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Athelte Q&A: MLB Star C.J. Wilson

Los Angeles Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson talks training, style, and clubhouse pranks.
LAA pitcher CJ Wilson baseball training

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Los Angeles Angles pitcher C.J. Wilson is a two-time All Star and second in the team’s starting rotation. With a 5-3 record (3.16 ERA) at time of writing, the 9-year veteran is on track to follow up last season’s 17 wins with another solid year of pitching. Men’s Fitness caught up with Wilson, 33, while he was at the MLB Fan Cave talking about his role as a Head and Shoulders “Mane Man” and raising money through the grooming brand's RBI program, which gives kids in underserved communities opportunities to play baseball and softball. Check out Wilson’s fitness regimen, goals for the season, style tips, and crazy clubhouse stories in this exclusive interview.  

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Men's Fitness: What is your training routine like between starts?

C.J. Wilson: The day after a start has about three hours of intense training. It’s the most intense day. First, I address any injuries, then, go out and run. My cardio is 40-60 minutes and after that I’ll lift weights mainly leg-centric exercises like squats, cleans, deadlifts and box jumps. I try to get to the park early, around 12:30 p.m., to get the workout done before the 4:00 p.m. team meeting. Then we do a 20-minute toss to get our arms stretched out.

Day two is a bullpen day. I do an interval run, throw in the bullpen, then do an upper body and shoulder maintenance program to keep my rotator cuff in place. Day three is a CrossFit-style circuit with five to six different body movements, including a 400-meter run. We do each exercise, then a 400-meter run, rest 30 seconds, and go through the circuit three to five times. Day four is pretty chill because it’s a recovery day. I play catch, get my arm worked on with our team physical therapist, and get ready mentally.

What training methods have helped increased your performance recently?
Last year, I had a partial tear of my patellar tendon so I wasn’t able to run as much. This offseason I had to get back in shape faster than usual so I did elevation training to make it harder on my body. After training at high altitudes, I came into spring training in really good shape. Overall, I lift as heavy as I can. I usually squat at least 70-80% of my max. I have really put heavy weight on there to make a difference.

What aspect of your game are you looking to improve on most this season?
The biggest thing for me is to work on my walk to strike-out ratio, to get to two strikes faster. Over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten a better feel for the individual hitters and where their weaknesses are. Now, I’m trying to attack them outright and then spend less time trying to make perfect pitches and just make good pitches.

How do you think the Angels will fare this season?
If I pitch better than I’ve ever pitched, then the team will have a better chance to win than the year before. We haven’t been in the playoffs the last two years so the goal is to get to the playoffs and win the World Series.

How would you describe your personal style off the field?
I wear dark colors because I have dark hair and I think it looks good. I’m trying to go for the Patrick Dempsey look. In terms of hair, I feel like it’s important to have a natural look. I don’t like to use hairspray or spike it aggressively or anything. I try to have my hair look soft so people want to touch it or smell it. I don’t want to have anything in there that makes it look too hard like a helmet. I try to let it do its thing and that’s worked with my wife, so I’m just going to stick with that.

What advice do you have for guys that have no clue how to style their hair?
Look at somebody and get an overall vibe because it’s not just about having a certain hairstyle, it’s how that hairstyle works with your whole style. Look at other people, see what they’re doing and get a feel for it, but don’t overdo it. If you have spiked hair and want to go for the mohawk, then look for someone that’s got a mohawk but who looks stylish. Style should never look too forced because you want it to look natural, and that’s going to bring the ladies in.

What’s are some crazy stories you have from the clubhouse?
Dane De La Rosa can imitate our traveling secretary really well. The traveling secretary asks people if you have your tickets for the game and Dane will walk up behind guys when they’re not looking and say, “Hey, you got your tickets in for tonight?” and they’ll be like “No, Tom, I’m good, I’m fine.” They’ll turn around, see Dane and say, “Oh, that’s great!” Dane will even call the stadium as the secretary and make moves to get to the guy’s office. It’s hilarious.

When I was in Texas, we set Owen Wilson on fire. He was filming a baseball movie and wanted to do some research so he was hanging out with us in the bullpen. We gave him a hot foot and all of the sudden he looks down and says, “Aw man, I’m on fire. You set me on fire, man. I thought we were buds” in that iconic accent. It was a fun day at spring training.

What are your favorite hobbies?
I own a racecar team and I like to ride motorcycles and take photographs. Riding my motorcycle out somewhere to take photographs is pretty much the best day in the off-season for me. Hopefully when I’m done with baseball I can be a professional photographer.

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