Jason Hatcher shook his head as he described one of the more challenging athletic experiences of his life.
“The first few minutes, when you’re warming up and getting your body temperature up, are tough,” said Hatcher, a defensive end for the Washington Redskins. “After that, you’re miserable the whole time.”
Yep, those NFL games when you’re battling 300-pound offensive linemen are tough.
But wait. Hatcher wasn’t talking football.
He was talking hot yoga. He was talking the challenge of spending an extended period of time in a room where the temperature is 110 degrees, performing a variety of poses to improve his flexibility and building up quite a bit of sweat equity.
“For an hour-and-a-half,” Hatcher said. “That’s the hardest part, just staying in the room. A lot of times you want to leave because it’s super hot, but you know it’s doing great things for your body. ”
Tell me about it, said Redskins’ new defensive coordinator Joe Barry.
“Funny story,” Barry said. “The first time I went was with Bill Callahan.”
Callahan is the Redskins new offensive line coach, but that’s not the funny part of the story.
“Before the class starts, Hatch (Hatcher) walks in, goes to the other side of the room and doesn’t see me,” Barry said. “And I thought, ‘Cool. Hatch is here.’
“I’m 20 minutes into the class and I’m like, 'What did I get myself into?' I’m ready to tap out, to say I can’t do this. But I know Hatch is in the room. I’m like, ‘New coach. New man on campus. I can’t get up and walk out of the class.’ I stayed. And it got to point where I really enjoyed it.”
There is no “one size fits all” method of conditioning and recovery for any athlete. NFL players lift weights, run, soak in ice-filled tubs of water, have athletic trainers stretch their hamstrings and go to Pilates classes.
Wise athletes realize their careers depend, in large part, on their bodies. Sometimes, it takes serious implications to make that clear.
Chris Thompson, a running back from Florida State, was a fifth-round draft choice of the Redskins in 2013. Injuries have been his downfall each of the past two seasons. He’s had trouble getting enough practice time in training camp and lost a roster spot to running backs who have avoided injuries.
In the weeks before training camp, Thompson worked out at FSU. One of the athletic trainers there told him he needed hot yoga.
“I did it my senior year, but only a few days,” Thompson said. “It did make me feel good, but I forgot about doing it.”
Nothing jogs the memory quite as effectively as a potential loss of employment, especially when that job comes with a $540,000 salary.
It’s nice work if you can get it. And Thompson wants to get it.
“So I started getting in it (hot yoga classes) a lot more often,” he said. “And it helped.”
Hatcher finds it so helpful he makes a point to attend class on Mondays after Sunday games and on Tuesdays (NFL players usually have Tuesdays off) before practice resumes on Wednesdays.
“It absolutely makes a difference,” Hatcher said. “I have a lot of range of motion back in my knees after the surgery I had. And I can feel right now I definitely need a few sessions of yoga to get my body back right. “
Barry discovered hot yoga helped get his mind right.
“I was always skeptical of the mind and body in balance stuff,” Barry said. “I was like, ‘Come on.’ But there was a 6 p.m. hot yoga class that I, Bill Callahan and Perry Fewell (defensive backs coach) would go to. We’d grind all day, take break, go to Bikram Yoga, and it really let you clear your mind and flush the day. It was legit.
“We’d go back to work, and it was amazing how much energy I had. It gave us a little jolt, a little juice. It kept us fresh.”
The Redskins were 7-25 over the past two seasons. They can use as much of a jolt and as much juice as possible, even if they have to sit in 110-degree rooms to find them.