EVERY MORNING, except on game days, Jets coach Herman Edwards arrives at the team's training complex before five, flicks on the lights in the weight room and begins a series of exercises he's been doing for 30 years. "I like the silence and the solitude at that hour," says Edwards, 51, whose second child, Gabrielle, was born on Aug. 10. "I have 16-hour days ahead of me. Exercising gives me the energy to get through them." His work ethic comes from Herman Edwards Sr., a master sergeant who served in the U.S. Army for 27 years (including World War II) and taught his son the discipline and organization that Edwards carried with him during nine seasons as an Eagles defensive back. In those years coach Dick Vermeil stopped handing out a best-conditioned-athlete award because Edwards always won. "I never wanted the excuse that I was tired during a game," says Edwards. "That would be letting the team down." These days he does a variety of what he calls "old school" exercises over the course of a week. Below is a typical workout.
Lying on back, knees bent, feet on floor, alternate five to the front, five twisting to the right and five to the left, up to 25. Then, holding a 20-pound medicine ball (above), do 25 with feet raised. He layers these between other exercises, doing a total of 500 crunches during a 90-minute workout. Edwards: "Your stomach holds everything together. Without strong abs you'll have a weak back and bad posture."
One warmup set of 10 reps with a 185-pound barbell. Then, four sets of five reps at 230 pounds. Incline dumbbell press (above): three sets of 10, 65 pounds in each hand. Decline dumbbell press: three sets of 10 at 70 pounds each. Edwards: "I always lift my legs into the air when I'm bench-pressing so that I can't cheat and use them to help lift the weight. It's also harder to balance with your legs off the ground."
After doing side-to-sides (with a five-foot wooden bar behind his shoulders he bends side to side 60 times at the waist) to loosen his hips, obliques and back, he prepares for running by sitting with his legs splayed and his head to the floor for 30 seconds (above). This stretches his thighs and hamstrings. Edwards: "People are all hyped about yoga, but if you just stretch each day you'll prevent tightness and injury."
Edwards is famous for running backward on a treadmill (above)--30 minutes at 5 mph. On some days, like this one, he runs gassers, sprinting the width of the field (53.5 yards) and back 16 times, walking about 20 feet between dashes. Edwards: "Running forward, you work your quads; backward, your hamstrings and glutes. This balances you. And after each gasser I mark the ground so I don't lose count."
"I eat 1 1/2 meals a day," says the 6'1", 190-pound Edwards, who has just 6% body fat. "I never eat before I work out, but afterward, whether it's at nine or noon, I'll have fruit. I like melon--watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew. And I'll have a glass of orange juice or cranberry juice or else a cup of regular tea with half-and-half and quite a few doses of sugar. We order out for dinner here. Depending what restaurant we order from, I'll get some chow mein chicken or some Tex-Mex egg rolls or some New England clam chowder. I snack though. I'll have Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or a Snickers bar or, as a treat if I'm good, ice cream. There are 31 flavors [at Baskin Robbins] across the street with my name all over them. I'm also a fan of sorbets."
Leading by Example
LOVIE SMITH Bears
A weightlifting and cardio regimen starts at 5:30 a.m. "I'm a free weight guy," says Smith, 47. "I can max more than when I played [at Tulsa]."
JIM HASLETT Saints
The former All-Pro linebacker, 49, works out every day and keeps a log. He does 800 minutes a month on his stationary bike.
MIKE SHERMAN Packers
The 50-year-old does early morning workouts on an elliptical trainer, and he also lifts weights in a room that abuts his office.
JEFF FISHER Titans
The former NFL defensive back, 47, is an avid long-distance runner: In 2002 he completed Nashville's marathon in 4:09:13.
CHUCK SOLOMON (EDWARDS)
ERICK W. RASCO (REESE'S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS)
JOHN BIEVER (SMITH, SHERMAN)
TODD ROSENBERG (HASLETT)
BOB ROSATO (FISHER)