Working Out With Taj McWilliams-Franklin

Taj McWilliams-Franklin is a physical marvel. At age 37, the 6-2 Los Angeles power forward remains one of the WNBA's top post players and rebounders and played in her sixth All-Star Game last summer in Washington. After training this fall with the USA Basketball team, the nine-year WNBA veteran is spending the winter in Israel, where she is tearing it up for Ramat Hen.

Sure, she has her occasional aches and pains, but Taj spoke recently with about her workout regimen and how she keeps her body conditioned to compete in the world's top league.

Q: How would you describe the importance of fitness and exercise in your life?

MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: "The role of fitness and exercise in my life is a big deal. My older sister would tell you that when she was younger, when she got into trouble she had to go run the stairs. That's a big thing for us. My husband stays in great shape; he works out. He was in the military so he worked out early in the morning. It's important for us in our family. We make sure our little one -- we have a Wii now, so she plays the Wii -- has to go outside. She has to go out for an hour even if it's just walking around doing nothing. You have to stay in shape because healthy body, healthy mind. If you have a healthy lifestyle, you are going to live a long time. We want to make sure our family stays together a long time."

Q: What's your favorite exercise for lower body? What results do this exercise help you achieve?

MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: "I think the medicine ball squat with a heavy ball between the knees. What it does is it works the tracking on the kneecap and the quads and hamstrings. You just squat down -- you can use two dumbbell weights in both hands -- and your knees are 90 degrees while you're holding the medicine ball. It's going to help the knees, which I need, but mostly your hamstring and your quad strength."

Q: How about your upper body?

MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: "Upper body would have to be the cable cross, especially in the game we play because we rebound with our hands out and bring them in with the ball. It helps the deltoids -- that strength where you grab that rebound and just pull it out of other people's hands."

Q: What is your favorite cardio exercise?

MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: "Cardio is the Elliptical. That's my friend. I love it. You go forward, you go backwards. It's like you're gliding up a hill, down a hill. It's really nice."

Q: How do you work out on your off-days during the season?

MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: "Off-days? We don't have no stinking off-days during the season… The one day that I've had off this whole month I, actually, surprisingly, did the treadmill, which is scary for me because I normally don't."

Q: What do you do to stay in shape during the offseason?

MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: "During the offseason I do a lot of running. I'm normally in some exotic place, like Russia, so it's an exciting running adventure to see different places. And a lot of walking and biking."

Q: Is there a song or a type of music you listen to when you work out?

MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: "I don't listen to any music when I'm working out. A lot of people put iPods on -- my husband puts one on all the time. But I like it to pretty much be me when I work out."

Q: Is there a fitness product on TV that makes you laugh the most?

MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: "The Ab Roller makes me laugh, the one you put your hands on and push out and pull out. When you do that it's such a severe strain on your back. That's funny. I watch infomercials late at night too so I know all the stuff."

Q: What's your toughest fitness challenge?

MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: "Running the mile. It seems to get me… being in a circle on a track. That's the toughest thing I've ever had to do. I'm not real good at staying in one place, as you can tell. I'm not real good at staying in one area seeing the same thing pass by over and over. To me that's the toughest challenge."

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get into better shape for playing basketball?

MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: "Go slowly. Don't think you are going to go out there and be the player that you see on TV because we actually do work a lot harder than it looks on TV. So get in shape slowly. Do a little at a time. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. Then build it up. Don't try to go out there and be Michael Jordan, Taj McWilliams-Franklin or Lisa Leslie the first day. Work to it. Be who you are and work up to your goals."

Q: Is there certain food or meal that you eat before games or a favorite healthy snack?

MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: "I don't eat before the games, lately. I don't sleep, either. I'm always doing something. Actually, I always have an apple. There's always an apple -- green or red -- when I'm roaming around. And then during halftime I have a banana."

Q: When did you start working out and when were you in the best shape of your life?

MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: "I started working out well when I was 18. I think I was in the best shape of my life two years ago because I had my daughter in 2003, and I spent 2003 trying to get into good shape, and in 2004 and 2005 I was in great shape."

Q: Is there a fitness goal that you've set for yourself that you're working towards now?

MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: "I definitely need to shape up these legs. I'm working on losing about 10 pounds and building up my legs because I've been having some knee issues that have limited me in games."

Q: Is there one exercise that you hate doing and have to force yourself to complete?

MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: "Hmm, push-ups probably. Even though I do love them, they tend to hurt my shoulder, so I have to push myself to do them."

Q: Is there a fitness accomplishment you're most proud of?

MCWILLIAMS-FRANKLIN: "That fact that I'm 37 and still playing at a top level. I'm pretty happy about that."