Grant Hill spends summers doing a lot of non-basketball workouts.
All photos by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images
Posted Jan 7 2010 6:47PM
After 15 years in the NBA, Grant Hill just reached a major milestone — he completed his first calendar year without missing a game. Quite a big deal, considering it appeared Hill was on the brink of retirement due to ankle injuries earlier in his career, playing in only 47 out of 264 games during a five-year period.
Perhaps no NBA player understands and appreciates the importance of healthy living and physical fitness than Hill, who went six for six in All-Star appearances with the Pistons and Magic before the injuries struck.
To commemorate NBA FIT Week, Hill, 37 (but who says he feels like 30), spoke with NBA.com’s John Hareas and discussed how his approach to working out, diet and nutrition has evolved over the years and why it’s important to him being an NBA FIT member.
NBA.com: You just completed your first year without missing a game in the NBA. How much has your approach to physical fitness played a role in being more durable as you’ve gotten older?
Grant Hill: I think it’s played an important role. For me, it’s been an ongoing discovery learning about your body and what it takes to stay healthy and certainly that was tested during some of those challenging years when I was hurt.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself at that time — I’m a seeker by nature — I really used it as an opportunity to learn more about the body, more about nutrition, more about health overall in general, not just in regards to getting back and playing on the court but having an active, healthy lifestyle as I get older in life.
NBA.com: What did you learn during this time?
Grant Hill: Learning to listen to your body. Your body talks to you and you have to learn how to listen to it. When you’re young and your ego is involved, you think you can overcome or override anything.
Also, understanding diet and nutrition and the role it plays and constantly trying figure out what’s best and what works for me. I think diet plays an important role. Managing your body, little tricks, such as using ice, massage theraphy, sleep, stretching, how you work out — all of these things, you become smarter and you figure out sort of what works and what doesn’t work.
I’m constantly trying to learn as much as I can. I don’t feel like I know it all but I certainly have learned a great deal over the last five or six years.
NBA.com: How has your diet and food choices evolved over the years?
Grant Hill: I think early on you learn the importance of cutting out fast food. As you get older, you stay away from sugar and a lot of the sugary drinks and drink nothing but water. Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, fish, occasionally chicken.
I think the thing for me is that it’s not so much what works for everybody but what works for me. I think certainly there are some things that are consistent. I think a lot of the bad foods, the heavy foods, the fried foods, I think those are things everyone can learn from, stay away from or at least in moderation.
I don’t pretend to know the answers necessarily or pretend to have the perfect diet but I know certain foods that are good for you or are healthy don’t necessarily work well with me. I don’t feel as good when I eat those foods. Everybody is different. Everybody reacts differently to different foods.
NBA.com: How different is your offseason now than earlier in your career?
Grant Hill: When I first came in, the offseason was an opportunity to play a lot. I played a lot of basketball. I played year-round, whether it was pick-up games or playing with some of my teammates in the NBA. Whatever the case may be, I was always on the court.
Then I spent many years in the offseason doing rehab and trying to get back out onto the court, recovering from injuries, surgeries and things of that nature. Now, I’m at the point where I’m healthy, which in the last few years has been kind of uncharted waters.
What I’ve found is that cross training is a neat way to stay in shape, staying away from the physical and mental grind of playing basketball every day. What that consists of — and I try to do a lot of recreational activities outdoors — kayaking, standup paddle surfing, tennis, cycling — fun, outdoor activities that you can’t do during the season.
Living in Florida in the offseason exposes you to the sun, which I think is good. Things that I’m getting a workout in but it doesn’t feel like I’m working. It feels like I’m going out and having a good time.
Sometimes, you can just go out for a nice five-mile walk, going out for a walk with my wife. I think the important thing is to try to get the body moving every day. Obviously, I will lift weights and I will use the elliptical machine. If I don’t have access to weights or if I’m in a hotel room, I’ll do push ups, sit ups. The main thing is really trying to get a sweat every day, get the body moving.
The body is meant to be moved. If you don’t move it, you certainly lose it. I know it’s a bad cliché but it really hit home for me when all of those years I’m in a cast and the muscles in the cast around the ankle atrophy and that’s because they’re not being used. Seeing the visual of that really reinforced the importance of getting a sweat every day, getting out and moving and getting some exercise. You don’t always have access to a bike or a health club, but as long as you have a little bit of room, you can get a work out right in your hotel room or right on your living room floor and that’s what I try to do.
NBA.com: Is working out year-round a motivating factor to end your career on your terms opposed to an injury?
Grant Hill: It doesn’t drive me necessarily. Freak things can happen and obviously I’ve been through a lot and I don’t want to go out that way. I would like to be able to say you know I’ve had enough, it’s time to move on. I do understand that as you get older, it’s more important how you train. You can’t not do anything for two months and then expect to pick it back up and be able to play or work out at an intense level and not risk a chance of getting hurt. You really have to be smart. You don’t necessarily have to work long but you have to work smart at what you do. My motivation is, I want to be healthy. I want to fit in my clothes when I’m 50 (laughs). I figure by then whatever’s in fashion now will be back in fashion at that time.
As you get older the one thing that you have to fight is gaining weight and certainly weight gain has a lot to do with a lot of the diseases that are out there. How you eat, how you move and exercise, your attitude toward life, how you train, how you get your rest — all of these things are factors, I think, in how you age. Not that I’m vain or anything like that but hey, I’m an athlete, something that’s been great to me my whole life. Up until now, I’ve benefitted greatly having a father as a professional athlete — being one myself — and I would like to continue to be active as I get older in life.
If there is one thing I’ve learned throughout the ordeal of my injuries was how to take care of myself and how to hopefully prepare myself as I get older.
Look, retirement is going to happen. Injuries — you can do everything right and something freakish can happen. I certainly lived that, actually my colleagues have told me that as well, but the main thing is that it’s not a sprint but a marathon and life is a marathon and hopefully I can be as active as I can and be healthy as I get older in life.
NBA.com: Why is it important to you to join the NBA FIT cause?
Grant Hill: I think anything that spreads the message — I like to say that the NBA is one of the biggest PR firms in the world and the fact that they are putting their name, their brand behind the idea of staying in shape and being fit is important.
Look at the issue in our country with healthcare — certainly that’s been very polarizing. Even childhood obesity — you look at a lot of the problems in our country as it regards to health, wellness and fitness and certainly getting out, eating right, staying in shape, being fit, studies have shown reduced the chances of all different types of diseases and so forth.
So, if we can get young people, older people to get out and do that, then that’s great. The fact that the NBA’s doing it, I’m so excited to be a part of it and hopefully with more and more interviews, we can continue to spread the message.