Ray Lewis: Intensity in Charm City
As he prepares for the ultimate retirement party at the Super Bowl, Baltimore Ravens’ stalwart linebacker Ray Lewis reveals the secrets behind the grueling workouts that helped forge an NFL legend
How do you tap into who you really are?
Working out is, I believe, one of the greatest methods you’ll ever use because it’s just you and you—you don’t have to convince anybody else.
What drives you?
I know where I came from. I remember being the 130-pound kid, the 160-pound kid in ninth grade and only 10 pounds heavier in 12th grade. I remember those days, and they’re still the days that fuel me. That and keeping all of the clippings where people said what I couldn’t do—my greatest motivation. Loved it.
One of the things most people don’t know about you is that you take your nutrition and supplementation very seriously. Do you have any specific tips to give a guy who wants to reach at least some level of the same type of intensity that you bring every day?
I think the number one thing you have to find out is what’s good for you and what’s not foodwise. For 11 years, man, I didn’t entertain pork or beef—11 years! I just took it out of my diet. I grew up on pork my whole life. I used to love pork chop sandwiches—don’t know how I let them go. I used to put Miracle Whip on them.
You sure didn’t get into this shape doing that!
Oh, man, that’s what I’m trying to tell you (laughs). Something had to change. All these things I loved as a kid, I gave up—gone. But then I started rethinking my approach—you know, just getting a little personal. I get my colon cleansed and I really go hard at it. I flush out a lot—I’m always flushing. After an assessment of my blood, which is blood O-positive, it turns out I need beef in my diet. I took it out just because I took it out, but I need that. I need that more than I thought I did—the iron and all the things that’s in it. So now I’m back on that. I would tell guys to find out what’s good for them and what’s bad for them. Find out what gives you energy and what depletes you. Once you find out all that, then it’s up to you to follow through.
Does the same apply to your supplementation?
It’s definitely the same thing with supplements. Every supplement won’t work for everybody the same way, so you have to find out what works for you—how to cater to you. Should I take it in the morning? Should I take it on an empty stomach? Should I eat with it? What should I eat? Should I get up and eat a big breakfast? Should I eat a small breakfast? How many meals should I eat a day? I’m eating six or seven meals a day and what I do—what I’ve learned along the way—works for me.
What do you have to say to people who say they can’t do it?
You’re looking at a country that’s fighting obesity and over-the-counter medication addictions. What you learn when you look at everybody who speaks about these problems is that the people who say they can’t do it never wrote down a plan. But the good book says write the plan and make the plan, so if you take that part of it and you write these things down and look at it based on your own handwriting, then that’s on you. You see that’s a totally different thought process when you see your handwriting: It’s not a trainer writing up your program; you’re writing your program. And once you grab that part of it, then you can start educating yourself on “I need more of this, I need to do this more, I should have tried this.” That’s why I started incorporating yoga, pilates and spin classes. Everything starts filling in. Then I come to myself and say “Listen, I don’t do well with this, so let’s try something else.” Boom! It’s just becoming a person who understands who you are and telling somebody the truth instead of these fools that try to make you happy with false promises of things being easy or simple. You can make yourself happy by having a plan written out. Follow the plan.
It’s interesting because we started to talk about football and as we progressed we talked about training, nutrition, supplementation and your approach to the game. It always seems to come back to that same underlying principle, which is expanding on knowledge, always trying to get that foundation through plans and being commited to what you believe in.
Exactly. You’ve got a supplement line with TwinLab that, by all accounts, seems to match that same lifestyle approach. Tell us about Power Fuel.
Power Fuel is just one step; TwinLab is its own powerhouse. We just came together because we’re both on the same thought process of longevity and accountability. Trust me, in the locker room, you will go crazy at all the things that people say: “This helps, this will work, that will work.” With this supplement line, I told everyone involved “Whatever we do, let’s give them something that creates the longevity side of life, not just what they look like from the outside.” I don’t want quick fixes—they’re too easy. It’s a process of understanding why you’re taking the supplement. Read the supplement totally, see how it helps you, see how it doesn’t work for you. Then if it doesn’t, that’s cool, but nine times out of 10 it will.
Do you have any other projects in the works?
Power Fuel is step one of many; then you go into another form of the 52 weeks training DVD, which is a 12-disc DVD—nine for adults, three for kids. When I was a child, we didn’t have videogames, so all I could do every day was figure out a different person to race, wrestle or fight.
It all seems to boil down to passing what you’ve learned on to others. How important is it to you to spread your knowledge?
It means everything to me, and it gives me an opportunity to meet people and make a difference. I’m here today—I’m sitting here talking to you—and I’m sitting here saying “Wow, this is awesome.” And I get to pass along what I’ve learned. That’s the exciting part: I get to educate people—not just on the products but more of a lifestyle. It’s easy sometimes to write a book and tell somebody “Here, buy this book.” It’s another thing to look at somebody and say “Here’s my story. Find your story based off this and, if it works for you, send me a nice email back.” That’s how we share and spread knowledge. To come all the way back from the start of this interview, where you asked me about how I’ve evolved, it’s really all about how we evolve as human beings—all these different things. If this lifestyle can change one life, then I want to change two, three, four, a hundred, a thousand and so on. That’s how we keep spreading knowledge, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
10 Training Questions with Ray Lewis
You’re the first pro athlete to have his own app designed to create workouts for his fans. How does the app work? Is it really reflective of Ray Lewis’ training?
The app is a great opportunity to capture the kind of instructional videos that show people how to train right. I think one of the things with me is that I’m very old school in how I train. Bringing it all together, you download the app and then take my training—and people are sometimes shocked by the work. They’re like, “Oh my gosh, that many reps?” But it’s really based on you. There’s a number on your screen that’s your goal for reps, but it’s based on you. You can go way above that number if you really want to challenge yourself.
A challenge from Ray Lewis sounds like one that a lot of guys would love to be able to say they can handle.
But it’s not easy. Every workout that I draw up is designed to fail—you’re not there to make it—so if that’s on your mind, you’ve kind of already defeated yourself. You know, I look at us as three-part beings: mind, body and spirit. Before you challenge your body, you’ve got to challenge your mind. Before you even think about your mind, hopefully your spirit is what gets you up. When you step into the weight room, I really don’t care about your body.
And that’s how you train for game day?
I don’t train for a sport; I train for a lifestyle. And whenever I go home—whenever the good Lord brings me home—one thing everybody will look back and say is “He never stopped working.” That’s what the app was about—that’s what this is about: recreating who you are from the inside out. Then deal with you.
If you’re not training for a sport, what do you do that’s different from the average football player in the gym?
I think I do everything we’re not supposed to do [laughs]. Every workout that I have is 60 minutes—that’s all I need. I’ll tell anybody that. You train with me, give me 60 minutes. Now the question is, how many times are we going to entertain those 60 minutes? My first workout is at seven, then done at eight. Resting from eight to 9:30. My next workout is at 10. then I rest from 10 to 11. My next is probably at one. From one, we go to three. From three, we go to five. From five, we go to seven.
How do those workouts go?
I start with whatever I’m going to end with, so if I started with 50 hundred-meter sprints on the beach, 20 bounds, 30 penguin walks and lunges for 200 yards, then I go back and do the opposite all over again. That’s the confusion because I’m challenging different muscles at different times that I’m going right back to in a totally different manner. I’ve got an abs exercise list: I do my abs sheet that morning the right way. That evening, I go the reverse way. The next day, I do the same sheet of abs starting in the middle; then I go down and finish the top. The next day, I start at the top and go down. The next day, I’m back to the beginning, running the same thing.
You do a lot of weight training. Walk us through your approach.
Weight training is the only thing that probably stays more consistent in my workout because of the dumbbell work. I believe dumbbell work is the greatest isolation of work that you will ever get. Give me a pair of dumbbells and I’m in heaven. And the program that I built over the past 11 years is what I use when I know I want to put on weight and strength. Without that, every other workout is a
Does it ever get stale?
No, I’m always trying new things. This summer, I’ll be on a whole other thought process because I’m already starting to deal with tai chi and slowly work my way through. You see, you can walk in the gym and do all these things. You can sweat—anything can make you sweat—but I like to learn what I’m doing. So, like, when I started kickboxing two years ago, my instructor looked at me and said, “You will be able to go 12 to 15 rounds with me with a 30-second break.” At first, I’m sitting there thinking “I can’t make it through one round, never mind 12 to 15 rounds.” But then I took four months of that training and there’s a trophy that’s sitting in my house and it’s completely worth it.
Are you going to continue kickboxing competitively?
No, because that won’t excite me—I’ve got to keep moving. Maybe I’ll get in touch with Michael Phelps and tell him I want him to take me through a lot of swimming workouts. It’s about changing things up and learning new things—beating new challenges.
Is that how you approach all your training?
It’s about challenging myself in different areas—that’s all it is. And that’s why every one of my workouts is the way it is. I’m old school, so I keep a pen and pad. I don’t deal with electronics a lot because they fail you, but I deal with this pen and pad and if you want to know what the workout is, there it is. That’s it—it ain’t hard. If you read that and want to train with me, it’s simple. You know what time we’re getting up in the morning and I’m going to need you to be prepared for that. I’m not walking through the house; I’m not going to yell and shout to get you going. Once that clock hits 60, then you know it’s time. In the first five minutes, I want your heart to almost burst because that’s when I’m going to find out who you are. You see, those casual workouts that everybody does—the “let’s warm up today” folks—that’s on your time. When we get out there—when I’m training—I need to work.
And when you say work, you obviously mean intensity, but what training methods do you employ?
Every workout that I have is designed to fail. It’s not about making it through the workout—I won’t, you won’t, nobody will—so that isn’t even the motivation. The approach is to go to failure and give everything you’ve got for 60 minutes. Then there’s an hour-and-a-half break, only to do it all over again—that’s how my workouts are built.
The Total Body Workout
“I train with high-rep, heavy weights,” Ray Lewis told me on the set of his photo shoot. This workout does just that. Normally, Ray trains every set to failure, but since it’s catered to you, the Reps reader, we’re suggesting that you start with the levels listed below:
Incline Bench Press: 4 Sets x 12 Reps
Dumbbell Shrug: 4 Sets x 12 Reps
Flat Bench Press: 4 Sets x 12 Reps
Dumbbell Row: 4 Sets x 12 Reps
Front Raise: 2 Sets x 12 Reps
Lateral Raise: 2 Sets x 12 Reps
Lying Triceps Extension: 3 Sets x 14 Reps
Biceps Curl: 2 Sets x 14 Reps
Cross-Body Curl: 2 Sets x 14 Reps
Hanging Leg Raise: 2 Sets x 12 Reps
Hanging Oblique Crunch: 2 Sets x 12 Reps