In the closing seconds of Super Bowl XLIII, Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals were marching down the field, one touchdown away from a come-from-behind victory. That is, until Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley whipped around the end and strip-sacked Warner, ending the game and earning the Steelers their sixth championship. Two years later, the 6-2, 245-pound Michigan native has one thing on his mind: getting back to the big game. We caught up with LaMarr to find out how he gets—and stays—on top of his game.
In terms of training, how long did you take off between last season and this season?
Being that we didn't make the playoffs and I felt like I had a lot to prove coming into this season, I started in mid-February. So I probably took about a month off and then got back into it.
That's a short turnaround time. What do you do in your time off? Can you afford to just relax and pig out for a while?
You don't want to overeat too much because then you have to work twice as hard. It was more just resting up, catching up on sleep and not worrying about training.
Was there one aspect of your game that you were looking to improve when you started training?
I wanted to build some speed and improve my flexibility. This off-season I went up to Athletic Republic in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and I did this super treadmill workout that was about opening up my stride. It was a killer, man. It was like running up a hill at full speed, but the thing about this hill is that if you stop running you fall down!
Have you considered adding any kind of alternative training, like yoga, to your regimen?
I haven't tried that, but this off-season I'm definitely going to get involved with the MMA stuff. I feel like it's tied in to what we do in football as far as hand speed, opening up your hips, quick feet and flexibility.
How many hours will you put in at the gym during a typical off-season day?
I feel like you can get a decent amount of work in an hour and a half or two hours. Three hours, I'm not going to do all that! In the game of football you need to be strong, and at my position you need to be able to put up a good fight. So I work on my upper body and lower body strength, because your body's got to be able to last.
How do you maintain that fitness level during the regular season?
I usually try to life three times a week. On Monday I come in and get in a full body workout, and then I come back in on Wednesday and do a quick six, which consists of bench press, biceps and triceps curls, pull downs, something for the back and the neck. And then you come back and hit it again on Friday with a 16-machine workout. That will consist of different things, but not focusing on the legs so much. I don't want to do a lot of leg workouts during the season, because you're on your legs all day whether you're walking or running.
Do you have a favorite pre-game meal?
It depends on the time, but I'll usually eat eggs and steak.
Is there one food you know you shouldn't eat but is impossible to resist?
[Laughs] Yeah, I've been slowing down on that this year. My girlfriend has been taking out the cookbook, so I avoid the fast-food restaurants. I love the smell of Burger King when I ride past, but sometimes I have to avoid it. It's tough in a city like Pittsburgh. That town knows how to eat.
How tough is it to get into a groove when you have so many injuries? The O-line has taken quite a hit.
Being a defensive player, I don't worry about the offense too much. If the offense gives us three points or six points and it's enough to win the game, it's up to us to go out there and shut down the opposing team.
With all the penalties called against the Steelers, a lot of people think the refs have it out for you. Agree or disagree?
There's nothing you can really do about it. The referee's going to call the call and it's up to us to go out there and play. But we're not going to allow the referees to dictate how we play. Pittsburgh has always been a physical team and we're going to stay a physical, hard-hitting team. And sometimes when you hit too hard it comes with a penalty.