WHOLE BODY FITNESS
IS AN UNOBTRUSIVE PRIVATE
GYM IN CHICO, CALIFORNIA,
where the best quarterback in the NFL prepares for the season. I’m chatting with Angelo
Poli, his off-season trainer. Poli, soft-spoken
and cerebral, is talking about alignment—that
alchemical fusion of posture, coordination,
and balance that pays huge dividends not only
to the pro athlete seeking, say, the Lombardi
Trophy but also to the average Joe hoping to
look, feel, and perform just a little bit better.
“As alignment improves,” Poli is saying,
“everything works together—the brain, the
nervous system, the muscles, the joints—with
maximum efficiency.” When you watch his
famous client on the field—that assurance,
that light touch, head up, eyes forward—you’re
seeing alignment in action, Poli says.
It’s a hard-to-grasp concept, but then the
exemplar himself strolls in and I immediately
see what Poli means. Aaron Rodgers is a big
guy, 6' 2", 225 pounds, but there’s nothing lumbering about him. He’s a heavyweight who
moves like a middleweight—Muhammad Ali
in shoulder pads.
His physical ease isn’t an affectation. It’s
not the slouch of a surfer dude (although he’s
from California) nor is it the swagger of a
champion (he has the ring). It’s just an old-fashioned quality your mom might have called
poise: relaxed but ready. Back straight but not
tense, shoulders square but loose.
Everything is aligned, including his career.
After a famously bumpy start—waiting in vain
for a Division I scholarship, waiting through
23 picks in the 2005 draft, waiting ( 3 years)
for Brett Favre to move on—the 28-year-old
Green Bay QB has come roaring into his own.
Since becoming a starter in 2008, Rodgers has won a Super Bowl and
an MVP award. He’s put up head-shaking numbers (last year, 45 touchdowns with just 6 interceptions. Really?) and holds the highest career
quarterback rating in league history. Last year he set the season record
for QB rating, 122. 5, well ahead of Drew Brees and Tom Brady, who both
had amazing years too. The Associated Press named him Athlete of the
Year—that’s all athletes, all sports.
Physically he seems to have everything going for him too. Slingshot
release. Laser-point accuracy. Bruce Lee agility that leaves defenders
lunging like barroom drunks.
But what of this “alignment,” thing, and how do we snap into position
Perfect alignment is innate: We all had it as children. But after years
of laxness, overuse, and injuries, certain muscles become too loose, oth-
ers too tight, and we find we’ve warped the full-body alignment that was
our birthright. Something as simple as weekend yard work can trigger a
cascade of trouble. An injured knee, for instance, may cause an imper-
ceptible bodily crick that then leads to hip and lower-back pain, and then
moves on to neck and shoulder aches. Apply more pressure to the joints—
pickup basketball, anyone?—and the problems become worse.