Training Secrets of Olympic Volleyballer, Eric Fonoimoana

Gold Digger

Training Secrets of Olympic Volleyballer, Eric Fonoimoana

Four years ago, Eric Fonoimoana (FOE-NO-E-MOW-AH-NA) won a gold medal in beach volleyball. Two years later, the player known as "The Body" was named MVP of the AVP. Now, as he prepares for a run at a second Olympic gold, he opens up about training, winning and, um, yoga breathing. Don't knock it -- the man knows a thing or two about looking good on the beach.

Q First things first -- what's up with the nickname?

A: Oh, that came from an announcer I've known for a long time. It was early in my career, probably '93 or '94. I think hard work in the gym changed the way my body was looking. I felt that if I worked harder than anyone else, I would win. But it's tougher as you get older; it's probably gonna change to "The Belly" or "The Booty."

Q When did you begin working out seriously?

A: In high school, when I was 18. I worked out at a place called Nautilus by the Sea in Manhattan Beach. Back then it wasn't something that [volleyball players] did. But I wanted to be stronger. We have a lot of shoulder and knee problems, and I thought it could help prevent that.

Q: How has your training evolved over the years?

A: When I started out, I was a meathead. I was good, but I wasn't fluid. Now I don't lift as much weight, and I do it slower, more controlled. Also, I don't do motions that are painful or awkward. For example, the military press hurts my shoulders, so I find another way to work them. Everyone's body is a little different. I get what I can out of each movement.

Q: How many times a week do you hit the gym?

A: During the off-season, four or five times a week, sometimes six, for probably an hour to an hour and 25 minutes. I warm up and warm down on the bike, and I do a bodypart split. One day legs, one day chest and tri's, one day back and bi's ...

Q: How else do you work out?

A: I do plyometrics and swimming in the pool. I use Isoflex resistance training machines, which give the benefits of plyometrics without the strain. It's all about explosive movements. With that and practice and the gym, I'm probably working out 5-6 hours a day.

Q: How do you train your beach-ready abs?

A: I try to do a variety of stuff. Right now, I bring an exercise ball with me to the gym and do crunches on the ball between sets. Every time I go to the gym, I'm doing some type of ab workout. And I engage my abs during every single exercise, to get them firing.

Q: What about diet?

A: More protein than carbs. Protein shakes, chicken and fish, occasionally a steak. I used to drink soda every day, which was terrible. I quit cold turkey seven or eight months ago. Now I drink water instead. The whole carbo-loading thing is kinda out now.

Q: How has fitness helped your game?

A: It enables me to win. I'm stronger toward the end of tournaments, and I know I've worked harder than my opponents.

Q: So it gives you a mental edge, so to speak.

A: Absolutely.

Q: What's the best aspect of your game?

A: Probably defense. Digging and running down [the opponents'] shots.

Q: What's this I hear about yoga breathing?

A: I do it during matches. When other guys are huffing and puffing, it helps me prepare to play the next point. It calms my nerves and helps me deal with bad calls without blowing a gasket. I just close my mouth and breathe through my nose as slowly as I can.

Q: You also run a charitable organization, right?

A: Yeah, it's an after-school program called Dig for Kids in Carson, California. The kids are ages 8 through 13, and we help them with homework and reading. There are about 50 kids and 10-15 adults and high school honor students. It's two hours of education and one hour of volleyball -- running, stretching and teaching the basic skills of the game. It's a 10-week program that we do twice a year. We're trying to expand it.

Q: So where's your gold medal now?

A: I carried it around for the first couple of years [after the Olympics]. Now it's in a safe-deposit box until I figure out something else to do with it.

Q: Think you [and playing partner Kevin Wong] can get another one?

A: That's definitely the plan.