Jets' Sanchez reveals how he muscled up for his biggest challenge
Updated: Thu., Aug. 9, 2012, 9:26 AM
By BRIAN COSTELLO
CORTLAND — The alarm on Mark Sanchez’s phone begins to beep every night at 9:50.
The Jets quarterback immediately stops what he’s doing and gets ready for bed. He brushes his teeth, washes his face and is under the covers in 10 minutes.
“I’m like Pavlov’s dog,” Sanchez said.
This is part of the new plan for Sanchez. He does not just have an alarm to wake him up in the morning, but also one to tell him to go to bed at night. The goal is to get eight hours of sleep. It’s part of Mark Sanchez 2.0. Over the offseason, Sanchez reshaped his body, changed his diet and worked harder than he ever has.
Sanchez sat down with The Post yesterday and shared just what he did to get ready for the 2012 season.
“It’s not quite a makeover, but it’s a shift in what I was doing,” Sanchez said, “and it really got me excited about this year and the kind of discipline it’s going to take to do it.”
Sanchez then set off into the most challenging offseason of his career, trying to win back the locker room and, with Tim Tebow looming, hold on to his job.
Sanchez walked off the field on Jan. 1 in Miami deflated. He had thrown a career-high 26 touchdowns, but the Jets’ season had just ended with no trip to the playoffs for the first time in his career.
“I was not feeling my strongest, not feeling my best,” Sanchez said. “I felt like I couldn’t get the power into my throws. I couldn’t use my legs.”
Sanchez’s third season in the NFL had taken its toll. The 25-year-old was down to 218 pounds. He had pain in his neck and shoulder. He had been sacked 39 times, the fifth most in the NFL.
He vanished for about a month after the season, taking time in the Caribbean and trying to avoid all the dissection of the Jets’ season. As Sanchez evaluated his season, he thought maybe it was time to add weight.
Across the country, Todd Norman was thinking the exact same thing.
Norman has been Sanchez’s personal trainer since the quarterback was at Mission Viejo (Calif.) High School.
“I was thinking this guy really needs to get stronger,” Norman said. “He needs to be more durable because he’s taking a lot of hits back there.”
The two talked at the beginning of February and agreed that Norman would come up with a plan with more extensive strength training.
“Let’s do it,” Sanchez said.
The training began in March at 8 a.m. every day at Norman’s gym in Orange County, Calif. It would start with core training for 20-30 minutes, then a stretching period, followed by foot speed and quarterback drills for another hour.
Then, they would hit the weights. In the past, Sanchez had lifted twice a week. Now, they upped it to four, using more weight and less reps.
The weightlifting sessions lasted for about 90 minutes. Sanchez would then throw passes for an hour and come back to the gym if there was anything he needed extra work on.
“Mark was maybe a little hesitant in the past to do too much weight training,” Norman said. “He agreed with me that we should give it a shot this year.”
They also paid special attention to lifts that would help build strength in Sanchez’s neck, shoulders and ankles, potential injury spots.
Sometimes to add variety to the workouts, they would go to a secluded beach where Sanchez would do conditioning and quarterback drills in the sand. Norman, who trains some MMA fighters, even incorporated some MMA training. Sanchez called the sand training “exhausting” but worth it.
“I don’t want anything holding me back,” Sanchez said. “After a season like that, you just want to get back on the field as soon as possible and attack it and not be passive.”
Sanchez is not the Jets quarterback best known for his physique, of course. But Norman said the arrival of Tim Tebow had nothing to do with Sanchez’s decision to bulk up.
“This whole game plan went down before Tim Tebow [was traded to the Jets],” Norman said. “I tell people all the time that Mark’s an extremely hard worker. I know that there were some things that came out talking about him not being that way, but that is the furthest thing from the truth.”
In April, Sanchez took a vacation to Maui for a week. Instead of missing workouts, he brought Norman and his 9-year-old son, Troy, along. They worked out four hours a day in the gym and on the beach.
“This offseason we got after it and we just kept getting after it,” Norman said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I’m getting out of town.’ It was like, ‘No, you’re going with me.’ ”
A week before Sanchez reported to training camp, he and Norman were in a private gym near Sanchez’s home in New Jersey going through a late workout. The two took a break around midnight and sat down on the floor. Norman pulled out a pad and pencil. They started listing some goals for the season and how he could achieve them. When they were done, Noman had pages of handwritten notes.
One of the things they talked about was nutrition. Sanchez loves fast food. Norman told him it was time to cut it down to once per week. Norman came up with a menu of healthy choices and they hired a chef to prepare the meals for Sanchez.
That is when they also discussed getting more sleep. Norman asked Sanchez to figure out every detail of how long it takes him to do things — from driving to the Jets practice facility to brushing his teeth. Sanchez now sets his alarm for 10 minutes before he needs to go to bed to ensure eight hours of sleep.
Norman took the handwritten notes from their July conversation, typed them out, laminated them and gave them to Sanchez as a season-long reminder of their objectives.
Sanchez is also in the process of revamping the private gym where he lives. He is buying a squat rack, medicine balls, kettlebells and other things so he will be able to work out there if he does not have time to get to the Jets weight room.
The late-night conversation ended after 45 minutes that night. Then, they resumed the workout at around 1 a.m.
Two weeks into training camp, the results of Sanchez’s work are on display.
“He can always throw the football, but man he’s got zip on it,” Ryan said. “This is the best I’ve ever seen him throw it.”
Norman has told Sanchez their offseason work does not guarantee in-season success, but Sanchez is ready to erase the memory of last year’s disappointment.
“Bring it on. Let’s go,” Sanchez said of the season. “I’ve seen so much in three years. This is just the next step. I’m not going to be passive about it. I’m going to attack it and go 100 miles an hour. I’m working smarter, not just harder.”