‘It Was Horrible’: Sports Writer Tries Fitness Test For NFL Players

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Sports reporter Nora Princiotti tried to complete a Patriots player's offseason workout. (David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe)
"I just figured it would be fine," sports writer Nora Princiotti recalls. "Little did I know how painful it would be." (David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe)

On a recent Tuesday morning, Boston Globe sports writer Nora Princiotti walked two miles from her apartment to an emptyish park along the Charles River to attempt a fitness test designed for NFL players.

Why would she do such a thing? We thought we'd ask her.

KG: So let's start with the inspiration behind this folly. It all began when you were working on a story about how NFL players are staying in shape without being able to go to gyms and to team training facilities. I think most people would assume that pro athletes all have huge basements filled with workout equipment. But that's not what you found, right?

"I was like, 'Huh, maybe I could try to do what they are doing.' "

Nora Princiotti

NP: No, not at all. And, I mean, I cover these guys every day. And I was really surprised. I just was hearing so many stories about offensive linemen pushing their trucks up and down their driveways and waiting three weeks to get a set of resistance bands off Amazon.

KG: Well, Patriots captain Matthew Slater told you that he's using his kids as human weights. And I can't really decide if I want him to be joking, or if I want that to be true.

NP: I feel like it's probably true. Like, his kids are young. So you could kind of, you know, you could do a little bit of, like, a bicep thing.

KG: So you talked to trainer Yo Murphy. He works with a bunch of pro athletes. So what kind of things has he come up with to keep his clients in shape?

NP: For skill position guys, like, certainly quarterbacks, cornerbacks, wide receivers, running backs ... they can use their own body weight and some light weights and resistance stuff. Where it gets really challenging is when you have 300-pound athletes who have to be capable of just moving other people's bodies on a football field.

So I think a lot of what he's been doing is kind of being a person for his clients who can say, "OK, no, we're not giving up. Let's brainstorm." You've got to be kind of creative. And I think, in some ways, that was why I was interested in the story: is that at least a little bit of it sounded familiar enough that I was like, "Huh, maybe I could try to do what they are doing."

KG: And so this trainer, Yo Murphy, is the one who told you about this fitness test you tried out in that park along the Charles River. So what is the test, and why does Murphy use it?

NP: So this is something that he'll have his guys do, like, once every two weeks or so. And the way that it works is you set a timer. I set it for 10 minutes. Bigger guys only do it for eight minutes. And you don't have a set number of sprints that you have to do. It's just that you're sprinting 80 yards, then you're jogging back the other way and you can rest when you get to the end. Or you can go right ahead and sprint again.

But the goal is to push yourself and get as many sprints in as you can in the eight or 10 minutes — but then also to use that number as something that you can track over time. We talked about a bunch of different workouts that guys were doing, but that was one that didn't involve pushing trucks. You know, I can run. I was like, "OK, I'll try this one."

KG: Really? Because when I hear you describe that, it does not sound like fun.

NP: Oh, it was horrible. I hated it. And I like to run, but I would never sprint unless forced. It's not something that I would ever do.

KG: So take me to that Tuesday morning. As you were making your way from your apartment to the park, were you feeling confident? Were you feeling nervous?

NP: Sort of neither. I just figured it would be fine. I can run for a long distance. So the idea of doing something for 10 minutes, I was like, "OK, whatever." So I was just strolling over. It was a really nice morning. Little did I know how painful it would be.

KG: How did the first sprint feel? Was it awful right from the bat?

NP: No. So it was fine, except that, you know ...  I run with a face covering. And I started going, and I was like, "Oh, gosh, I might choke on this." Because it's, like, going into my mouth. And I'm like, "Oh, this is such a bad setup." So we had a little bit of a mechanical issue.

KG: Did you ever think about quitting?

NP: No, no. But I did think about — I could just totally mail this in. I never thought about lying about the number of sprints that I completed. I care very much about our Boston Globe readers, but I was able to do 10. If I only did nine sprints for them, you know, the world will continue turning on its axis. So I did have that thought, but I was never going to stop running.

"I think I accomplished my goal, even if it wasn't in line with the goals of the actual athletes who do this."

Nora Princiotti

You know, the conclusion that I came to is that the way that professional athletes exercise, not only is it different from what I do, I just don't need to do it. That's not the point of working out for me. When I finished it, I was kind of like, "I don't even know if I feel particularly proud of myself for doing this. This just has no bearing on my life. And I'm never doing it again."

KG: But, as you mentioned, the whole point of this thing is that you do it more than once, so that you can track your progress. So I don't want to call you a wimp for not doing it again. But have you really accomplished the goal if you only do it once?

NP: Well, probably not. I think you're kind of like — you're right. I am a wimp. But that's the point, Karen. I'm a wimp. Ultimately, I was approaching this exercise as a reporter, not as an "athlete," in air quotes. And, therefore, I think I accomplished my goal, even if it wasn't in line with the goals of the actual athletes who do this.

So that was my excuse that I made for myself to never do it again.

Check out Nora Princiotti's recent Boston Globe story "I Tried A Workout Designed For NFL Players In Shutdown. I Won't Again.

This segment aired on May 23, 2020.


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Karen Given Executive Producer/Interim Host, Only A Game
Karen is the executive producer for WBUR's Only A Game.



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