He’s roughly 6-foot-1 with a large, chiseled, muscular frame, but that isn’t what stands out the most about Aaron Feld. Nope. Undoubtedly, the University of Oregon football strength coach is known mostly for the handlebar mustache he didn’t plan on keeping this long.
“It really started off as a joke,” Feld explains, laughing. “But then my wife and I went to New York for our first anniversary, and I got a whole bunch of compliments. It wasn’t even a mustache at the time, but then it started curling up and I got a bunch of positive feedback from a lot of people. So I let it grow to see what would happen.”
You could argue the same about his decision to leave his position as assistant strength coach at Georgia to come to Oregon last season; it isn’t just his belief in the vision of the Oregon football program that keeps Feld in Eugene.
“I love this city,” he says. “People talk about the weather and how bad it is. I believe that’s an Oregonian’s way of keeping other people from moving here. You look at the weather we had here last summer and the wonderful spring days we’ve had this year, and you don’t get weather like this anywhere else. I mean, you get nice summer weather where the sun stays up until 10 o’clock? That’s just crazy.”
That said, you might already know something that Feld loves doing. You may have seen him imploring people to “Fill the Sleeves” in very flamboyant workout videos on social media. Aside from his high-octane delivery, there is a method to his madness.
“It gives me a chance to showcase to our potential recruits what our program is doing,” Feld says. “Recruiting is the lifeblood we need to compete in a Division I college football program. I’ve had recruits come in the building, and they’ll know who you are right off the bat because they’ve seen the postings. That’s a huge advantage. Another reason is the fans, because they deserve to see what they’re supporting.”
Oregon fans probably appreciate the sneak peeks that Feld provides on the Internet, and the coaches and players more than approve of the job he’s doing.
“It all starts with the weight room,” explains UO head football coach Mario Cristobal. “Your team’s discipline, toughness, and development will always start there. So that area requires someone who is not only knowledgeable, but who can motivate and relate to our players. Aaron Feld and his entire staff encompass all those things. They take so much pride in what they’re doing, and they’re always on the hunt to learn more ways to help our team improve in every way.”
“He’s a very important part of our physical growth,” adds senior linebacker Lamar Winston Jr. “Coach Feld has brought a lot of new workouts that have greatly improved our bodies. He’ll thoroughly explain how some exercises help us or why we have to work these muscles accordingly. I’m a lot stronger now because of him, but I also feel healthier and more explosive.”
Feld appreciates the compliments and understands how crucial his role is, developing the Ducks on the field and beyond.
“This isn’t my weight room,” Feld says. “This is the players’ weight room. My staff and I are merely the custodians who keep it running and ready for them. That’s a really important distinction, because it’s not about me or my staff. It’s about the kids. So the expectation for me is I’ve been charged with educating and protecting these young men, and that is something I take very seriously.”
One thing Feld emphasizes to the players is to find their personal “gray areas” when training.
“The gray area in lifting is defined by us as the razor-thin line between too heavy and too light,” Feld explains. “If the weight is too light, you don’t get enough work and you don’t reach your potential. If it’s too heavy, you get crushed by the set and then you also don’t reach your potential. So that’s the gray area, whether that’s doing a bench press or a back squat, etc.”
This gray area doesn’t just apply to a football team competing for a Pac-12 title. It can also be for people trying to get in shape for summer (or any season!), and Feld is happy to explain why it’s critical to make physical activity a priority.
“Exercise is so hard when you first get started,” he says. “But when you’ve been doing it for a long time, it becomes a necessity. I’ve told this to many people, that I want you to get to the point where not getting your workout in messes up your day. Because when you get to that point, and you’re building your life around physical activity, you won’t always put it second. I always say, ‘healthy body, healthy mind, healthy spirit.’ So taking care of your body, that makes it the utmost importance.”
So what does he advise for those needing to make that crucial beginning?
“Be consistent,” Feld says. “Find something you can do and a level of activity that you can sustain. A lot of people specifically like the ‘New Year’s resolution’ days. They’ll go hard and fast for four weeks and then fall off. Instead, I recommend making small, sustainable life changes. Don’t immediately go on a diet or start a fad workout. Make small, sustainable changes to your lifestyle that you can maintain.”
Feld also suggests not trying to emulate workouts or diets that others may be doing, whether it’s a football team or its strength coach. Instead, find what makes you a winner at your personal best.
“I’m a terrible example because I live in a weight room 24/7,” he chuckles. “You can’t use me as an example, because I can work out for 10 minutes here or 20 minutes there. For the average person, I would highly recommend finding a time of day that you can get your exercise in regularly, and get after it.”