Herschel Walker from ESPN The Magazine's "The Body Issue"

At 48-years-old, 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker is preparing for his second professional mixed martial arts bout which will take place for Strikeforce on Dec. 4, live on Showtime. Walker’s first fight took place on Jan. 30, where he won a third round TKO due to strikes over 26-year-old Greg Nagy who was 1-1 at the time.

Seemingly an eternal athlete, Walker recently appeared in ESPN Magazine’s “The Body” issue which celebrated the athletic form by featuring numerous well-known athletes in action while nude. And at nearly 50-years-of-age, Walker is still a physical specimen of the highest order. How in the world, after all these years, does Walker look like he’s ready to walk on the field as a starter for some professional football team or enter the cage on national TV to compete in a pro mixed martial arts fight?

That brings us to the first thing you should know about Herschel Walker, he eats one meal a day and is a vegetarian. According to a CNN.com report,

“He eats once a day, skipping breakfast and lunch. After a long, intense day of training, he eats salad and bread for dinner. He doesn’t care for meat or fuss about getting enough protein. Walker’s a vegetarian.”

Walker says it is something he has been doing a long time and he comes from the old school in south Georgia where people just worked, lived a long time and they didn’t worry about cholesterol or getting enough protein.

“Sometimes, Walker doesn’t have an appetite and will go through seven hours of wrestling, kickboxing, sparring and practicing jujitsu without having eaten for three or four days.”

Say what? How is that even possible? Javier Mendez, who trains Walker at American Kickboxing Academy calls it “unbelievable” and says “he shouldn’t be able to do what he’s doing… he’s an unbelievable athlete.” He also does not think Walker’s unique diet will work for most people.

The second thing you should know about Herschel Walker:

“At 5:30 a.m., Walker wakes up to do 750 to 1,500 push-ups and about 2,000 sit-ups.”

That sort of commitment is not normal and it is that type of drive which has allowed this man to achieve so much. That right there is more than most people ever do. Now add to it the hours of daily MMA and strength and conditioning training that it takes to compete and that is why this middle-aged man is in better shape than your high school prom date.

The third thing you should know about Herschel Walker:

“Shortly after his retirement from football in 1997, Walker began having symptoms of mental illness and struggled with dissociative identity disorder, or DID, formerly known as multiple personality disorder.”

Walker wrote a book called Breaking Free in 2008 in which he opened up about his mental illness. According to another CNN report, Walker did not know exactly how many different personality facets, or alters, he has, but in his book he describes about a dozen.

Some of these alters have led to him achieving the heights of success and becoming the great athlete that he is, but there are others that have led to some disturbing and violent behavior such as playing Russian roulette more than once, thoughts of murder and the break-up of his marriage. It seems that when the alters were not focused on a common goal such as football or bobsledding, things would get worse.

Maybe this is one of the explanations behind Walker’s drive to get in the cage at nearly 50-years-old. Also, many fighters have talked about the psychological benefits of being a fighter as it helps to release aggression and pent-up hostilities.

Maybe more than anything, the message here is how Walker was able to turn this seemingly negative thing, DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), into a positive. He has showed people who have DID what can still be accomplished and hopefully his message will continue to inspire others even as he steps back into the MMA cage on Dec. 4.

Here is an excerpt from the Simon and Schuster website about his book, Breaking Free:

In¬†Breaking Free, Herschel tells his story — from the joys and hardships of childhood to his explosive impact on college football to his remarkable professional career. And he gives voice and hope to those suffering from DID. Herschel shows how this disorder played an integral role in his accomplishments and how he has learned to live with it today. His compelling account testifies to the strength of the human spirit and its ability to overcome any challenge.

Listen as Herschel Walker talks about living with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder):

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