I view fitness as a long-term strategy for building and maintaining endurance, strength and agility. It's a continuous cycle of training and recovery, which is especially true in golf because there is basically no offseason anymore. Year-round play has increased the emphasis on fitness -- and it's not just about striking the ball harder or farther. It's also about staying in top playing condition so you can avoid injuries and extend your career.
When I first joined the Tour, I was the only one in the gym. Now guys travel with their own trainers. Everyone's getting bigger, stronger and fitter. I don't want to concede anything to the competition, so I train hard all the time. I work out as many as six days a week, even when I'm in a tournament.
It's important not to burn out mentally or physically when you're putting in that much time. I alternate my routines and focus on maintaining my fitness level instead of making big, drastic changes all at once. I go for muscle tone instead of bulk, and I incorporate flexibility training into every session. For golfers, flexibility is critical because we contort our bodies in strange ways. And the older we get, the more our muscles lose elasticity, so we've got to work even harder to keep it.
There is a mental element to my fitness regimen that is just as fundamental as sweat time in the gym or on the golf course. I have a few basic principles I follow, and it helps me stay on track: have patience, be committed and have fun.
When I try to change something, whether it's my swing or my physique, I know it's going to take a lot of patience. Sometimes, you don't see immediate results, and frustration can get you off your game if you let it. A great example of that is my strength-training routine. I've been lifting weights for a long time, but I didn't see real changes until my mid-20s when I was finally able to lay down muscle and keep it. It felt good to see all that work paying off, but it took time because of my body type. Patience kept me focused, and I eventually got the results I wanted.
Just as you have to commit to every swing, you have to commit to your fitness regimen.
I'm always trying to improve, whether it's on the golf course or in the gym. So I ask myself: What do I need to do today to be better than I was yesterday? What am I going to work on tomorrow to be better than I was today? The key to improvement is to commit to your goal and never quit.
When I'm working out, I also want to have fun. Mix up your routine to keep your muscles guessing and to keep yourself from getting bored. If you're working with a trainer or exercising with a friend, challenge each other to make things interesting. Or take a break from the gym altogether and do something that you really enjoy. Besides golf, I like to play tennis, spear-fish and ski. It's nice to get a change of scenery once in awhile and challenge different muscles. And for extra motivation, a good soundtrack can help. Anything from the '80s and early '90s works for me.
The bottom line is fitness is a personal choice. There isn't a one-size-fits-all way of doing it. Find something that works for you and your body type and stick with it. You'll build good fitness habits for life and have some fun while you're at it.