In the current era of sports and entertainment, in which nobody is just one thing, a story about a wrestler who also practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu is nothing new. But if that wrestler is a woman, and if that woman also has a degree in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Southern California, the tale gets a bit more interesting. Carrying it a little further, if you find out that the woman is Eve Torres, a superstar Diva and recent WWE Divas champion, and that she practices jiu-jitsu at the world famous Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy, the plot truly thickens.
Be a Diva
It’s not giving too much away to say upfront that Torres’ story has a happy ending, one in which she competes in front of thousands of fans in events like the “Fatal 4-Way” and the “Battle Royal.” Her entree to wrestling came after a lifetime of entertaining through movement: gymnastics as a kid, dance squad in college, dancing for the Los Angeles Clippers. Torres likes entertainment, and she likes sports. And nothing marries the two better than World Wrestling Entertainment. So when Torres, who had always been a WWE fan (The Rock was her favorite), heard about the 2007 Diva Search, a national contest looking for the next female wrestling star, she entered — and won.
“I’ve been with the WWE almost two years, and one thing that is important to me is representing the Divas brand,” Torres says. “We’re all hard workers. We’re all athletes, and I like that it shows young girls that it’s OK to be a strong, butt-kicking woman who can still be very sexy at the same time. You don’t have to pretend to be weak or stupid. That’s the image that being a WWE Diva promotes.”
Style and Gracie
After watching Torres perform a flying armbar in the ring, “weak” is certainly not a word that comes to mind. And the fact that she graduated from USC with honors and solves Rubik’s Cubes as a hobby pretty much puts any questions about brainpower to bed. In fact, Torres might be the polar opposite of both words. How else do you explain that after spending almost every night of the year abusing her body in the ring, she willingly practices martial arts with the most badass fighting family on the planet — the Gracies?
“For me, it’s the best overall workout,” she says. “There is nothing else where I can do an hour of rolling around and I’m completely covered and drenched in sweat. I got into it because my little brother used to do it in high school. He would always put me in crazy holds, and I saw that it’s all about technique and discipline. So one day, I walked into the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Torrance, Calif., and I started training. I still think it’s amazing that I train with the Gracies.”
For those not familiar, the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy was established in 1925 in Rio de Janeiro by Carlos Gracie. Since then, according to the academy’s Web site, more than “40 members of the Gracie Family have dedicated their lives to developing the most effective system of self-defense the world has ever known.” In short, this isn’t a martial arts academy for the faint of heart.
“My mindset isn’t about going in there and trying to kick everyone’s butt,” Torres says. “To be honest, I roll around with a bunch of guys while I’m there, but I go into it for self-defense purposes. I’m on the road for most of the year, and it makes me feel good that if there’s ever a situation where I’m attacked, I can handle myself.”
Fit on the Run
Of course, spending every night slamming her body (and others’) around the wrestling ring requires her to stay in top shape, which she does through conditioning and exercise routines. When she’s on the road, Torres says that she can’t rely on the town she’s in having a martial arts studio or even a decent gym, so she has to adapt to each city and situation.
“I know it sounds crazy because we travel so much, but I could literally be in a different gym five days a week,” Torres says. “Sometimes the towns we go to have a Gold’s Gym or a 24 Hour Fitness, but sometimes we end up in some small, old gym, or I’ll end up just doing a routine in my hotel room. I kind of set up my own circuits and do a lot of plyometric training.”
Without knowing what type of equipment she’ll have from workout to workout, Torres doesn’t like to rely too heavily on one machine or exercise because she never knows what type of gym she’ll find … that is, when she can find one. “There was this one trip to Mississippi, I can’t remember the town, but we were all looking for a gym on a Sunday afternoon, and we couldn’t find one,” Torres says. “We searched the world to find something, and finally we came across the smallest gym we’d ever seen. We tried to use it, but we were a bunch of wrestlers in a small space. Everyone was bumping into each other.”
If you think traveling 250 to 300 days a year wreaks havoc on a workout, wait until you hear what it does to a diet. “Every day on the road, we have a show, so we fly into wherever we’re going to have our first show, then we do the show and drive to the next town, do the show, and drive off again,” Torres says. “The average person gets to eat on a normal schedule every day, but for me, being in a different city every day, and sometimes in different time zones, my body is always confused. I try to regulate things as much as I can so I don’t upset my digestive system.”
In order to keep her metabolism running smoothly, Torres eats as healthily as possible, consuming as many vegetables as she can. She also tries to follow the Gracie Diet, which she describes as a food-combination diet based on eating foods that complement each other well. The diet doesn’t prescribe eating certain amounts of protein or vegetables; rather, it’s about discipline and combining foods in a way that makes them the most efficient to digest. There are some hard-and-fast rules, however, such as no pork products. Torres, for her part, has no problem with one particular rule: no alcohol. “So many people drink socially and ingest so many calories,” she says. “I’d rather cheat than drink.”
The mere thought of cheating makes Torres get a little giddy. She says her favorite time to indulge is right after filming Monday Night Raw. “Usually, I’ll go out after the show and get a good meal,” she says. “I love carbs and bread. I like pizza, but even just really good bread is a cheat. I know my body reacts to carbs, so that’s why I’m careful with them.”
The care Torres takes with her diet carries over to her personality, as well, because while she has enjoyed tremendous success with the WWE, she’s careful to savor every minute of it. “When I first started out, I couldn’t imagine what some of the big stars were like,” she says, “guys like John Cena and Randy Orton. It was almost intimidating my first time backstage. I couldn’t believe I was working with these people. Sometimes, when I’m backstage and watching the show, I still can’t believe it. These people are the best at what they do, and it’s just an honor to work with them.”
Yes, it’s shocking, but in some parts of the world, gyms are hard to come by. For Eve Torres, while a gym workout may be negotiable, the workout part isn’t. That means that when she’s on the road (and she’s always on the road) and can’t get to a gym, she has to put her hotel room to use. Here’s how she does it.
Set 1 (Repeat three times)
30 box jumps (can be done on a stable chair or bench, or on stairs with more reps)
40 mountain climbers
24 cockroaches (12 circles in each direction): Lie on your back with your knees in the air and your head off the ground, spin around in place on your back (like a cockroach), moving your hips, then your shoulders.
Set 2 (Repeat three times)
10 jump squats
40 inverted hip raises (20 on each leg): Lie on your back on the ground and place one foot on an elevated surface, like a chair. Lift your hips off the ground until they are fully extended with only your shoulders on the ground and slowly lower to starting position.
Set 3 (Repeat three times)
40 one-legged squats (20 each leg): Stand three feet in front of a chair, facing away from it. Extend one leg back and place your top of foot on the seat of the chair, then squat with your standing leg. Make sure that when the bend in your knee reaches 90 degrees, your knee doesn’t exceed your toes.
15 triceps dips With your palms on a chair, fingers facing downward, extend your legs and body. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees while lowering your butt to the floor, then push back up.
30 split-squat jumps (15 each side): Stand with one foot forward, then jump, switching legs in the air and landing with the opposite foot forward.