Julie and Zach Ertz just might be able to lay claim to the title of world's fittest couple. Julie, a member of the 2015 World Cup-winning team, and Zach, a tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles, married in March after more than four years together. To celebrate the occasion? They posed for the Body Issue, of course, less than a week before the big day. (What did you do for your wedding photos?) Afterward, the pair spoke with reporter Morty Ain about body confidence, training together and being way too competitive at board games.
How did the two of you meet?
JULIE: We initially met at a baseball game at Stanford. We had mutual friends. After I won the U20 Women's World Cup [in 2012], he sent a congrats [text] on our win. Then I watched a football game that he was in, and he scored this huge touchdown. I texted him, "Congratulations, so cool to see you doing well." I guess a little bit of succeeding kindled our relationship!
ZACH: That touchdown might have sealed the deal. I mean, I hope I offered more than that touchdown against Oregon! [laughs]
Are you competitive with each other?
JULIE: It's pretty bad. We play a bunch of card games and board games, but if we do board games, we have to be on the same team. Otherwise, we won't talk to each other for like an hour. We're just too stubborn.
ZACH: We have a book that keeps a tally of wins. There are two sides of the book; one's labeled "Z" and one's "J," and it's just a running tally of victories, because Julie is a known cheater. [laughs] She exaggerates how many victories she has. So we had to create this book in order to hold each other accountable. I still have to look over her shoulder to make sure she's not giving herself two victories instead of one, or that she's actually giving me a mark in the victory column.
JULIE: Unfortunately, Zach is winning right now. I won't lie, he's up. He used to be up by a pretty big margin, but I've been killing it in gin.
ZACH: The one place we're never truly competing is while working out. It's more encouragement or just holding each other accountable -- little coaching points here and there -- because we know how serious the other is while the other is working out.
JULIE: In the offseason, we work out like every day together. Lifting is an easy one to do together; we just shift weights back and forth. We do a lot of core together. Pilates and yoga, we always do those together. But I think it's a little bit easier for me, at 5-7, to be more flexible and to move a little better than him at 6-5. ZACH: She's helped me with my flexibility. It doesn't come naturally to me. I've created this stretching routine that I have to do each and every night. It focuses on every muscle and joint group in the body. I can't sleep unless I get it done before I go to bed.
JULIE: Zach takes care of his body so well, it's unbelievable. He's so meticulous, like OCD, in what he does.
Have you ever felt insecure about your body?
ZACH: When I got to Stanford, it looked like all the other guys were carved out of friggin' granite. I was coming in, still had a little bit of baby fat. And the first time being on my own, I gained some weight that I probably shouldn't have. Back then, I didn't really understand how to make your body eat for substance instead of satisfaction.
JULIE: There were times when I tried to hide my muscles. When you're a young girl you hear, "You're really strong" or "You have really toned arms." In my head, it wasn't something that should be said about a girl. It should be more "You're pretty." But the second I put on my soccer outfit, I didn't care what I looked like; I just wanted to ball out. [laughs] I was just out there, I wanted to win, I wanted to play.
ZACH: When I was younger, I initially hated football because they put me on the offensive line because I was the biggest kid. The weight limit was like 125 pounds, and I was 135 pounds, so I had to lose like 10 or 15 pounds in order to make weight. I'm 13 years old, having to go on a strict diet regimen. No one wants to be 13 and not able to eat their ice cream after dinner.
How do you support each other during those tough times?
JULIE: In a time of doubt, it's nice to have someone who's on your side, pushing you. A big moment when Zach was there for me was before the World Cup. I didn't make the [qualifying games] roster, and that was a hard moment. Him being a professional athlete as well, he understands those up-and-down moments. There are daily moments of me being so tired and him saying, "OK, well, go do two more runs." From the little things to those big things, it all helps in the end.
ZACH: I've dealt with an injury the past two years at the beginning of the season, and her ability to help me maintain focus and not get too upset or too down ... She'll drop whatever she has to come out to Philadelphia, even though she's playing in Chicago. It's definitely a burden to take that time off from her sport, but she knows that sometimes you have to do that in order to help the other person out.
JULIE: I feel very comfortable in who I am now, and he's definitely a part of it -- continuing to say how beautiful my muscles are, or he loves when I'm running or working out. He's behind me, he wants me to succeed and pushes me. That's been really special the past five years now.
ZACH: I love watching Julie play. I know how much work she puts into her sport and her craft -- to see that hard work pay off is very satisfying to me too.
JULIE: I think it's a lot easier for me to watch Zach play than it is for his other family members, just because I know how much he loves the sport and how hard he works at it. The closer I sit, when I hear more of the pads banging against each other, my heart races a little bit. But I just want him to succeed and do what he loves.
What body part on each other do you love the most?
JULIE: I would say his glutes. I've never seen anyone have glutes like that. He shows me how to squat, and I'm like, "My glutes don't turn like that!" [laughs] But I don't want his head to get too big.
ZACH: I love her butt. That'd be my No. 1 pick. She can call it "glutes" and be the scientific one; I'll stick to the butt.
For more Body interviews: AJ Andrews | Javier Baez | Julian Edelman | Ezekiel Elliott | Kirstie Ennis | Julie and Zach Ertz | Malakai Fekitoa | Gus Kenworthy | Nneka Ogwumike | Isaiah Thomas | Joe Thornton and Brent Burns | US Women's National Hockey Team | Ashley Wagner | Michelle Waterson | Novlene Williams-Mills | Caroline Wozniacki