How the Sixers Are Staying Fit and Eating Healthy at Home Right Now

Lorena Torres, performance director for the Philadelphia 76ers, shares how she’s making sure the team is supported at home.

Sixers’ performance director Lorena Torres in the weight room with Ben Simmons before the coronavirus pandemic. / Photograph by 76ers photographer Alex Subers.

Over two months ago, the NBA announced it would be suspending the remainder of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision came minutes after the Sixers beat the Pistons at home, leaving players, staff, and fans wondering when or if games would ever resume.

Since the hiatus, Sixers’ players and staff have pivoted their in-person operations, so that the team could continue working out and eating well in the comforts of their own homes. To find out how exactly the Sixers have adjusted their fitness and nutrition routines, we chatted with Lorena Torres, the team’s performance director, about keeping the players healthy amid a suspended season. She’s also tweeting out exercise training plans, so if you’re looking to work out like the Sixers, head to her Twitter.

Philadelphia magazine: In a pre-COVID world, what did your typical day look like?

Torres: My role involves overseeing everything related to performance that isn’t basketball itself: running both our strength and conditioning program and our sports science program, balancing players’ intensity and recovery loads, tracking their nutrition, and monitoring their mental health.

Because my job is very player-centered, I spend a lot of time with the guys. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t know how to best serve their individual needs or build trust. With that said, I typically spent my days [prior to the suspended season] supervising players in the weight room and on the court, eating breakfast with the team, meeting with coaches to discuss progress and get feedback.

How did your role change once the pandemic hit?
When the NBA first suspended the season, my main role was to support the organization in every way I could. The focus shifted from having a successful season to supporting the health and safety of the team.

The night of the announcement, I was drafting up individualized workout plans for each player, making sure they’d have their supplements, working to get them at-home gym equipment, and coordinating meal planning with our team executive chef, JaeHee Cho. Basically, I was making sure the team had everything they needed regarding fitness and nutrition while at home.

Watch 76ers Executive Chef JaeHee Cho teach you how to whip up a French omelette here:

So what kind of nutritional guidance are they following?
We’ve provided individualized nutritional guidelines and support for all of our players, whether they’ve remained in the Philadelphia area or returned to their homes across the country. Across the board, they are all eating a diet that’s rich in vitamins and nutrients, low in sugar and includes a combination of protein and healthy carbohydrates. For those who remain in market, we offer a service that delivers balanced meals prepared by our team kitchen staff.

We have some players who are vegetarians, others with allergies, so each meal plan is adapted to make sure they are getting what their bodies need. For those out of market, we give them general recommendations for calorie intake and the type of foods they should be eating. And something often overlooked that is so important is hydration. When they’re training they must be consuming even more water to recover and stay hydrated.

Torres with Matisse Thybulle before the coronavirus pandemic. / Photograph by 76ers photographer Alex Subers.

What do the players’ at-home workouts look like?
Our goal has been to provide our players with as many resources as possible to train in these unique circumstances. This includes providing players with both strength and cardio equipment, as well as workouts they can do in their homes. It’s important to remember that each workout is personalized to fit the individual needs of our athletes, and some plays prefer stationary bikes, others like ellipticals or step machines.

In general, though, their daily workouts include a combination of cardio and strength training. We also recognize that this situation has required all of us to make substantial changes to our lives, so we’ve also encouraged players to include meditation and yoga to prioritize their mental health, too.

What do you imagine the “first day back to basketball” will look like?
Everything is so uncertain in the world right now, and we are constantly asking, “When are we coming back?” and “Who is going to be allowed to play?” [Despite the unknowns,] the health and safety of our players and staff will remain paramount as we move forward. I’m in daily communication with my staff and we are scenario planning for what a safe return to play may look like. It’s truly a collaborative effort between the coaches, trainers, medical staff, front office, and the NBA.

When we do return, the first thing we will do is assess the players with technology to see where their bodies are physically and then we’ll go from there. They’ve been at home for a long period of time, and we’re just making sure that when they come back, the players are protected and progressing safely, and that we’re supporting their long-term health and wellness.

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