The secret to Hontiveros and Taulava’s playing longevity

MANILA, Philippines – Each time ageless veterans Asi Taulava and Dondon Hontiveros step onto the court for national duty with Gilas Pilipinas, so few doubt their heart and passion for the game. 

Taulava, 42, and Hontiveros, 38, show no signs of slowing down despite their age and continue to prove they can still take over and change the game. But high level of play at their age cannot be attributed solely to sheer will of heart and mind. 

The secret, according to Gilas strength and conditioning coach Dexter Aseron, is, quite simply and meaningfully, very strong discipline. 

“From what I observed from them it starts with they eat healthy. They watch what they eat. Then they regularly maintain weight and conditioning programs,” Aseron told Rappler in a phone interview. “During offseason or during the season they lift weights, they run a little, they do conditioning work. I think that’s why they are still playing at this level.” 

NLEX’s 6-foot-10 center Taulava is still averaging close to a double-double in the local pro league and was even named to last season’s Mythical Second Team. Taulava continues to bang bodies with international giants even as his recovery time increased through the years. 

Alaska swingman Hontiveros has a 17-year pro career to speak of. His streak has yet to go cold and he remains a deadly gunner, as evidenced by his standout performance in the recent William Jones Cup.

Both were part of the national team in previous years and now bring much wisdom and experience to this Gilas 3.0 headed by coach Tab Baldwin. But what routines or regimens do they follow to keep their bodies in top playing shape?

Pre-game, in-game, post-game routines 

According to Aseron, both Hontiveros and Taulava have their own personal 10 to 15-minute pre-game routines before partaking in regular activities that also last 10 to 15 minutes. 

“Pre-game is usually activations and they do dynamic stretching. Basically to ready the muscles and body for the work that you will do,” Aseron explained. “They stretch befores games or they do mini bands just to warm up the muscles.”

Mini band workouts are designed to activate the glute muscles, according to Aseron. While dynamic stretching essentially extend the muscles’ range of motion and movement, which can reduce potential injuries.

For Hontiveros, his pre-game exercises include core work and foam rolls, which is a kind of exercise that uses a foam roller to get rid of trigger points, knots or tight spots, and release the muscles. Foam rolling is usually done after games and workouts as a form of recovery. But Hontiveros likes to do it before games, too. 

After conditioning warm-ups, both Taulava and Hontiveros do usual basketball drills such as running and laterals. 

Meanwhile, Taulava does not stop even when the game is ongoing. The 2003 PBA MVP was seen working the exercise bike during Gilas’ pocket tournament in Estonia. 

“Just to keep the joints warm so he’s not stagnant. So when coach calls him, his body is ready and he won’t need to warm up again,” Aseron explained. “We warmed up before the game but if you’re sitting down on the bench you’ll get cold again. Just to keep his heart rate up also.”

What about post-game? 

“They do stretching after the game or after a hard workout,” Aseron said. “For that they do static stretching, not dynamic anymore.” (IN PHOTOS: Gilas takes down giant Iran at FIBA Asia)

Static stretching involves relaxing and lengthening muscles while at rest.

Current Gilas team captain Hontiveros elaborated more on what his daily routine looks like during the PBA season.

“I work out in the morning. Usually our calltime with Alaska is 11 am so I have time to work out from 9 to 11 and after that I really rest after ng practice,” he told Rappler in a mix of Filipino and English. “At night I have time to really recover, get a massage, and get hot and cold therapy. The hot and cold therapy is a huge deal because your body really recovers.”

“After the game especially at my age I really rest,” he further emphasized. “You really need to get the rest your body needs, especially these kinds of games where you play every night and practice every morning.” (WATCH: How Gilas overcame Iran at FIBA Asia)

Hontiveros is a fan of the hot and cold therapy or contrast bath therapy, which is a form of treatment where the body is plunged alternately into ice water and then warm water for about 10 minutes or so. 

The therapy is said to help reduce muscle inflammation and pain. It also clears the mind of Hontiveros. “It’s like my alone time already,” he said. 

Food and supplements 

Where diet is concerned, the rule of thumb is they avoid food they’d normally binge out on when they were younger.

“I watch what I eat unlike before. Less carbs, more on protein,” Hontiveros said, noting he can’t remember the last time he had a drink. 

Hontiveros takes organic supplements and multi-vitamins he gets from Taulava’s friends as well as powdered drink Pro Matrix Whey Protein Isolate, which according to its product website has “incredibly high concentrations of protein and almost no fat.” It is also said to support the immune system especially after hard workouts.

Hontiveros described it as a “recovery drink after every workout” which he also takes every morning and evening apart from post-workout. 

“Just to help your body recover what you burned,” Aseron explained what the drink does as Taulava can be seen with it after every practice. “When you’re actively training, your muscle fibers get destroyed so just to help in the recovery of the muscles, they drink whey protein. They recover quicker.”

For Taulava, discipline goes beyond ensuring he has a recovery drink every day. 

“For Asi it’s more of diet. Unlike before, now he watches what he eats and then does regular weight training even during offseason,” Aseron explained. He said Taulava avoids sweets, fat, junk food, and fried food, though he is still allowed cheat days. 

“Nutrition is a very important factor for athletes,” Aseron stressed. 

Offseason discipline 

Diet and regular exercise are expected during the season. But the offseason offers the true test of discipline. 

Watching what to eat, working out and going through therapeutic routines do not stop for both Hontiveros and Taulava just because they’re not playing any games. In fact, it’s offseason negligence that can cause faster deterioration.

Dati hindi siya ganyan e. Ngayon naging mature siya e (He wasn’t like that before. Now he’s become mature),” Aseron used 16-year veteran Taulava as an example. “He realized he has to take care of his body by exercising and really working out regularly and watching what you eat.” 

“Basically that’s really it to prolong your career – diet and exercise,” Aseron emphasized. 

There’s also no substitute for dedication and repetition – two things that can’t be given to you by any strength and conditioning coach or physical therapist. Those come from the athlete himself. 

May difference kasi ngayon kailangan talaga ng recovery ng katawan mo,” Hontiveros reflected. “Dati kahit ilang oras ka mag-practice.” (There is a difference now because now your body needs to really recover. Before you could practice for hours on end.) 

People find inspiration seeing Taulava and Hontiveros still tearing it up around the 40-year old mark. It’s never a question of heart, but there’s always plenty of work and sacrifice behind their success. –