Greatist Journeys explore amazing stories from extraordinary people.
Known for his unselfish play and supreme work ethic on the court and in the gym, the NBA’s Jeremy Lin credits much of his success to his lifestyle off the court. From yoga and flag football to a protein-packed diet (including the occasional In-N-Out Burger), Lin— like Greatist— believes in hard work without taking himself too seriously. Finally back in the game after nearly a six-month lockout, the Harvard grad sat down with Greatist to share his tips on staying physically and mentally sharp for his NBA return.
Did sports always come naturally to you?
Growing up, I was always pretty active and I loved sports, but I think there are a lot of things within the game of basketball that don’t come naturally to me… I’m not the most talented shooter or the most vocal leader. Things like that you can work on, but I think just sports, in general, came really easily to me.
So what’s a typical gym and/or cardio workout for you?
I’m not really a believer of straightforward cardio like elliptical or running. If I do any type of cardio, it’s always with a basketball. I’ll do a lot of 1-on-1 moves and start at half court, come down and do a move at the three-point line and go down and try to dunk it. And I’ll just do that over and over with different moves for like an hour and a half. By the time I’m done with that I’m pretty dead. That’s kind of my philosophy, though. If I’m going to get myself tired, I want to make sure it’s functional and makes sense with a basketball.
[For weight training] it’s all based on increasing my lateral speed, my agility, and my vertical. Olympic lifts, squats, lunges, slideboards, 5-10-5s. A lot of stuff for my core and back, like different dead lifts and hang cleans.
For upper body, my trainer (Phil Wagner of Sparta Science) has a pretty unique philosophy. He always goes with high reps because he doesn’t want me to become too bulky. His biggest thing for me is building my endurance so my muscles won’t deteriorate during an 82-game season. When I’m benching or doing dumbbell press, I’ll do about 20 to 40 reps per set. And I try to do one of those a week and then one power, fewer reps so I have that balance between light and heavy.
What’s your favorite non-basketball-related way to work out?
The most creative workout I do is probably yoga. That for me is huge in terms of flexibility and core strength, which prevents me from getting injured. Also, it’s not really a workout, but I love recreationally playing football. So on an off day, I might do something like that.
What about your diet? Do you cook?
I’m not a big cook and my family isn’t really either so I pretty much eat out every meal.
So then what does a typical day look like in terms of food?
I’m 205 lbs, so [based on my trainer’s recommendation] I need 205 grams of protein a day. And then I need eight servings of veggies and about five big bottles of water. Those are my three goals.
For breakfast, I try to get 50 grams of protein, so I’ll eat like five eggs and a few pieces of turkey or ham or some other lean meat. I usually do my lift and morning court workout back-to-back so right after that, I’ll get a protein shake, which is another 30 grams of protein. And then for lunch, I’ll pretty much always have a salad and a sandwich (with chicken breast, salmon, or turkey). Then I’ll usually take a nap, get up for my afternoon workout and then have dinner. Dinner is different [every night]. I try to eat a big salad. That’s ideal, but a lot of times it ends up being pasta and chicken. I try to keep everything lean— lean carbs and lean meat. And then at night, I’ll have a casein protein shake.
What’s something you wouldn’t want your coach to know that you eat?
In-N-Out Burger. That’s my weakness. If I drive by and smell it, it’s over.
What do you do in your spare time in between training every day?
I have two guys that do my marketing and we’ve been making these YouTube videos that show my personality off the court. Also, I have a non-profit organization, so I spend a lot of time doing research and getting that going. That’s something I’m really big on. Today was the soft launch so we had three school visits and gave away a few hundred turkeys. I also had a TV interview to promote my foundation, which is called the Jeremy Lin Foundation.
Finally, if you could play any other sport professionally what would it be?
I’d try to be you— André Akpan! Soccer was my favorite sport [growing up]. I played until eighth grade. But in California, basketball and soccer were in the same season. I had to quit one of them, so I chose basketball.
Not the worst choice if you ask us. Have more questions for Jeremy Lin? Ask them here!
Photo: Copyright 2010 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images), Illustration: Cris Magliozzi.