5 Questions with: Diamond Dallas Page, Yoga King and Former Wresting Champion

The former world champ talks about the reality of pro wrestling, outshining younger guys and becoming a yoga-lover.
5 Questions with Diamond Dallas Page

Professional wrestlers, like most athletes, tend to peak in their twenties and early thirties. Many are burned-out and beaten-down by injuries by the time they’re 35. Diamond Dallas Page (a.k.a. “DDP”), one of the most well-known and beloved wrestling personalities of all-time, is quite an anomaly in this regard. Starting his career well into his thirties, he didn’t hit his peak, or his string of WCW world-championships, until his early forties.

Known for his athleticism and crowd-inspiring charisma, DDP spent his career wrestling guys much younger, and not just keeping up, but outlasting and outperforming them. Now, at 56, although retired from wrestling, DDP is in the best shape of his life. He attributes much of that to his discovery of yoga in the late '90s, which has since become a mainstay of his workout regimen.

We caught up with DDP to ask him a few questions about his wrestling career, what he likes to eat, and just how the heck a professional wrestler became so passionate about yoga.

1. What was it like to become a professional wrestler at the age of 35?

I first tried wrestling when I was 22, but that was in the late '70s, and pro-wrestling hadn’t really taken off yet. So I put it on hold and went into the nightclub business. Then in the '80s, wrestling blew up huge. I had never stopped wanting to be a wrestler, so at 31 I decided to start training for it. I trained hard, every day. I was older than the other guys, so I had to work harder. I was the first to come and the last to leave... The young kids didn’t want to get in the ring with me because I could outlast them — I was in better shape. Wrestling-great Dusty Rhodes was my friend and mentor and he helped me a great deal. At 39 I said I would be world champ within five years — he told me if I didn't that way I shouldn't be in the business! Four years, four Months and fourteen days later, I was the world champ!

2. Being on the road most of the year as a wrestler, was it difficult to find time to work out?

We were on the road 270 days every year. You fly or drive into a city, find a place to stay, find a gym, do the show, then drive 100, 200, 300 miles to the next place — there wasn’t a lot of time to work out or eat right, and it was exhausting. But being in the ring every night with other great athletes provided most of the workout that I needed, and I loved it — there wasn’t anything I’d have rather been doing.

3. Professional wrestling is notorious for being very destructive to the body. I know you, like many others, have suffered back and spinal injuries. How were you able to recover from these and return to the ring, and what have you done to increase your resilience?

People have a misconception that just because we know who’s going to win a wrestling match beforehand, that it’s not dangerous, that it’s fake — but you can’t fake gravity! In 1998, I ruptured the L4 and L5 discs in my spine, and three independent doctors said I would never wrestle again. I was pretty despondent, but I refused to give up and I kept on training and rehabbing. The turning point came when my wife at the time, Kimberly, convinced me to try yoga. I experimented with it and realized that I could get the best full-body workout I’d ever had using only my own body to create natural resistance. I started creating my own yoga routines to increase my core strength and flexibility and to work on cardio. Here was a no-impact exercise regimen that I could do without weights in my own home or hotel room, and after I started doing it, I was back in the ring within a few months and in better shape than ever.

4. What do you like to eat? (Now and when you wrestled.) And what are your thoughts on nutrition?

When I was wrestling, I had to consume massive quantities of protein to feed my muscles. Now that I’m retired, I eat a more balanced healthy diet. I stay away from gluten and wheat, dairy, and genetically modified products. I eat a lot of fruits and veggies — I love big salads with wholesome organic greens. I eat meat too — a lot of chicken. I eat the things I like, but natural things, no artificial or processed foods, none of that [stuff]. I really like the Weight Watchers PointsPlus® system; I believe in something very similar when it comes to nutrition.

5. You’re very passionate about yoga — how should yoga be incorporated into the fitness routines of different types of exercisers — professional athletes such as yourself, regular people, as well as people who are overweight or disabled?

When Kimberly first suggested I try yoga, I thought, Yoga? For 42 years, I've been a guy who wouldn't be caught dead doing yoga. But after three weeks, I felt a significant change, so I started to add yoga positions to my rehab moves. Then I added old school calisthenics, done with a slow burn movement and then dynamic resistance, which gets you in the fat burning zone standing still! At first, the other wrestlers busted my [chops] about it, but when they saw the results, they came around. Since then, it’s been a huge part of my workout routine. In fact, for the past eight years, it HAS been my workout routine. Yoga, especially the yoga program I’ve developed called DDP Yoga, works resistance, core strength, cardio and flexibility. It increases your resistance to injury.

It’s scalable so it works for people who are fit or overweight — everybody can do it, and you don’t need any expensive machinery, just your own body. Now I’ve got a bunch of the WWE wrestlers on my program as well as other athletes and ex-athletes from other sports. I’ve also helped guys lose weight who were 600 pounds start, people who couldn’t walk unassisted, and people with serious injuries. Traditional exercise won’t work for these people — but I’ve seen yoga work wonders.

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