George Mason AD challenges followers to boost physical, mental health in social media videos

When Brad Edwards first arrived to play for the Washington Redskins in March 1990, he was welcomed by teammate Darrell Green and introduced to running up a hill at George Mason University.

Now as the school’s athletic director, Edwards is still running that same hill and challenging others. And quarantine hasn’t stopped him.

Edwards is putting a video called “Brain Break with Brad” on the George Mason Athletics social media channels every Monday. The goal is to get people up from their laptops and their latest virtual meetings to do something real that could have an impact on their physical and mental health.

“It’s just the importance of encouraging people to get out and move, and stay active,” said Edwards. “We can use our platform to build that and spread that well-being message.”

It is not a requirement to run a hill several times like the Redskins did when Edwards played with the team from 1990 to 1993, but he’s using the experience to emphasize the importance of physical fitness. Edwards believes exercise is about forming habits and can change your life.

The first thing Edwards did when he retired from a nine-year NFL career was go running.

“’Brain Break’ is aerobic and anaerobic kinds of exercises,” said Edwards. “It might be things like hill running or doing stairs. I still run stairs in every hotel or parking deck. It’s things you can do all around you, from running in place to high-intensity training.

I still love interval sprinting. It’s weaving in some of those things with core workouts with individual body weight movement type of things. We want to work the whole body, and most importantly, to tell people I have fun in what they’re doing.”

Finding a break has taken on an added importance for Edwards. College athletics have been halted by the coronavirus pandemic, and the future is unclear.

Edwards’ primary concern is the health and safety of his student athletes at George Mason University — and the only things he can control. When and how campus life and athletic competition starts to return to something resembling normal is up to the Commonwealth of Virginia and the NCAA.

“You know as the professional leagues begin to figure out and take a leadership role in guiding what we can do, they’re going to lead the way, as they should,” said Edwards. “Then we will start to figure out collegiately what we can do within the world of education. That’s the thing we have to remember: We are in the business of education first.”

Edwards’ talk of education first is more than just talk. None of his Patriots teams are playing right now, but Edwards is beaming with pride over how his student athletes have handled an abrupt shut down of their seasons and continued their studies online.

Finals at George Mason were given Wednesday, and a virtual graduation ceremony for seniors will be held Friday.

“In a lot of my ways, I run an honors college because of the academic performance of our student athletes,” said Edwards. “All indications are that we’re going to have another outstanding academic semester. We graduate right at 90% of our student-athletes, which is 20 percentage points higher than the university’s average. And our grade point averages always exceed the general student body’s grade point averages.”

On Thursday night, Edwards will be busy with his student-athletes as the school holds its annual Green and Gold celebration, but this year it will be done virtually. Green, Edwards’ old Redskins teammate, will be connected too, because he serves as associate athletic director at George Mason and as a special assistant to Edwards.

“I’ve enjoyed watching the ‘Last Dance’ and seeing the competitiveness of Michael Jordan,” said Edwards. “That was my experience with Darrell Green. It’s [what] Green brought every single day to practice to the point where you wanted to say, ‘Can you just take that down a notch?’ He is just a great human being, but his ability to compete was incredible and he has brought the same thing to George Mason.”

Perhaps Green will join Edwards for an edition of “Brain Break with Brad”.

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