Most of us are victims of our own magical thinking.

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  5. Great Article! I will be 57 in a few weeks and last year was a breakout year for me as it relates to cycling. Over the last two years I lost 97 lbs. and changed how I eat and what I put inside my body. I have never been a great cyclist mainly due to my weight. However, I had a few good results as a Cat 5 mainly as a sprinter.
    Last year my palmares improved 10 fold. I raced almost all of my club races and at least 4 USC sanctioned races. Every club race I came in 3rd or better with the majority of the riders being half my age. The USC races (3 road and 1 MTB) I competed with Cat 3, 4 and 5 category racers (we raced all together) and finished 40th, 26th and 10th overall respectively out of 55 riders. Our average speeds were 25 – 26 MPH. I don’t know about you but for me that is fast. The 1st MTB race I did (Cat 3) I came in 3rd.
    Now, these results were based on a plethora of training and weight loss. Most importantly, I basically followed all of the same guidelines as Mr. Brady. Mind you, I am a “Time Crunch Cyclist” and not a professional athlete. However, all things are proportionate as is training for a specific race.
    I am a true believer in the TCC because it really works for my work/life balance. The only difference is that I DO log everything I eat, contrary to what Chris Carmichael says that it is not practical and/or sustainable. I am not saying CC is wrong by any means, I am just saying that it does work for me especially when I have excellent results in a race, I want to know what I ate the night before.
    Whatever it is you focus your training on, you must approach your endeavors from a macro mindset and then subdivide in micro levels. Hope this helps.👍🇺🇸🚵‍♂️

  6. Tom Brady is truly the GOAT Eagles fan here and so happy the Eagles finally beat him last year in the SB I will be 75 next month and still cycle hard and do strength training in my gym I won all 3 gold medals in Delaware Senior Olympics and broke the record for the 40 K by 5 minutes The reason is that I trained hard and got help from Chris C which really made a difference Don’t Let age slow you down Clint Eastwood said it best “Dont Let the old man in” and it became a country song He is 88 👏

  7. I put my body, mind and spirit to the plow and I do not look back. I love my outdoor sports and I intend to cycle, run and cross country ski until my legs and arms fall off.

  8. Great article and advice – bottom line for me anyway is not to be on any one else’s timeline – it’s my life and I’m going to live it as I see fit and not tied to anyone else’s idea of how I should approach life, work and training if that means slowing down because I’m at an age where a lot of people decide that slowing down is right for them. That’s just not for me – too much to do and too much fun to experience.

  9. I agree with Ed Devine. As a father for the first time, aged 60, it will be important for my daughter, and for me, that I am in better shape than her friend’s parents. It might seem a crass reason but whatever it takes….

  10. I’m doing all this already. I keep checking my direct deposit and it is a little short. My wife keeps rolling over hoping for the improvements in looks to arrive. However, nothing yet!

    Any suggestions?
    🙂

    Great reminder! Thanks

  11. Nice Article! I appreciate reading stories of people who are disciplined, focused, successful and achieve their goals by adhering to the principles of a positive mental attitude (PMA).

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