Troy Aikman is cracking open a cold, new plan for living the good life after 50.
Forget the fact that that it’s been more than three decades since the Dallas Cowboys laid the groundwork for a dynasty when they made the UCLA signal caller the No. 1 overall selection in 1989. Today, at age 55, the Hall of Fame quarterback is still moving heavy dumbbells as if moving up in this year’s NFL draft was at stake.
Now, more than 22 years since Aikman retired from the NFL, a generation of football fanatics recognize him more for breaking down offensive breakdowns from the broadcast booth than for his decade-plus of smoothness in shredding defensive secondaries en route to winning three Super Bowl rings.
Aikman is shaking things up again, this time it’s his well-publicized move from Fox Sports to ESPN and Monday Night Football. Meanwhile, in addition to switching channels, Aikman has been busy launching his new low-calorie, low-carb beer — Eight — throughout the state of Texas.
But no matter where he goes, Aikman says a gallon jug of water comes along with him — one of many small details that make up his health and fitness grand plan. At this stage of both life and career, you could say Aikman has earned the right to kick back and knock back a few his personal brand of brew — named after his iconic jersey number. Yet, before cracking a cold one becomes an option, Aikman needs to crush a workout, along with maintaining a decades-long commitment of healthy habits, which include sound nutrition and quiet meditation, which he admits has been a recent game-changing mindfulness acquisition. Some of the methods may have been age adjusted — he says he’s finally cut back on the amount of weekly training sessions — but Aikman tackles his fitness regimen with the same intensity today as he did trying to avoid tacklers when he was a college senior.
“People still ask, ‘Why do you still work out so hard?’” Aikman says. “The reason is simple — because it’s really important to me. It’s not a secret: Putting in the work is a reason for my success. Whether as an athlete, broadcaster, or anything in general, I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”
He says he’s meticulous about everything that goes in his body, from the whole foods he eats to the beer he’s helped create, and one glance at Aikman confirms the work’s results: Aikman looks and feels far from 55, and still moves with the enthusiasm and energy of an NFL rookie.
“I feel there’s no part of me that doesn’t feel better than I felt when I was 25,” Aikman says. “I hope I’m still feeling like this when I’m 75.”
Troy Aikman Is Building a New Dynasty
Back when Aikman was 25 — in 1992 — the quarterback was in the midst of an MVP performance in Super Bowl XXVII, leading the Cowboys to a 52-17 win over the Buffalo Bills, the first of three Super Bowl titles as well as the beginning of a Dallas dynasty.
After 12 seasons with the Cowboys, back issues forced his retirement in 2000 at the age of 34. In addition to three rings, Aikman made six Pro Bowl appearances and, along with teammates Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith, were named to the Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2005. A year later, Aikman was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Following retirement, Aikman began his second career as an NFL analyst with Fox in 2001, where he spent almost two decades watching the next generation of signal callers — from Tom Brady to Aaron Rodgers to Patrick Mahomes. This year he makes the blockbuster move to ESPN, along with his longtime Fox partner Joe Buck, to team up for Monday Night Football, which was recently announced.
Aikman remembers the feeling the day after a game and how injuries led to his career cut short, which is why he marvels at the longevity of Brady, who at age 44, continues to bounce back week after week and still play at an MVP level.
“It was hard to come back and feel great for the next game,” Aikman says. “That’s what’s been so impressive to me with Tom Brady, to be able to come back and do it again the next week. That’s a challenge.”
Troy Aikman finds his training solution
Aikman says he’s in peak physical condition today, a major stride after a number of back injuries (Aikman underwent surgery for a herniated disc in 1993) and several concussions sustained throughout his football career. Because he wisely left the game at a relatively young age, doctors assured Aikman that no additional surgery would be required for he labeled as a deteriorated joint. Instead, the elimination of hard hits on the field would lead to a full recovery.
That didn’t quite happen. Five years later, Aikman continued training regularly, but says the pain was getting worse and affecting every part of his daily life — making anything from round of golf to a restful night’s sleep a throbbing ordeal.
“It still wasn’t doing much better,” Aikman says. “I’d go run and then I’d be real stiff, my back would be giving me some problems at golf. I’d have a hard time getting out of bed.”
In around 2007, Aikman discovered Jason Harnden, a Dallas-based trainer who he developed an immediate connection with. He says Harnden immediately understood the situation Aikman was dealing with and had a viable solution: It required a greater emphasis on core work and a larger focus on unilateral training. This meant a heavy dose of dumbbell work for both upper and lower body, Aikman says.
Before Harnden, Aikman says the pain forced him to avoid traditional heavy movements like barbell squats and certain presses. Gradually, these moves were re-introduced into his routine in different variations his trainer came up with for him.
“He knew what I was dealing with,” Aikman says. “That was 16 years ago when I hired Jason. He’s still my trainer and I literally have been back pain free since I started working with him.”
Nowadays, Aikman still avoids barbell squats or exercises that place undue stress on his neck and spine, and instead continues to perform his squats primarily with dumbbells. He says the results speak for itself as he’s worked his way to regaining the strength numbers he had in his 40s — this time pain free.
“I’ve been doing one of my workouts now that I did probably eight years ago — I have all my weights and stuff recorded. And I’m still doing the same weights without any problems,” he says proudly.
Conditioning, always a big part of Aikman’s routine, has changed up as well. Aikman admits to at one point doing some form of cardio seven days a week. In the process, he developed a running infatuation — Aikman ran a half-marathon about two years ago — but has since ditched the pavement and has hopped on the Peloton, cutting his conditioning down to about five days a week along with one long-distance recovery walk. “There was a time up until probably about five years ago that if I’ve missed five days of cardio in a year, that would’ve been a lot,” says Aikman.
Troy Aikman has found the right mindset
Longevity starts with consistency, Aikman believes, and that begins with a great priority of rest and recovery. Despite his nonstop schedule — including meet and greets in bars and restaurants throughout the Lone Star state to showcase Eight — Aikman says his days end normally end around 9 p.m. before starting all over again around 6 to 8 a.m. the following morning — depending on how he feels. “I put such a priority on my rest and sleep these days,” Aikman says. “Knowing the benefits of how important it is, I’ll wake up when my body tells me it’s fully rested.”
If there is one part of the plan that is in need of extra attention, Aikman says it’s his constant struggle to stretch regularly. “I’m not great at doing the little things,” he admits. “I’m not great at taking time to do some stretching — that that’s where yoga came in really handy for me — so I need to get back into that.”
Meditation, however, has been a new and important entry into Aikman’s morning regimen. Even for an ex-QB whose job was to remain calm and levelheaded in the pressure moments, staying clear and focused when juggling the commotions of television, entrepreneurship and family life remain a challenge.
He says he’s done retreats and downloaded apps, but Aikman’s real spiritual awakening came about two years ago, he says, after coming across the Michael Singer self-help book “Untethered Mind” — which focused on helping others unlock their inner boundaries. Now, about 30 minutes each morning of silent meditation helps kick-start Aikman’s daily grind.
“It gave me real insight — the light bulb went on,” Aikman says. “I said, Oh, wow! Now I know I get it! I understand now why I’m doing it, and what I’m supposed to be experiencing, and it’s been a total game changer.”
Another influence has been nutrition influencer Dr. Mark Hyman, creator of the vegetable-heavy Pegan diet. “I follow him the most on social media,” Aikman says.
Aikman’s menu relies on whole foods, with a heavy amount of green vegetables along with smaller portions of either grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken, and fish — or what he refers to as the “condiments to the vegetables.”
The results have him feeling energized and full, with rarely a craving for the old-time cheat-meal days of vanilla ice cream, oatmeal cookies, and peanut M&Ms. “I think I’ve had I think I’ve had two pizzas in the last in the last year,” he says. “I like chips and salsa and may have that from time to time. But I don’t feel deprived at all. I don’t even really feel like it’s a diet. It’s just the way that I eat.”
Troy Aikman raises a glass to forever feeling 25
You could say beer has been a part of Aikman for most of his life. Before becoming a spokesman for Miller during his NFL days, Aikman spent his college summers lugging beer cases for customers at a local Tulsa, OK beer distributor.
Now as part-owner of Eight, Aikman has hands-on control of the entire beer process, including giving the OK to the brand’s logo, a dark colon over the can’s white background, which resembles the number 8. From staff hiring to taste testing, including working for the past two years with Oregon State University’s acclaimed food science department, Aikman has final say on what goes into his own light beer.
And even though everything is said to be bigger in Texas, which is where the brand is exclusively sold, Eight is one of the state’s lighter options, at just 90 calories and 2.6 grams of carbs while made with 100% organic grains, with no added sugars or either corn or rice syrup.
“I’ve always been pretty good at drinking, but I didn’t know what all went into making it,” he says. “I didn’t realize the complexities of making a light beer. But I’ve learned a lot in that regard, but I’m still no expert.”
For Aikman, Eight represents a lifestyle celebration, a job well done for a week’s work of, whether in the weightroom, broadcast booth or malt house, and still being able to get it done by leading a healthy fashion.
“You can’t fake it,” Aikman says. “You’re either putting in the work or you’re not. That’s why we refer to Eight as a lifestyle brand. It’s for the early risers, for those get out of bed with a passion and a purpose to want to be the best they can be.”