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Andre Carter: Fitness for Life

Around Redskins Park, they call him the "Abs Man." His body fat is in the neighborhood of four percent. In the weight room, he's something to behold and in his spare time he does martial arts.

They're just some of the reasons why Andre Carter is a model, the embodiment in fact, of what it is to be healthy and fit.

Even, so he has to work at it. He's 28 years old now, but the way Andre Carter looks at it, health and fitness are lifelong goals rather than something you do in the midst of an athletic career.

Says Carter: "I don't care if you're an NFL athlete, or even someone who doesn't really care about sports. Health and wellness comes down to one thing: discipline."

He continued: "If you have a certain goal as far as losing weight, building muscle, changing eating habits and your diet, it's just about discipline. Anybody who has the will power can achieve certain health-related goals. I'm not saying it's easy, but once you establish a schedule and stay consistent with it, most anything, well, a lot, is possible."

On the field, the way Carter has played in 2007 has followers of the team thinking about great pass rushers of seasons past. Like Dexter Manley, Charles Mann, Diron Talbert or Dave Butz.

Carter is a 6-4, 252-pound defensive end who is widely recognized around the NFL for his high level of fitness. The latter point is one of the first things Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs emphasized when Carter came to the Redskins in the 2006 offseason.

Now in his seventh NFL season, the former 2001 first-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers has inherited a solid foundation. Still, he has to work hard to maintain his level of strength, speed and fitness.

"I'm never content as far as my performance," he said. "In fact, I'm always hungry to do better. We challenge each other and push each other in terms of working out.

"I'm going to work as hard as I can for as long as I can, then bow out when the sun sets."

Of course, Redskins fans are hoping it stays daylight for a very long time.

Maintains Carter: "I think health and fitness in itself, to a certain degree, was always instilled in me. A lot of that, of course, came from my father. For me, it was always second nature to participate in sports-basketball, tae kwon do, football."

"This is my seventh year in the league," he adds. "What I've realized is that you have to constantly look for ways to improve your situation, in terms of nutrition, working out, taking care of your body in general."

In other words, you have to be as disciplined toward health and well being as you are toward anything else in your life.

In the following Q&A with Redskins health correspondent Megan Imbert, Andre Carter spoke about his attitude toward working out, the nutrition advice he gets at home and how his background in martial arts helps give him an edge.

How do you stay on track in terms of improving your diet and meeting your nutrition needs?

"My wife Bethany is my coach so to speak, so what that means in terms of nutrition is that I get a lot of help at home. It's all about organic foods, healthy foods, healthy eating all the way around. Sure, I slip up sometimes, because I'm like every little kid, in that I have a sweet tooth. But the goal remains the same: healthy foods, healthy eating. My wife is all about the natural foods. When you go that route, you feel fresher, like you have more energy."

When your career is over, what will be your commitment to staying in shape?

"I'll say this right off the bat: I plan to stay really active. With the NFL players or athletes in general, unfortunately when a lot of them retire they let themselves go. Fitness, though, it's something you work toward all your life. It's not just for you, it's for your family. You want to be healthy and energized to set the best example you can."

How hard do you work during the season as opposed to when the season's over?

"Out-of-season training is more building muscle, building speed, becoming faster. You're looking to develop the type of body that will prepare you for games, and for making it through the season. In-season training is more maintenance, because you have nicks and bruises and stuff to work your way through. You don't want to overwork yourself during the season because you have to play at a physical level week after week. So, during the 17 weeks of the regular season, it's more of a maintenance thing."

How does your approach differ from that of some of your teammates?

"You find out what's best for you, and you stick with it. Everybody's different. Obviously, I'm not Chris Samuels or Cornelius Griffin. The trick for me is to find out what I need out of a workout each and every day. Really, that's how I look at it. It's that simple sometimes."

How has your participation in tae kwon do, the Korean form of karate, been beneficial?

"Martial arts is largely hand-eye coordination, along with breathing techniques. So, especially for defensive ends, it's very important. It helps you stay relaxed, so at the moment when the ball is snapped, you can go out there and explode. That's one thing I like about martial arts; they force you to remain focused, play by play."

How did you get started in that arena?

"I've been doing martial arts since I was about five years old. My mother had me enrolled in it. Then, it was on and off a little bit up through middle school.

Recently, I started working out with a guy, this is about two years ago, and I like it, the challenge of it. It's definitely a sport that requires a high level of conditioning, quickness and speed. Overall, a very enjoyable workout."

Do you have any special favorites when it comes to nutrition?

"I'd have to say that I love eating fruits. It's to the point where everybody here at Redskins Park always sees me with my bowl of blackberries as well as pineapple."

Who are among the most committed players when it comes to working out?

"I've come across a lot of guys like that in my career. In San Francisco, for example, it was Bryant Young. Here with the Redskins, Phillip Daniels, I think, is really disciplined, more so than me by far."

How do you best monitor your own level of fitness?

"That's the toughest questions I have to answer. My body it is what it is. People already know it's three percent or four percent body fat. A lot of it, it's just genetics. I was a skinny kid, and I have a high level of metabolism. I think, for me, a lot of it is just a matter of making sure I have the proper nutrients in my body, water intake, sports drink intake, just things of that nature. The other thing is, you can't assume that you're getting the proper amount of rest and the proper amount of sleep."

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