Portland Timbers defender Zarek Valentin reveals his secrets to staying fit

Although the current Portland Timbers franchise has only been in existence less than a decade, it has already lodged itself in the city’s collective consciousness. The team routinely sells out its home games, won the Major League Soccer (MLS) championship in 2015, and as of November 27, 2018, is poised to make a run toward a another championship. Digital Trends’ Riley Winn visited the Timbers home stadium, Providence Park, to speak with defender Zarek Valentin, who talked about fitness -tracking technology, his love of sneakers, and the energy of the Timbers Army.

Valentin has been playing soccer since he was around 5, although he flirted with the idea of becoming a basketball player as a teenager.

“I would have loved to be an NBA player,” he says, “but I was not good enough, tall enough, athletic enough, fast enough to do that. I actually almost gave up soccer for basketball when I was in seventh grade, but I realized I was on the B-team for basketball and the national for soccer, so I made the right decision.” Valentin went on to join MLS, following in the footsteps of his older brother, former L.A. Galaxy player Julian Valentin.

The workout regimen for an MLS player is rigorous. “We start at about 8:30 [a.m.] every day,” Valentin explains. “A lot of players get in before that. The team likes to have as much control over our lives as possible. I say that in the most positive way, meaning they serve us breakfast, they serve us lunch, and a lot of players take home boxes for dinner. I took two. So they can basically control everything that we put into our body. They know exactly what we’re putting in before, during, and after training, so the team has a lot of control over our lives, and I think that they enjoy that, and ultimately they can see when a player’s maybe working too hard, working too little, then eventually regiment themselves out for that.”

Part of the intense routine is the inclusion of fitness-tracking devices, which have been an enormous boon for the players.

“I used to not be into it as much,” Valentin says, “but the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve used it as a bar, set to essentially gauge how fit I am … I’ve been able to gauge what my peak fitness is: How fast I can run, how I feel after the game, how I feel before the game, and maybe during a three-game week … and maybe if I’m coming back from an injury — knock on wood — or maybe I haven’t played a game because I was being rested or coach’s decision. No matter what, I know essentially what I have to do to get my body back into peak fitness.”

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