3 Daily Tips An NFL Hall Of Famer Swears By To Feel Healthier Than Ever
"I'm 55 years old, and I'm in the best shape of my life," says NFL Hall of Famer and broadcaster Troy Aikman on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. Physically, Aikman has always been fit—he's a former Dallas Cowboys quarterback, after all—but he considers mental and emotional fitness just as important for overall health and well-being (a sentiment we certainly share here at mbg).
Below, Aikman shares the simple daily practices he swears by to feel healthier than ever, physically, mentally, and emotionally:
He follows a pegan diet.
Aikman is a huge fan of the pegan diet, an eating plan coined by mbg Collective member Mark Hyman, M.D. We have a full guide to the pegan diet, if you're interested, but here's the gist: It's a plant-heavy diet that doesn't totally write off animal products; think of vegetables taking center stage, with meat as a side dish. It's a combination of a paleo and vegan diet—hence the term, pegan. "I tried a vegan diet briefly, but I've always found that my body responded favorably to [animal protein] over the years," Aikman says. "So this diet really hits the sweet spot for me."
He typically eats meat once a day—usually pasture-raised chicken, grass-fed beef, or wild-caught fish—for lunch and dinner. "I do intermittent fasting, so I have a big lunch at noon and eat dinner at 5 p.m.," he notes, and that usually fills him up for the day. "It's pretty surprising that for someone my size, I don't feel deprived," he notes. If he is feeling hungry before bed, he'll nosh on some organic granola—we certainly approve, since magnesium-rich nuts and seeds can help set you up for a great night's sleep.
That doesn't mean he can't enjoy a drink every now and then—Aikman believes alcohol can be part of a healthy lifestyle. "I believe balance is important," he says. "I think beer brings people together; beer is great to celebrate life's victories." Plus, you don't have to sacrifice your nutrition principles to enjoy a refreshing glass of beer—Aikman's product, EIGHT, is made with 100% organic grains, no adjuncts or fillers, and the flavor is unbeatable.
He has a daily meditation practice.
Says Aikman, exercising his mind is just as important as exercising his body. He swears by a 30-minute morning meditation right when he wakes up, as it helps center his emotions and prepare him for any situations in which he would feel uneasy. While guided meditations can be helpful if you don't know where to start, "I just tend to like the silence as much as anything," Aikman says.
He takes the time to focus on his breath, but he doesn't beat himself up if his mind starts to wander. "As long as I'm mindful of the thoughts that I'm having, I just observe them and get curious about why I'm thinking about those things, but I don't get lost in the thought," he notes. Many people might think that your mind must be completely blank while you meditate, but that doesn't have to be the case; if you've been intimidated by a regular meditation routine in the past, perhaps try Aikman's gentle practice. "I'm glad I discovered [meditation] when I did," he says. "I wish I had found it back when I was in my 30s."
He challenges his brain.
While we're on the subject of exercising your mind, Aikman finds it important to challenge his brain as he grows older. His days on the football field may be over, but he has found new ways to fulfill his purpose and keep his brain sharp: broadcasting. "There's so much recall that's required," he explains. "After a game, I'm able to recall information, players, or whatever [stats] it might be." That way, he keeps his brain constantly engaged and learning new skills.
"There's a lot of lifestyle choices we can all take on that can either help with cognitive function or hurt it," he adds. Neuroscientists say it becomes even more important to challenge the brain around your purpose as you age, so we would consider this particular lifestyle choice A+ for cognitive longevity.
Feeling your best goes beyond nutrition and exercise—mental and emotional resilience is just as crucial. Aikman now feels more vibrant than ever, thanks to these three holistic techniques. Don't worry, we didn't forget about the former football pro's fitness routine—you can find that (along with his go-to meals) here.
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.