Here at Men’s Health, we have the luck to regularly chat with the men and women who do amazing things on the court, field, and links. And we’re not asking them the usual reporter questions you see in postgame press conferences. We mine for golden nuggets of wisdom that you can take and adapt to your everyday life. Because honestly, it’s one thing for scientists to say how you can overcome mounting pressure in your life, but it’s another thing when you hear it from a guy like two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning. Here are the wisest, truest moments from a year of athlete Q&As. Take the knowledge that helps you the most, and have a hall-of-fame 2013.
12. “Restrictive diets don’t work. Honestly, you can’t give a fat person small meals and think they’re not going to cheat.”
Basketball legend and Sports Emmy winner Charles Barkley, who dropped over 42 pounds after joining the Weight Watchers program and then became the company’s spokesman for guys trying to lose weight.
11. “When you get injured, it’s usually because your body is fatigued and you’re pushing it to the max. Rest is just as important as working hard—you need a good balance of both.”
Olympic sprinter Lolo Jones, sharing her training secrets to overcome daily injuries.
10. “We all have roadblocks in our lives. Beast Mode doesn’t make excuses. It doesn’t complain. Whatever you’re doing, go out there and get it done. Keep pushing. If I have a bad game, I think about what I have to do to return to form. Figure it out, go to sleep, and wake up a new man.”
Los Angeles Dodgers centerfielder Matt Kemp, describing his mindset of Beast Mode, which prepares him for games and events in his life.
9. “Energy is something you can control. In everything you do, you’re going to face people more talented than you. I set myself apart by bringing more energy than they do.”
NBA All-Star and Los Angeles Clippers high-flyer Blake Griffin, on how you can compete at any level.
8. “You have to change. Even at 36, I’m still running 12 miles a game. [But] I’ve definitely become more aware on the field. I know what my limits are, what I can achieve, and which passes I can play. I have adapted to my age.”
International soccer star David Beckham, discussing how he is able to stay in the game even at an age where most players are retired.
7. “If my calves are tired, then I’ll focus on my knees and my leg lifts—anything to get my mind off my calves. You can’t let yourself focus on the bad.”
U.S. Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall. He had to pull out of the Olympic marathon race because of a calf strain—the first DNF of his career—and he still holds the American record for 26.2 miles.
6. “My advice for all the guys out there: Walk to work. Walk with your wife around the neighborhood. Walk to your gym, get on the treadmill for 30 minutes. If you stick with exercise, you can still have a burger every now and then.”
NBA legend and TNT commentator Shaquille O’Neil, on how he kept pounds off after retiring from the game.
5. “Just because you’re picked high, or young, or in somewhat of a leadership position, doesn’t mean you know everything—by any means at all. I think there’s a lot to be learned from your teammates and older guys around you.”
Indianapolis Colts No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck, on what it’s like being thrown into a new situation and touted as a leader.
4. “Working hard and putting in extra time is the big advantage that anyone can have. That opportunity to work hard is always there. It’s never going to go away. The only way it goes away is if you don’t want it.”
New England Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, talking about his mindset when training. However, he was noticeably mum when we asked him how to pick up chicks.
3. “You have way more confidence. You don’t have as many little insecurities; you just feel better about yourself. Going to the gym is great for your body, but it’s also great for your mind.”
Professional golfer Rory McIlroy, explaining how bettering your body helps you in more ways than one. He was one of the top golfers of 2012, winning 5 of the 24 tournaments he started, including the PGA Championship.
2. “Set [difficult moments] up where you almost have a craving to be in that situation. Think of things ahead of time. Go through every possibility and every situation that might come up, and be prepared for them all. So if it comes to that point where you’re actually in that situation, you’re not nervous . . . you’re excited.”
New York Giants quarterback and Super Bowl XLVI Most Valuable Player Eli Manning, on what it takes to be clutch in even the most daunting situations—like fourth quarter comebacks in an opponent’s stadium, or hosting Saturday Night Live.
1. “When I was growing up, I never thought about the failure part of things. There was just a goal, medal, or achievement I could accomplish. And with any goal, I just go for and don’t think about the not-succeeding part.”
Gold medal decathlete and world record holder Ashton Eaton, on what it takes to power through hardship.