NFL All-Pro trains in Truckee
Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher didn’t choose Truckee as a high altitude training ground because he needed to get in shape or felt like he had something to prove.
He did it because he was tired of his usual offseason routine.
“I just wanted to do something different,” said Urlacher, who has already proved his athletic durability by playing in all 64 Bears games since his 2000 Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign. “I get tired of doing the same thing all the time. A lot of Olympic athletes train in high altitudes, so I wanted to check it out this year.”
After a month of training in Truckee from June 19 to July 22, Urlacher’s goal was to enter Bears training camp on July 27 in better physical shape than year’s past, a scary thought for NFL offenses.
“The first week wasn’t very fun,” he said, “but after I got adjusted, it’s been better every week, and I feel like I’m in better shape.”
The benefit of high altitude training is to increase the blood oxygen carrying capacity in the body by increasing red blood cell concentration.
“What happens is your body starts producing more red blood cells, so that you can take in more oxygen,” explained Urlacher’s personal trainer Chip Smith. “So when you go down to sea level, you’re sucking in tons of oxygen and you don’t get fatigued.”
Urlacher added, “The real test is Wednesday when we start practice. I should be able to get back in the huddle and not even be tired, but we’ll see.”
Since before he was drafted by Chicago in the first round as the ninth pick out of University of New Mexico, Urlacher’s offseason routine has consisted of traveling to Atlanta to train with Smith, founder and president of Competitive Edge Sports (CES) and one of the most respected speed and strength instructors in the United States, especially among NFL athletes.
“I’m the largest trainer of NFL talent in the country,” Smith said. “But Brian’s the only client that I have that I would be willing to go and spend a month away from my family (with). I love him like a son. Plus not many players that are Pro Bowl players want to do what he’s done at the same level and intensity.”
The gist of CES’s training methods are a combination of sprint techniques, strength and flexibility training combined with putting athletes on a strict, high-protein diet. CES has helped Urlacher to become a four-time Pro Bowler who set a Bears rookie record with eight sacks in 2000.
Smith has developed his affection for Urlacher over a five-year period since Urlacher sought his help to prepare him for the 2000 NFL Draft.
“When he first came to me he weighed 235 and ran a 4.69 (40-yard dash). When he left six weeks later he weighed 262 and ran a 4.49,” Smith said.
The father of two collegiate football players, Smith’s connections to the game are strong. His devotion to Urlacher was also strong in a four-day a week, three hours a day, month-long high altitude training session that lasted nearly a month in the small town of Truckee.
Smith kept a diary of Urlacher’s training status, and by monitoring his weight, the results prove Urlacher’s experiment with high altitude training has been successful.
“When he came he was 256 pounds and he was 6.9 percent body fat,” Smith said. “After two weeks, he was 255.3 pounds and 5.2 percent body fat. For the month, we think he’s lost another pound, so he’s probably lost five pounds of fat, but he’s maintained his weight. He looks skinny for 255 pounds. It’s amazing.”
One of Smith’s goals for Urlacher is to have muscular endurance and aerobic endurance at the same time, he said. Before the high altitude training, Smith broke down four game films so he could simulate active and resting time over a four-quarter NFL game. A simulated quarter might include 10 exercises in 35 minutes, with a 25-second rest time between repetitions that represents huddle time.
Smith also documented Urlacher’s heart rate and said he can burn as much as 2,400 calories every two hours during his workouts. That means a lot of eating has to be done.
“On a daily basis, he was taking in about 5,300 calories. Every three hours, he’s gotta eat, and the biggest thing is protein ” drinking a protein shake or eating steak, or fish or chicken,” Smith continued. “We do that every three hours probably six times a day. He’s done a lot of eating this summer, but he’s maintained his weight, which is what we’re trying to do.”
A Fox Sports news crew stayed with Smith and Urlacher and spent two days filming a special feature that will air on Sep. 6.
Besides working out four days a week from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Urlacher said he had his share of fun when he wasn’t exhausted from training.
“We went rafting, we went fishing; played golf a lot. I didn’t play very well, but I played a lot. There’s so much to do here, a lot of outdoor stuff, but I also relaxed a lot. I was just so tired after I got through working out, I didn’t want to do a whole lot.”
Will Urlacher ever make Tahoe his permanent home?
“Not in the winter. I’m not a snow person. I’m not a skier, so I wouldn’t be a good fit up here. But I do like it up here. The people were nice, and the weather was perfect every day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky whenever we worked out.”
There is a chance that Urlacher will come back to Truckee next summer, he said. Urlacher donated over $50,000 of Hammer Strength equipment to Tahoe Truckee High School athletics, so the equipment will be waiting if he decides to come back.
See related story:
More info on high altitude training:
Urlacher’s “Hammer Strength Athlete” Web page:
Urlacher’s career stats:
Chip Smith’s Competitive Edge Sports official Web site:
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.