Mackie Shilstone, the fitness guru and personal trainer to pro athletes including tennis ace Serena Williams and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, has a high tolerance for punishing workouts. He says the best way to train top athletes is to learn their sport and exercise alongside them.
“I become them—I’m a chameleon,” Mr. Shilstone says.
The 64-year-old cannot smash a serve like Ms. Williams. But when he is working out on the track, in the field or in the gym, Mr. Shilstone breaks down and analyzes the physical skills that are essential to his client’s game, and then builds a training program. The more he knows, he says, the better he can understand how hard to push them.
Ms. Williams has worked with Mr. Shilstone for seven years. “He knows his craft, he loves his craft,” she said in an interview in Toronto over the summer. “I don’t think anyone has more knowledge.”
Another client, former New Orleans Saints kicker Morten Andersen, who played for 25 years and retired in 2008 at age 48, credits his longevity to Mr. Shilstone’s demands. He said the trainer isn’t shy about using his age as a cudgel.
Mr. Shilstone says his capacity for suffering is as much mental as physical. “I tell people, ‘I’m trying to kill myself, and you’re trying to survive,’ ” he says. “That’s the difference.”
Mr. Shilstone was born in New Orleans and has lived there his entire life. His fitness obsession began at Tulane University, where he was an undersized, walk-on wide receiver trying to compete with bigger, faster athletes. When he’s not on the road, he works out six days a week, mostly at the famed Isidore Newman School, whose alumni include Mr. Manning and his brothers, Eli and Cooper.
Mr. Shilstone’s alarm goes off at 4:48 a.m. He pours a cup of coffee and spends an hour reading various technical journals. “I feel I have not started my day unless I’ve expanded my mind,” he says. He reads on paper, not on an electronic device, and with a pen in hand. “I like to underline,” he says. “I’m a detail freak.” He ticks off his vitals: 5-foot-8, 147 pounds, 10% body fat, blood pressure of 105/65 and a resting pulse rate between 42 and 48.
After Mr. Shilstone fuels up with amino acids and a protein shake from EAS Muscle Armor, he rides his bike for 12 minutes to the school, where he does one of three workouts in his rotation. Mondays and Thursdays, he does a CrossFit-style routine with lots of movement, running, jumping and stability-ball exercises; Tuesdays and Fridays are for a more traditional weight routine; and Wednesdays and Saturdays are for stretching and injury prevention. On Sunday, his day of rest, he rides his bike for 30 to 45 minutes.
Mr. Shilstone has no plans to cut back his workouts, though he recently asked his doctor if he should take a stress test. “He said, ‘Are you kidding me, Mackie?’ ” Mr. Shilstone recalls. “ ‘You do a stress test every day. You should have died a long time ago.’ ”
In his Monday/Thursday workout, Mr. Shilstone warms up with jump rope, static stretching and a dynamic stretch for his hips called Around the World, which involves standing on one leg and swinging the other leg over a football blocking dummy and back again. Then he’s off: 100 jump-rope reps, followed by one lap (about 330 yards) around the football field in 90 seconds or better. He repeats this sequence five times.
In the gym, Mr. Shilstone runs through 10 exercises, 20 reps each, with a stability ball. One, called a lower extremity oblique crunch, is challenging for many top athletes, he says. Mr. Shilstone starts on his back with his legs over the ball and then pulls the ball in as he lifts his rear end off the floor, with his knees going toward the ceiling and his hands crossed behind his head. He then lowers the ball to just above the floor, and repeats.
Mr. Shilstone moves on to medicine-ball throws and kettle-bell exercises. He’ll position himself between two benches and do reverse dips with a 20-pound dumbbell held between his legs. For these, he wears the Broncos wide receiver gloves that Mr. Manning gave him. There’s more, including chin-ups; lunges and rotations with resistance cords; squats and squat jumps; and jumping crossovers. Mr. Shilstone generally does exercises in 12 to 15 minute blocks for a total of an hour and 30 minutes of actual movement (excluding rests and walking). Then he stretches for 12 minutes and rides his bike home.
“I take it a little easy,” he says. “It takes me 15 minutes to get back.”
Breakfast is a blended drink of water, fruits, ascorbic acid tablets for vitamin C (5,000 milligrams), a teaspoon of green vegetable powder, two tablespoons of Bulgarian yogurt, 20 grams of whey protein isolate and a teaspoon of cod liver oil with vitamin D. He’ll also have a slice of rye toast with Omega-3 peanut butter. “My wife says I have no taste buds,” Mr. Shilstone says.
He takes 30 nutrients a day, such as methylfolate and Omega-3, and says he hasn’t eaten red meat in 35 years. He’ll snack on Quest bars or popcorn—“I’m a crunch person,” he says. His lunch is salmon or turkey with salad and water at the wellness program he runs at St. Charles Parish Hospital in New Orleans. “Everything is fresh—no junk, no mayonnaise,” he says.
Mr. Shilstone rides his bike for 20 minutes before a dinner of grilled chicken, fish or a turkey burger with green vegetables and a glass of white wine. He recently vacationed in Italy for 10 days; he says he jumped rope at 5:30 a.m. in the Piazza San Marco in Venice and didn’t have even a taste of tiramisu, gelato or pasta. “If I had to choose I’d rather drink a glass of olive oil,” Mr. Shilstone says. “My weakness is to have a couple of oatmeal cookies with green tea.”
Mr. Shilstone is a Nike coach and wears Nike Zoom sneakers, which cost around $110, with custom-made orthotics. He prefers sweat-wicking clothing and wears compression undershorts, tennis shorts and T-shirts. He uses a heart-rate monitor (he likes the Polar M400 GPS running watch, $239) and a non-weighted jump rope from Everlast ($28) with metal ball bearings in the handles for more speed.
“I rarely listen to music because I don’t need to be entertained,” Mr. Shilstone says. “I want to do what I’ve got to do and get out. I love my workout and I feel awful if I don’t have it, but I don’t live for my workout. I work out to live.”
View original article here.