Interview with Dog Lover and Cleveland Browns Player Danny Shelton

Balancing a healthy lifestyle can be challenging.

Throw in a busy NFL career and four dogs and things are sure to complicate quickly.

We were lucky enough to connect with Cleveland Browns player Danny Shelton to find out how he manages health, fitness, family and life with four dogs.

The Honest Kitchen: How would you describe your day-to-day diet and health and fitness routine?

Danny Shelton: My day-to-day diet would be anything my future wife, Mara, is cooking. It’s usually healthy meals, but on occasion she will add a few island foods like Filipino Adobo and Samoan Pagi Popo (coconut buns) for dessert. Usually during football season, she keeps me on a strict diet with small portions of veggies, meats and rice. Mara does a great job with portioning my meals, and when she needs a break, I’ll try to whip something up that I’ve seen on TV. I can make a pretty tasteful meal! I’ve cooked stuffed mushrooms, Thai pasta, and Ahi Poke, but nothing compares to what Mara makes. al

Our dogs follow a healthy diet as well. Every once in a while we share some lean protein with them, such as turkey, chicken and steak. When it’s time to eat we add some Proper Toppers from The Honest Kitchen to their food; they love it—gone in 60 seconds. I like to be their chef so I’ll mix some of the Proper Toppers with raw meats like lamb, chicken, or beef with an egg on top, paired with a small side of pumpkin to help them digest everything. When I have time, I’ll bake up some gluten free banana and Pumpkin treats, which I discovered on The Honest Kitchen’s blog. Since our dogs get spoiled with us sometimes, we really like to prepare healthy meals for them. We’re super glad we finally switched to having The Honest Kitchen as part of their diet. They just love it!

When it comes to my workouts, I incorporate a few different routines. I hit the gym to do weight lifting. After lifting, I will work on my cardio by doing jiu jitsu, which is great, not for just cardio, but hand eye coordination. As a nose tackle, it is important to have strong, quick hands. I will do double days to get ready for training camp.

THK: What aspects of your own lifestyle do you implement into your dogs’ lives?

DS: My dogs are like my kids. They are all keyed in with my schedule, whether that means waking up early for work, playing football in the backyard, or staying in bed with Mom. They also love watching TV sometimes about cooking, house hunting, and their favorite, Animal Planet! Once I get home from work, it’s back to play time. We usually rough house inside or go in the backyard for the last exercise of the day. They’re my little 24/7. When I do not feeling like going to work, they motivate me to get up and go, because they will always be waiting for me to come back.

All of my dogs attend training classes; they are learning how to protect the house and family. While they are going to class, it is important to have a healthy lifestyle. Just like myself, my dogs must have a well balanced lifestyle with their diet and workouts. Between Mara and I, we take them on runs around the neighborhood, play catch, and of course horse around.

THK: How do your dog’s influence your own health, both physical and mental?

DS: With everything that Mara and I do, we always have our canine kids in our best interests. We are a driven family; if Mara and I are on a diet, then our pets are as well, and if we workout, then they have to get a workout. Physically, we can’t be away from our kids (dogs) for too long, or we’ll be too depressed. We are one big family, so it doesn’t feel right if one of us is sick or away for a game.

Moni was my first pup from college. She, along with Mara, have helped me emotionally with the adversities I faced with my brothers passing, the constant challenges of playing football, and competing at the prestigious University of Washington. Moni, a Pit Bull, is my Emotional Support Animal, and she still helps me overcome most of the challenges I today. The rest of the group has learned from Moni’s example by keeping calm in crowded areas with dogs or random people—Moni is like the perfect big sister! Our kids make our lives easier; and although there are days when they act stubborn, we still love them!

THK: Can you describe the way your dog’s motivate you off and on the field?

DS: Whether it’s helping me keep a positive mindset, or taking a break from the fast pace at work, my pups find a way to beneficially impact my life. It is no secret that my dogs are treated as if they were my kids, and that is motivation alone. Seeing how much fun they have playing outside makes me feel so grateful to have their positive vibes in my life.

Moni has the most warm and loving personality, Juju is the funny and quirky dog, Mojo is the athlete, and Juicy is the attention-seeker of the family. Mara and I use this as an opportunity to prepare for life with a house full of kids one day.

My mindset going to work is I need to provide for my wife and kids every day, and each day I can’t wait to get home to see them. The quote I like to live by is, “My family gotta eat!” When I’m training, they are always on my mind and I am motivated knowing that they are going to be excited to see me when I go home for lunch to eat as a family. With both Mara and I having similar family values, having furry kids to come home to every day is a blessing; being together as a family is always priority!

THK: You are a very busy guy. Any tips on keeping yourself and your pups in good health with a tight schedule and frequent travels?

DS: My pups are so tied in with my schedule that I don’t have to use my alarm clock during the off season. They are used to waking up to my original schedule.

My offseason training is a little more freed up so I get to spend more time at home with everyone. On my lifting days, I wake up early and let the dogs run outside for about half an hour before I head to my workout. They can run around the yard and play with their toys for hours, so some days when Mara is up early, she’ll let them stay outside while I get ready to leave. When I come home from training, they get to play with me for about 10 minutes before I get too sore. Then, we take it outside for some more play time. When they’re ready for a break, they’ll come inside for some water and a quick snack from The Honest Kitchen. The snack gets their energy levels back up, and they’ll go back outside for another hour. With traveling, Mara and I usually choose to be home with our kids most of the time unless we’re invited to a special event that’s locally or out of state.

When we have to fly, we normally board them with our favorite trainers JD at Lorenzo’s Dog Training Team or Ashley at Camp Bow Wow. The dogs usually love being with them for the couple weeks while we are gone. We sometimes fly with Moni, since she is an Emotional Support Animal, but we don’t like splitting our kids up. We usually end up paying to fly the whole crew if we’re going to visit family in Washington. Boarding them with our trainers is always the best, because we know they will get their daily fitness with them and are always treated as family members, so there’s never any worries that they will get unhealthy or be treated poorly.

THK: Just for fun, what’s your go-to cheat meal? What about your dogs?

DS: We are like everyone else, and although we follow a healthy lifestyle, we treat ourselves to a cheat meal. My go-to cheat meal would easily be ICE CREAM!!! Our house has to have ice cream in the freezer or I’ll have to make the trip to the gas station or whatever store is open. My kids are also treated with their dog ice cream from our local pet stores. We have a family ice cream night and watch movies. If it was up to me we would have a cheat meal every day. Since Mara is in charge, she makes sure we don’t have too many cheat days, but when we do have them, it’s always a great night!

Meet the Author: Brandy Vachal

Brandy Vachal is The Honest Kitchen's resident jack-of-all-trades. She studied journalism and is a lifelong animal lover, so it's no surprise she has three dogs and works for the best pet food company on the planet.

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