When Herschel Walker played for the New Jersey Generals from 1983 to 1985 in the now-defunct USFL, his boss was billionaire mogul Donald Trump. He became close with the team owner and his family. While training in Orlando, Walker took Trump and his children to Disney World.
Well, it’s certainly a small world after all because after Donald Trump became president, he appointed Walker to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition. The purpose of the council is to increase sports participation among youth of all backgrounds and abilities and to promote healthy and active lifestyles for all Americans.
One of the greatest all-around athletes of all-time (football and track star, Olympian, MMA fighter – he didn’t get into the latter until his 40s) Walker, 58, practices what he preaches, continuing to impress with a workout regimen that he’s been doing every day since he was 12 years old. “I’m always exercising. I never missed a day.”
Here’s Walker’s take on training, diet, and the state of fitness in the U.S.
What’s your goal as co-chairman of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition?We’re an obese country. Our young people are playing more video games than working out. Team sports are getting so competitive that parents have to pay and they don’t have the money.
When I became a member of the council, I got my high school class together and we got the city of my hometown in Georgia to give us six acres to build a fitness park. We’re going to put up a pullup bar, dip bars, jungle gyms. I’m not putting up a basketball court or fields. There will be a track for people to walk and run around. You also get community by doing this. I have to practice what I preach.
Kids years and years ago would jump rope and have fun, but that was exercise. Today on the school playground, you don’t see a jungle gym anymore. Kids were doing monkey bars and pullups. They didn’t even know they were exercising and now they don’t have that. Now they have a computer or have an avatar to workout for them. A kid might break an arm using a jungle gym, but that will heal. His obesity will kill him.
What’s been your experience like working with the federal government?I want to get something done in Washington, but didn’t realize how slow Washington moves.
It’s been a challenge. I’ve been trying to get the Fit Bill passed for 18 years. It’s a bill to incentivize to workout. It lets people take a write-off before taxes if you pay for your kids to play or your gym membership. The bill got into the Ways and Means Committee in 2019, but ran out of steam in the Senate, but I’m still trying to push it through.
What’s your current workout routine?It hasn’t changed much since I started as a kid. I’m still doing pushups — I cut those down from 3,000 to 1,500 when I got into boxing and martial arts — 3,500 sit-ups, ride my exercise bike for 30 miles, then go out and jog, do 500 dips and at least 150 pullups. I do jump rope. I still do martial arts drills.
How did this workout come about?I was obese, I was not athletic at all. I got beat up at 12 years old. I remember crying and went home and I said enough is enough. I started working out and overcame so much. Then I became obsessed with it. I wasn’t thinking of playing football — that wasn’t a big thing. I was just trying to get through tomorrow.
Didn’t you also do ballet?I studied it for about 10 years. When I got into martial arts — I thought I could be the next Bruce Lee — I thought ballet can help with flexibility. Before I got into MMA, it was the hardest thing I had ever done, over football and track and field. I was using muscles I’d never used. Ballet is very tough because of the discipline you have with your muscles.
What was your MMA experience like?I loved it! It is one of the best sports I’ve ever done in my life. I trained myself then met Scott Coker and Bob Cook. I moved out to San Jose, California for about a year and trained for six days a week at American Kickboxing Academy.
I was a fifth-degree black belt in taekwondo. Most people don’t know I competed in taekwondo tournaments in college on Sundays, a day after playing football. This did not help me in the Octagon. It’s a tough sport!
How’s your diet these days?My diet isn’t the best in the world — I eat one meal a day, consists of salads and soups. I don’t eat a lot of red meat, I don’t like fish. I still have sweets, but with my meal. I eat what I want but I work out so much I burn it off. My diet is so unusual and I’m as healthy as a horse.
Why one meal a day?I was doing this in high school, in college, in pro football. I don’t live to eat, I eat to live. We overeat anyway in this country.
When we played on Sundays, I never ate the pregame meals. I ate Saturday night, then again maybe Monday or late Sunday after the game. When you eat a pregame meal that’s not where you get your energy from. It’s from Saturday night. If you eat a pregame meal, you’d get sluggish. This is my stupid philosophy.
Who was the one guy in the NFL you wanted to run over?Lawrence Taylor. You always wanted to get the best of him, but you couldn’t. The guy was an amazing athlete.
Check back to Muscle & Fitness for more updates from members of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition.