Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Davis transforms into a fitness Dynamo
It's become a sweet ritual on the day before Houston Dynamo matches.
Defender Craig Waibel goes Martha Stewart on his teammates, baking gooey chocolate chip and morsel-filled peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.Waibel -- who, for the record, ain't too proud to bake -- brings his cookie creations to the locker room for the Dynamo to devour. And, of course, the first guy to start loading up on the baked goodness is midfielder Brad Davis. At least, until last season."I damn near fell over when I saw that," Waibel said. "I couldn't believe Brad stopped eating the cookies. The discipline Brad has now is remarkable. He has definitely changed."Thanks to the Brad Davis Workout. You won't find Davis' regimen on a DVD or infomercial. For the most part, Davis designed it himself, mixing yoga with core training, adding a new low-fat diet.The result? Brad Davis, a nine-year veteran, is in the best shape of his career, playing some of the best soccer of his life."I've never felt better than I do now and I said that last year," Davis said. "I was 10 pounds heavier [last year]. I see results and I'm more confident. I just think I needed to help the team more. I was helping the team, but as a young guy, I was missing way too many games."With three key Dynamo midfielders shipping out, now is the perfect time for Davis, 28, to shape up. Houston midfield stars Ricardo Clark and Stuart Holden left for opportunities in Europe during the offseason. Holden now plays for the Bolton Wanderers in the English Premier League and Clark suits up for Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga.The Dynamo's depth took another hit last month when midfielder Geoff Cameron went down with a torn posterior cruciate ligament in a 2-0 loss to Chicago. He is out for the season. With Cameron on the shelf, Davis has moved into the middle for Houston (4-3-1).He's coming off his best game of the year, putting up a goal and an assist in a 2-0 win over Chivas USA on Saturday. Davis made his 125th appearance in all competitions for the Dynamo."There's a lot of pressure on my shoulders," Davis said. "That's why I have to do these things and stay healthy. Those guys [Clark and Holden] were good players. They decided to move on and you can't fault them for that. Other people have to step up too, but, for me, the pressure is motivation."Davis wasn't a slouch before his fitness revival. Still, growing up in St. Louis, he was bred on weekend breakfasts of eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy.In the MLS, Davis ate well, but he still mixed in late-night greasy dinners, an occasional beer or two, junk food and, of course, his pal Waibel's cookies."I just felt like I was a young kid, like I was 12," Davis said. "I thought I was invincible. It was like 'Oh, I play soccer. I should be able to work it off during practice.' But I felt like crap."His turnaround began after the 2008 season. Davis and his wife, Heather, took yoga classes during return trips to St. Louis. They worked with different instructors and Davis picked up different techniques he liked.He soon added the rigorous P90X workout, which combines cardio, yoga and core exercise. Houston's training staff helped Davis develop his program.He works his core and upper body twice a week and does yoga once. During the offseason, Davis cleaned up his diet, eating basically only grilled meats and vegetables, sprinkling in snacks like almonds and fruits. He now checks in at a lean 165 pounds.For the first time in his career, Davis didn't miss a game last season. He said he feels more flexible and refreshed, stronger, after games. He hasn't been slowed by nagging injuries. However, Davis did tweak his right hamstring during the U.S. national team's 2-1 win over El Salvador in February. "Technically, Brad is a great soccer player, but he's had some injuries," Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said. "But, now, he's probably in the best shape of his career. And we need Brad in good shape, available every game. I think, as many players get older, they realize they have to take better shape of their body. Brad has done that, he looks good, and he's only in his 20s."Added Waibel: "Brad is just more focused on his job. That's what it all boils down to here. I don't think Brad was in the best environment his first few years in the league. I think he learned a lot from a guy like Wade Barrett [a former Dynamo player and now an assistant coach], who is a physical specimen. It makes it easy to cheer for and respect Brad. You want him to succeed."Barrett helped turn many Dynamo players into workout junkies, and Davis is continuing the trend. He sees more guys stretching and working out in the Dynamo's training room. Some even ask Davis for training and diet tips.They've seen what the Brad Davis Workout did for Brad Davis. How's that for a catchy jingle?"Shoot, I wish I could market this," Davis laughed. "That guy who came up with the P90X workout is making a mint. But I don't know about videos. I'm just happy I finally got into a routine that will really help me."
Justin Rodriguez covers USL, NCAA and youth soccer for ESPNsoccernet. He is the soccer writer for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., and can be reached at email@example.com.