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No brain, no gain

Written by: Cary Castagna, QMI Agency
Feb. 1, 2013

Jay DeMerit doesn’t just use his head on the soccer pitch. The veteran defender with Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps also exercises some cranial fortitude when he’s working out. That is, he knows the critical difference between training hard and training smart. And the older DeMerit gets, the smarter he trains.

“I’m 33. I don’t need to be running sprints with the 20-year-olds every day because that’s going to make my body break down,” he tells QMI Agency in a phone interview from Vancouver.

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“I just need to make sure I’m doing the right maintenance on my body to make sure I’m on the field every day, but not necessarily going as hard because I don’t necessarily need that at this time. I just need to make sure I’m out there and competing, and the rest takes care of itself.” It may sound cliche, but DeMerit says the key to keeping fit is “knowing your body” — the good, the bad and the ugly.

“Over a 10-year (pro) career, you develop certain problem areas. For me, it’s my hips and groin,” explains the native of Green Bay, Wisc. “It’s just knowing your body and recognizing when maybe you’ve worked too hard and maybe you need to take the foot off the pedal a little bit and not train as hard the next day because you feel like you’re going to break down.”

The Whitecaps’ team captain, a solid 185 pounds at six-foot-one, is currently preparing for his third season in Vancouver, which officially begins March 2.

Preseason training kicked off Jan. 20, starting with two-a-days for the first couple weeks: skill work in the mornings and fitness training in the afternoons.

The preseason afternoon sessions can be rather hellish.

“It’s literally the worst day in the world,” laughs DeMerit. “You do a lot of sprints, a lot of interval training, where you’re doing long periods of workouts but with short bursts — 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off — for a half-hour period because soccer is a lot of that type of fitness that you’re going to need through a whole 90-minute game.”

When the member of the U.S. national team lifts weights, he opts for relatively light weights and high reps. “I don’t need to get stronger. I just need to stay fit,” he notes. “We’re trying to produce endurance muscles, not just short-burst muscles.” In the offseason, DeMerit has been known to train with his fiancee, Olympic ski cross gold medallist Ashleigh McIvor.

The sports power couple recently signed on as ambassadors for rara.com, a new music streaming service.

The site, which boasts millions of songs, features a 20-track playlist compiled by the fitness-conscious lovebirds. As DeMerit explains, he often uses music to ratchet up his workout intensity. “I went for a jog the other day and forgot my headphones, and it was the most boring 25-minute run I’ve ever had in my life,” he adds.

“Normally, I have my headphones in. It’s amazing how a 30-minute workout seems like nothing after listening to music. But when you’re in that pain threshold of trying to work out and you don’t have anything to push you into that next level, it does make it harder.

“It depends on everyone’s individual choice of what music takes them to that intensity level. For us, it’s a place we need to be at in order to be our best.”

So smart training, it would seem, also entails remembering to bring headphones.

 

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