Ex-Dolphin Twan Russell promotes exercise for kids

Fort Lauderdale native Twan Russell was an NFL linebacker for seven years, including with the Miami Dolphins. During his playing days, he established The Russell Life Skills and Reading Foundation, which provides after-school programs for economically disadvantaged children through 10 centers in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

A husband and dad of three kids, ranging in age from 15 to 3, Russell's day job is directing youth and community programs for the Miami Dolphins. He said the programs reach 180,000 children per year, teaching them about the importance of both fitness and education. "If you don't exercise, your brain atrophies," he said.

Q: Why do you keep fit these days?

A: From a vain standpoint, I want to look a certain way, and I want to be healthy. You have so many NFL players after football who stop working out and eating right. I want to make sure I'm getting my exercise in. I'm not perfect, but every day I'm trying to do something.

Q: What's your workout routine?

A: At the Dolphins, we have a group of guys doing Insanity workouts, which is like the P90X. I do that three to four times a week. Dolphins employees can do it every day at lunch. It's a crazy workout. Worse than running. Really hard. Do a 55-minute workout with power jumps, power jacks, skip jumps, a lot of lunges, a lot of aerobics and power, a lot of intervals. We do three to five minutes, then take 30-second breaks.

And I cycle six months of the year, June to November, to get ready for [the Miami Dolphins] Cycling Challenge. That in itself is pretty intense. Go 30 miles a day, 50 on weekends, on a loop by my neighborhood and sometimes by the beach.

And for work, I teach kids fitness so I exercise with them.

Q: What fitness programs do the Dolphins have?

A: Last year, we did 200 events reaching 180,000 kids. We go to schools and they learn about the Dol-Fit program, which is education and physical fitness. We teach kids proper things to eat, play. We tell kids to exercise 60 minutes a day. Encourage them to ride bikes, play on the playground, live healthier lives.

Q: Have you noticed a correlation between fitness and education?

A: Studies say brains work better when you exercise. I read a study that said people who are obese, their brains actually shrink. If you don't exercise, your brain atrophies. There's been a gradual decline in physical education in schools since the 1990s. The more we remove physical education in schools, the more kids are not doing as well on tests or being creative.

Q: Does your family keep fit?

A: Everyone in our house is very active. Our daughter dances 20 hours a week. My son loves sports: football, basketball, lacrosse. My wife's a dancer. She teaches dance to kids at our foundation. My 3-year-old climbs on everything in our house.

At night, me and my 10-year-old and 3-year-old do a little fitness thing. They consistently remind me to do it. Crunches, pushups, walking pushups, lunges, different fun things. They saw me exercising one night and said, "Hey, Dad, can we do that?"

Q: Do you have any physical problems that hinder exercise?

A: Only thing I regret from football is I can't run anymore. I had significant knee injuries. Can shuffle but not lift my knees and pound on the ground.

Q: Do you smoke or have any other health vices?

A: No. Don't smoke, don't drink.

Q: What's your typical daily diet?

A: It varies because I'm always traveling. But [typically] for breakfast, a Nature's Own granola bar and a piece of fruit. My favorite is peanut butter granola and a banana. Then on weekends, because I have more time, I have oatmeal. Sunday, my wife always makes a big pot of grits, eggs and bacon.

Lunch, whatever we have. The Dolphins have an initiative to provide healthy lunches.

My wife's the health nut. She's big on organic fruits and vegetables. She cooks dinner every night. I don't eat a whole lot of meat. I do eat fish and chicken but not beef. A lot of fish, shrimp.

Q: Ever cheat from your diet?

A: I have my Oreos stuffed under the bed that I'll grab every once in a while. It's important that you have something sweet here and there. Yes, my wife says that's too much.

Q: What do you drink?

A: A lot of water. My wife likes 100 percent juice, so I'll also drink what she buys. If I cheat, it'll be a soda every once in a while.

Q: Take any vitamins or sports nutrition products?

A: I take a multivitamin every day and am always low in vitamin D so I take 5,000 [IU] every day. I'm lactose-intolerant so not a lot of protein or milk.

Q: Have any fitness advice for South Florida residents?

A: We have an epidemic in our country where people, when they come home, watch television, get on the Internet. When I was a kid, I went outside, played with neighbors, threw a football around. When you force the kids to go outside, they end up loving it. Parents need to force kids to join teams. It's easy for an adult to let a kid sit and watch TV or play video games because they don't have to worry about the kid or watch the kid.

Twan Russell

Age: 38

City of residence: Plantation

Height/weight: 6 feet, 2 inches; 224 pounds

Occupation: Director of youth and community programs for the Miami Dolphins, chairman of The Russell Life Skills and Reading Foundation

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