Marshal Yanda, a six-time Pro Bowl guard, is still playing at a high level at the age of 34.
Yanda talked about extending his NFL career while trying to preserve his health for life after football.
“The first thing I learned is how far I had to come when I got to the NFL. I was a junior college transfer, so I was a raw player even as a senior at Iowa—then I was gone after two years there. In my first training camp with the Ravens I was so awful I thought they might cut me, even though I was a third-round pick. So my first, second, third, fourth year in the NFL, I kept attacking practice every day. Some players peak when they’re seniors in college, or their first or second year in the NFL. I was not peaking. I kept getting better as the years went by. I’ve achieved stuff I never knew I could—Pro Bowl, all-pro—but I didn’t think about that stuff. I took care of today. I took care of the weights. I took care of practice. I took care of watching film.
“I’ve learned how much I love this game. It’s just more important to me every year so I just continue to grind out every little thing that’s gonna make me better, whether that’s eating, sleeping, lifting, whatever I can do. A great meal for me has changed. I’m into quinoa now for my carbs. So I’ll eat quinoa, and my protein is chicken, and then I use a Vitamix blender and I blend up spinach and kale for my vegetables.
“Kale is ruthless. It is! I don’t like drinking it. I put a little hot sauce in there too, to try and give it some zing so you can drink it.
“I eat brown and white rice, a mixture. I bought a rice cooker a couple of years ago, and you can cook the quinoa in there too. Also, I drink a gallon of water every day.
“Sleep is huge. Sleep is my P.E.D., my performance-enhancing drug. I’m usually asleep by 9:30. Sleep experts say you want to stay on a schedule. You want to try to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time.
“For pain management and flexibility, I picked up yoga this offseason. I did it twice a week. For stretching and range of motion, like range of motion in my hips, it’s good. My hips are looser. In my stance, I just feel a little bit loose and a little more spring in my steps. With my shoulders too … stretching my shoulders is big now. We lift all these weights all the time and it’s always build and build and build and they get you to stretch, but usually I stretch after I lift and I’m fatigued from my lift, I don’t want to necessarily stretch like you should. I kind of go through it fast because I’m tired and I just want to get to the shower and relax. But now I literally spend an hour on stretching, deep stretches, and I definitely feel like I’ve gotten more range of motion and I feel better in my hips and my knees and my shoulders.
“I think about my health more as I get older. I’ve been fortunate—and I’m knocking on wood—I haven’t had any head or neck injuries, and no concussions. That’s pretty amazing. I still think the good of the game and what the game has given me, and how many experiences that the people I’ve gotten to meet, and the neat stuff that I’ve gotten to experience, and my entire family’s gotten to experience, will end up outweighing the stiffness and the soreness and stuff as I get older. The longer I’ve been in the game, I’m learning what I’m doing now is going to help me not only stay in football longer but help my health later in life.”