Sitting in the locker room following practice, Aaron Lesue’ has a lot on his mind. The fourth-year wide receiver for the Utah Blaze of the Arena Football League is surely thinking about his team’s upcoming game, but also about a few other things that are part of the so-called ‘big picture.’
“I have a decision to make once this season is over,” he says of his personal thoughts. “Do I go out for the bobsledding combine or for the rugby team that will represent our country in the 2016 Olympics?”
Before confusion sets in, know up front that Lesue’ is a three-sport athlete and in addition to being a pro football player, he is also a ‘pusher’ on the bobsledding pro circuit that has competed as high as the America’s Cup level.
“I have Olympic aspirations,” Lesue’ continues, and he explained that there are only seven ‘drivers’ between the World Cup and America’s Cup in bobsledding and the combine mixes the pushers with different drivers to form the teams that will eventually be a part of the next Winter Olympics, thus his quandary.
“Also, the U.S. rugby coach saw film of me playing and likes my style,” the 31-year-old comments.
So once the Blaze’s campaign is said and done, he will have to decide which path to take. But there’s a lot of work to do before then.
UNDER A ROOF
The game of football is a fast and hard-hitting sport, but things intensify when you cut the size of the field in half. Such is life in the AFL, where the majority of the games are of the high scoring variety and bodies are constantly flying all over the place.
“The angles of the game; the way it’s set up…you’re going to take some hits and also give some out,” Lesue’ describes. “I’ve had plays where I went over the wall and landed hard on the concrete on the other side. It takes a toll on your body.”
As he has gained experience, the 5’10”, 195-pound Lesue’ has also become wiser and has implemented different methods into his training to hasten his recovery. More stretching and starting yoga last year has given his legs the ability to come back easier. But while it may seem logical to rest up more those days following a game, Lesue’ sees it the opposite way.
“A lot of guys rest too much during the season,” he says. “Your muscles need to stay active.”
CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
Ask Lesue’ what a basic principle of his training method is and he classifies it as ‘muscle confusion,’ and changing things up every four weeks. For example, he uses the month right before the football season begins to do a grueling six-day regimen that gets his body in the best condition to play the extra physical indoor variety of America’s Game.
“I split up my lifting on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and do my conditioning/running Monday through Saturday, “ he says. “Sunday is an off day and I also do yoga and plyometrics on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
WEIGHT TRAINING SCHEDULE – SEASON PREP PERIOD
WEDNESDAY – back squat, barbell shoulder press/chin-up (super set), Romanian deadlift/shrug (super set), dumbbell walking lunge, plate overhead raise, barbell overhead shrug, core (side hip lift, plate side bend – 3 sets/25-to-30 seconds each)
FRIDAY – hang clean, shrug pulls, front squats, single-arm dumbbell row, single-arm dumbbell snatch, barbell curl, dumbbell triceps extension, core (hip lift, plank, crunches, medicine ball, v-ups)
Amount of weight used and reps is based on percentage. Lesue’ begins using approximately 55 percent of his max for eight to 12 reps in eight sets for each movement. By the end of the first week, he is up to approximately 70 percent. During the last week, he works his way up to 90 percent at two to three reps.
TIME TO GO TO WORK
The workout schedule changes some once the season kicks off and Lesue’ enjoys the structure and organization that it also brings. Because the AFL games are generally scheduled on Saturdays, Sunday is once again used as a rest day. Here’s how the rest of the week looks:
WEEKLY IN-SEASON WORKOUT SCHEDULE
MONDAY (film) – heavy lifting and leg day: back squats, lunges, leg press, leg extension, Romanian deadlift, plyometrics
TUESDAY (practice) – yoga, running
WEDNESDAY (practice) – crossfit-style whole body light workout, jog (20 minutes), stretch
THURSDAY (practice) – lightweight total body workout, yoga, stationary bike
FRIDAY (walk-thru practice) – stationary bike (warm-up), lightweight general workout, stretch, rest
SATURDAY – game day
SUNDAY – off
THE TEN ‘COMMANDMENTS’ OF NUTRITION
Any athlete worth his or her sweat knows that all of that training will not have as much of an impact without a clean and healthy diet. Lesue’ follows 10 basic rules when it comes to nutrition:
1 – eat every two to three hours
2 – include a complete and lean protein with every meal
3 – include two to three servings of vegetables with every meal
4 – eat carbs only after exercise
5 – eat only healthy fats
6 – no soda or fruit juice
7 – eat whole foods over supplements whenever possible
8 – plan ahead and prepare in advance (for all meals)
9 – include as wide a variety of food as possible
10 – plan on breaking the rules only 10 percent of the time
“I eat six meals a day, so if I stick to the last one, that will mean only four meals the whole week I will go outside of the rules,” Lesue’ explains. “For instance, you can’t really plan ahead if we go out to dinner for a team meal.”
Lesue’ generally sticks to chicken and salmon as his main protein sources and enjoys all different kinds of vegetables, even green smoothies. “They have made the biggest difference of how I feel,” he remarks.
A SPORT-SPECIFIC SKILL SET
Being a wide receiver, Lesue’ makes sure to work on the things that he will need the most when out on the turf. Speed training is a must and he takes it to another level by wearing a resistance harness on a speed treadmill.
“It helps me when I run at the top of my route,” Lesue’ says. “Especially in forward motion (a rule unique to arena football). You have the DB (defensive back) back peddling and that sets up your break on a post or corner route.”
Also needing explosiveness, Lesue’ will perform various exercises to enhance this, such as short vertical jumps and plyometrics using a program called Air Alert 2. He also has running days on either a track or a football field.
When he was only two years old, Lesue’ lost his father when he died in a parachute training accident in Korea while serving in the United States military. Although he was very young at the time, Lesue’ knew that his father was an athlete and he has always been an inspiration to him.
“My dad gave me a lot of purpose,” he says matter-of-factly. “I want to wake up every day and have a purpose.”
By working so hard on the field and off, Aaron Lesue’ has certainly accomplished that and more, surely making his father proud of the way his young boy grew up.
Photos by Al Walters/courtesy of the A.F.L.