Finding the right fit
Pro football legend and media favorite Michael Strahan works hard at his health and wellness, his growing career and his devotion to the important things in life.
The twists and turns that make up Michael Strahan’s life and career form a decidedly unpredictable path. From chubby child to professional athlete, television personality and Pro Football Hall of Fame member, he has learned well the lessons of physical fitness, family and hard work.
To appreciate Strahan’s journey is to understand that the 42-year-old was not always the fit, ferocious athlete we know him as today. Growing up, his brothers would tease him about his weight. The taunting inspired him to work toward a transformation. When paired with constant encouragement from his father, Strahan was able to take control of his health at an early age. “I guess there are two ways you can go you can look at it and get mad about it, upset about it and do nothing, or you can get upset about it and do something. It made me get more involved in watching what I was eating. But most of all it made me get out and exercise,” says Strahan.
Strahan’s father, Gene, was dedicated to staying active with him, but once he saw his sons devotion to getting fit, he offered to work out with him daily. Gene created weight programs for Michael and they would jog together for miles. Neither knew where all the athletic training would lead their only motivation was to take control of their health.
As a child, Strahan attended military school in Germany and later a small Christian academy. He likes to joke about graduating in a class of two and finishing second in his class academically. The school didn’t have organized football, but after four years of father-son workouts, Gene saw his potential. He told his son that he was sending him to Houston to play football his senior year of high school, and the plan was to earn a college scholarship. Michael says he was so naive that he eagerly agreed to the move; he had no doubt he would achieve the challenge his father had laid out in front of him.
Strahan got a football scholarship from Texas Southern University, earned All-American honors as a defensive end and was eventually drafted into the National Football League by the New York Giants. Predictably, the hard work continued. “I felt like I gave everything I had for 15 years,” he says. “I never cheated myself in the weight room, I never cheated myself on the practice field and I never cheated myself in the game.”
Winning the Super Bowl with the Giants in 2007 was the ultimate career achievement for Strahan. While still at the top of his game, he made the unselfish decision to leave the NFL. “I was ready to spend time with my family, I was ready to take time off and relax,” says Strahan. “Physically, I felt great I still feel like I’m 25 years old. I didn’t want to do something that my heart wasn’t into anymore, because I didn’t want to cheapen the game.”
Unsure of his next move, Strahan essentially fell into a new career in the media. He admits it was never something he chose to pursue, but rather something that seemed to choose him. “Being in New York and playing on a stage with so many cameras around you, it’s almost a form of forced media training,” he says. “It became a way to show more personality than just what people saw, which was an athlete strapping on a helmet and hitting people.”
Strahans television personality has evolved over time on “Live! With Kelly and Michael,” his morning talk show with Kelly Ripa. During the fall, he also serves as a football analyst on “Fox NFL Sunday.” While football and television might seem like wildly different careers, being part of a team is one commonality he appreciates in both. “It’s not you by yourself,” Strahan says. “You’re not the only one that makes things successful. “You’re not the only one that makes things fail. You have to depend on other people and learn to trust other people to help you achieve a goal that you all want to achieve, which is to be No. 1, to win.”
Clearly, Strahan’s adult life has always moved at a fast pace. That kind of schedule, both at home and away, powers his motivation to stay healthy through consistent diet, sleep and exercise. To Strahan, movement is the key to his wellness today and 30 years from now. “I’m just so used to being active; it is not by chance, it is by choice,” he says. “Working out is definitely a part of my life. It is definitely in my head and is something I can’t stop doing because I don’t want to stop. I feel great when I do it.”
Today, Strahan works out to maintain functionality and strength in his knees, back and hips rather than gain muscle mass. Before “Live! with Kelly and Michael,” he hits the gym for a cardio routine that consists of a seven-exercise cycle including core exercises, a rowing machine and jump rope. On some days he includes an afternoon workout of more traditional weight training. Strahan says that mixing up his routine is paramount to his regimen; it keeps him mentally engaged and physically challenged.
Used to hearing that 40 is old and he should be slowing down, Strahan doesn’t allow those doubts to creep into his head. His attitude is that if you believe those statements, they will become your reality. “You put it in your head that those are the things that are supposed to happen to you, and for a lot people it does happen, because you let those things get to you,” he says. “But you have to know your body and you have to know that you’re special and you’re different from everybody else. As long as you take care of yourself, you don’t have to worry about those things in my opinion.”
While maintaining a healthy eating regimen, Strahan has found that the better his diet, the less he craves unhealthy foods. His go-to foods include turkey bacon, oatmeal, egg whites, chicken and fish. “I try to eat a lot of lean food, healthy food, food that gives my body energy and helps my body instead of foods that break my body down,” he says. “I really don’t avoid any food. If I want something bad enough, Ill have it; Ill just eat it in moderation.”
Regardless of his past and present career commitments, Strahan keeps a focus on those things that matter to him. He admits that through different stages of life, those things have seemingly evolved.
“My true goals in life have changed, says Strahan. I used to be more business-oriented as far as being successful, seeing what else I can accomplish and do professionally. However, as I’ve gotten older, its been more about taking care of my family. At some point, if you want to be happy, you have to figure out what happiness really means to you.”