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Get Fit Installment #14: Program Recap

Posted Dec 24, 2013

For those who have taken part in the UnitedHealthcare Get Fit! initiative this season, the final installment offers a look back at all the helpful advice provided by the Buccaneers’ panel of experts

[Editor's Note: Throughout the 2013 NFL season, a rotating panel of experts associated with the Buccaneers provided advice to those who have taken the UnitedHealthcare Get Fit! Pledge.  As those participating Buc fans attempted to start and maintain a workout regimen and adopt healthier lifestyle habits, they heard from the team’s sports dietitian, Kevin Luhrs, on the topics of nutrition, diet adjustments and supplements; from Director of Sports Medicine and Performance Todd Toriscelli on avoiding injuries, recovery and long-term body maintenance; from Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Jay Butler on starting and varying an exercise program; from linebacker Dekoda Watson on diet and motivation; and from Buccaneers Cheerleader Karen, a certified trainer, on types of exercise programs and more.  To cap this season’s Get Fit! program we provide a cap of all the advice offered during the season.  Visit the UnitedHealthcare Get Fit! Initiative page to learn more about the program.]

While the Get Fit! initiative was designed to coincide with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2013 season, the overarching purpose was to help participants adopt the sort of health habits that will have a lasting impact on their lives.  The Get Fit! journey of fitness, health and activity was designed to continue long past the end of this season.

- Get Fit! participants got advice from a panel of Buc experts to help with diet and exercise
While the five experts on our panel had different areas of expertise, they all agreed on two important parts of starting and maintaining a fitness regimen: Defining your goal, and creating a specific plan of attack.  Is your goal to lose weight?  Tone your body?  Add muscle?  Your approach will vary depending upon what you want to achieve.  And whether you’re working on changing your diet, establishing a workout regimen or building in the necessary recovery time, you will achieve much better results if you first write down a specific plan and then stick to it.

Kevin Luhrs started the program in the first week by stressing the above points and then making such basic diet-alteration advice as getting less calorie-dense foods like fruits and vegetables more involved, focusing on hydration and not skipping meals.  Luhrs also advised keeping an accurate account of what you are eating throughout the day.  Later in the program, Luhrs returned with some added guidance for those who had made significant adjustments but weren’t necessarily seeing the results they wanted.  A good portion of that advice had to do with keeping an exact account of one’s diet.  “Chances are, you only need to make some small changes, but you'll need to figure out what those changes are, and you can do that by writing your diet down on paper,” wrote Luhrs.  “Make a journal of what you're doing and go from there.  You need to know, without guessing, what you're eating and how many calories you are taking in.  There's a common misconception that just because you're eating healthy food you're going to lose weight.  That is absolutely not true.  You must consider portion sizes, too.”  Finally, Luhrs returned for a third round of advice that focused on the caution one should exercise when considering adding supplements to a fitness regimen.

Jay Butler handled the second installment and advised participants on starting a workout regimen.  His recommendations included understanding that it would take some time to get the desired results and that choosing an exercise that you enjoy will greatly help in sticking with it.  Butler also gave some specific advice as to how to start and gradually develop a strength-training program, for those interested in doing so.  Butler’s second round of advice, later in the season, was aimed at those who had started a workout program but, at this point, probably needed to vary their approach somewhat.  “It's a good idea to keep your workout fresh and frequently change what you do,” wrote.  “You can't always do the same thing, not only because different workouts will develop different muscle groups but also because, mentally, you need that variety to stay interested and engaged.  You'll see better gains with variety, because your body is going to adapt to what demands you put on it.  You need to challenge it in new ways or you'll find yourself stuck at the same level.”

Fans who had taken advice from Luhrs and Butler in getting started then heard in Week Three from a true expert ways to avoid the types of injuries at the beginning of a program that can interrupt or even end that regimen.  Todd Toriscelli introduced the S.A.I.D Principle, which stands for "Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands."  Toriscelli explained that your body will immediately begin adapting to any new demands you place on it – for instance, your cardiovascular system will become more efficient in burning oxygen for fuel if you establish a running program – and that while this is a good thing, it must also be accounted for.  “Knowing that, the key to staying healthy is allowing your body to adapt to the changes it is trying to make, because those changes will only happen at a certain pace,” advised Toriscelli.  “What happens to a lot of people who start an exercise program is that they get through the initial soreness and aches and pains that come with exercising for the first time in a while and they start to reap the benefits of their work.  That's a good thing, of course, but some people will then get a little too excited about their progress and increase the volume of their work too quickly, whether it's adding mileage to their runs or weight to their lifting program.  They increase their volume at a weight faster than the body can adapt to it, and that can lead to problems.”  Toriscelli’s next installment focused on “body maintenance,” offering suggestions on keeping your body ready for regular exercise.  The advice here included post-workout stretching, daily hydration and, for those who had the time and inclination, massages.  Finally, Toriscelli returned for a third chapter on promoting recovery, explaining that the actual gains from a workout program actually occur when the body is at rest, and especially while sleeping.  Part of Toriscelli’s advice in this column was to avoid overtraining by building an “unload week” into your workout regimen.

Karen, the Buccaneers Cheerleader and certified public trainer, joined in to give her advice on choosing the right type of workout for each person.  She gave suggestions on working out alone, with a group or even with a trainer, and directed participants toward apps that could help with tracking running and exercise programs.  “No matter what option you choose, from running alone to getting a personal trainer, the most important thing is that you create a routine that you enjoy and stick with it,” said Karen.  “You have to be in it for the long run, and you have to make it something that you're not dreading.  You have to be in it for life.  You need to make it a habit, like brushing your teeth.”  Karen later returned with recommendations on such natural supplements as multivitamins, probiotics and essential fatty acids.

Throughout the program, participants got a lot of relatable advice, as well as personal encouragement, from Buccaneers linebacker Dekoda Watson.  Watson actually started out by focusing on nutrition, suggesting that this was “probably 70% of the whole effort” when trying to get fit.  Watson finds that it helps him to plan ahead at the beginning of a week, especially because he believes in having a series of small, healthy meals or snacks throughout the day.  Watson’s next piece of advice was stated in four simple words: “Run your own race.”  Said Watson: “Don't fall into the trap of going to the gym and comparing yourself to everyone there.  If you go into this trying to match what somebody else is doing, it can throw you off track.  When I say, ‘Run your own race,’ I mean just worry about yourself and what you're trying to accomplish within yourself.  Don't try to do something the same way another person is doing it and expect to get the exact same results.  When it's all said and done, your body may not react in the same way that another person's body does to a certain exercise or diet or overall approach.”  Finally, Watson returned with the last words from the panel of experts, offering guidance on taking new lifestyle habits and making them last beyond the Get Fit! program.  “Let me say it again: You don't have to be perfect,” said the eternally upbeat linebacker.  “Just continue to live this new healthy lifestyle you've adopted, and continue to feel good about yourself.  Don't compare yourself to anybody else, don't measure your success by what somebody else is doing.  You've already succeeded.  Now take that success and make it pay off for the rest of your life.”

- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and UnitedHealthcare