Written on September 24, 2015
It’s only one game.
It’s only the preseason.
It’s only practice.
It’s only a mistake.
It’s only an idea.
That small word–‘only’–changes everything. Same for the word ‘just’: It was just one donut, just one missed workout, just one drink. It’s just a job. To me it all translates into: This isn’t that important, and don’t hold me accountable if things don’t go right.
You want to see the difference that one word makes? Take out the ‘only’ or the ‘just’ and say again:
It’s one game. You’re not getting it back. It mattered.
It’s the preseason. The work you do now determines whether you’ll have a postseason.
It’s practice. If you can’t do it here, you won’t do it in a game.
It’s a mistake. Do the work to make sure you don’t repeat it.
It’s an idea. Everything starts with an idea. Don’t be afraid to develop and try new concepts.
I’ll give you a few more:
‘Good enough‘ rarely is.
‘It’s fine.’ Two meanings:
When you hear this from your coach or boss, pay attention: It means “Thanks, I’ll get someone else to do it right.”
When you hear it from a teammate, pay attention: It means he can’t or won’t do better.
And my favorite:
“Whatever.” I don’t really know what this means, but I hear it a lot from people who want to stop a conversation because they’re afraid to hear the truth.
Believe me, this isn’t a grammar lesson…it’s a mental toughness lesson. As soon as you minimize the importance of something, you minimize your chances of success.
How many things in your life would be different if you “only” studied harder or if they “just” gave you one more chance, if the effort you put in was great instead of “good enough,” or instead of saying “whatever” you went out and fixed whatever needed fixing.
Here’s where those words work: You have “just” one life, and “only” you can live it. It is “whatever” you make of it. Is that “good enough” for you? Are you “fine” with that?
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Written on September 16, 2015
I wrote about this a year ago, during an epidemic of NBA ankle sprains. Now, only one week into the NFL season, we’ve already seen double-digit lower leg injuries—calves, ankles, Achilles tendons, I’m not even including knees and feet here—that will cost big players some big time.
Let’s be honest, very few people go into the gym determined to develop really great ankles. Shoulders, back, chest, legs…the glamour muscles get all the work. Ankles are buried in shoes and socks, they don’t show. No one watches the game thinking, “Man, I gotta get some ankles like that.”
When do you notice an ankle?
When it’s injured.
Fact: Lower leg injuries are often preventable with the right training, predictable with the wrong training. I can’t accept a basic athletic injury written off as “one of those things.” One of what things? Something caused that injury, and it’s up to each individual athlete to do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
If you’re an athlete in any sport and your program doesn’t include exercises for your ankles and Achilles tendons, it’s not a complete program. It doesn’t matter how strong you are, how high you jump, how fast you run…if you’re injured, you’re not available to play. And the #1 responsibility of any athlete is to be available to play. There’s no NFL Combine score for ankles or Achilles, but when they’re injured, you get an automatic 2-4….meaning the number of games a sprain could cost you, if you’re lucky. You could miss more.
The stronger your lower legs, the more explosive you’ll be in all directions. Laterally, forward, backward, vertical, stop and go. Think of yourself as a racecar: Your hips, glutes, and thighs are your horsepower, your ankles are the tires. In the middle of a race the pit crew doesn’t change the engine, they change the tires so the car can keep performing. Weak tires, weak race.
ARE YOU AT RISK?
The most common injury for any athlete is an ankle injury. Here’s why:
• Too many athletes and trainers believe skill work equals physical conditioning. Completely false. You can have the best skills in the game, but still have physical weakness that only reveals itself when it’s too late…you’re already injured. Talent isn’t enough.
• If you’ve ever been injured, your rehab should never end; once the chain is damaged, it’s damaged. How many times do you see an athlete injure the same area over and over and over, even on the other side? It’s no coincidence. It’s like putting together a car after an accident; the body looks good, but if you really look under the hood you know something happened. So your rehab must continue, becoming part of your lifelong commitment to staying healthy. Without it, your risk of another injury skyrockets.
• If you were taught to work your ankles and Achilles by doing a few one-legged balance movements, you need a new program. These exercises usually work every part of the body except the ankles and Achilles, because of all the other muscle engagement necessary to hold your balance. Unless you know the science of creating an effective tripod with your foot, you’re getting an ineffective workout. Standing on one foot usually causes you to shift your weight to one side of that foot, so only half your muscles are engaged. An effective exercises forces you to use all the muscles without cheating to one side. The slightest deviation in form can make all the difference.
• Ankle and Achilles injuries don’t happen when your foot is in one stable position, they occur when the foot is bent at an irregular angle. If your foot is never worked against resistance in that position, it won’t be strong enough to prevent injury when it’s forced to move that way. Difficult to do without the right program and equipment. You have to challenge the muscles and joints in a way that simulates the movements that can cause injury.
• Ankle braces are supposed to prevent sprains, but they can actually do just the opposite. What happens when you brace something? You’re giving added support from an outside source. Well, when the body gets something from an outside source, it stops doing what it’s supposed to do naturally. So instead of the ankle protecting itself, it relies on the brace, gradually becomes weaker, and ultimately weakens the entire chain up the body. End result: Increased risk of other lower body injuries. Think of it this way: If a doctor gives you crutches or a cane for an injury, you don’t use them forever, right? You use them until you don’t need them, and then you do it on your own. Same philosophy for the ankle brace. Use it while you’re healing, then get rid of it.
HOW A RUBBER BAND CAN SAVE YOUR SEASON
Your lower leg is a complex system of muscles, tendons, and ligaments; it’s extremely difficult to target each one effectively without the right program and exercises. For my athletes, I incorporate the ATTACK PPT Band & Training System into their workouts at least twice a week, using exercises designed specifically to reach those smaller hard-to-train muscles and keep the ankles strong and flexible. The PPT Band targets the Achilles and muscles surrounding the ankle that are most effectively trained when you can create resistance while lengthening the muscle (eccentric resistance) and vary the tempo of the contraction. I’ve seen athletes work on Bosu balls, train in sand, use a balance board–anything that creates an unstable environment and forces all the lower leg muscles to engage—but I’ve never found anything as effective as the ATTACK PPT Band & Training System.
I frequently use the PPT (Peroneus Prehabilitative Tensile) Band as part of the warm-up so it doesn’t add more time to the overall workout; if you usually do a 20 minute warm-up (which is really too long) I’d rather see you spend half of that time on your ankles. Extremely effective in preventing injury, and shortening recovery time in case of injury.
Believe me, I know it’s a lot easier to work on big muscles that show obvious results…much harder to focus on little muscles that hide in your socks. But here’s the bottom line: Athletes who concentrate on those small details get the biggest results. Do the work now in your training, so you don’t have to do it later in physical therapy. Prehab before you rehab.
Written on September 3, 2015
Whether you’re a pro athlete or a kid just learning the game, you probably didn’t get into sports with hopes and dreams of sitting on the bench.
It’s a lot of work. A lot of time. A lot of pressure. Hard to explain to your friends and your family, and especially to yourself. Plenty of reasons and plenty of excuses: You didn’t get a chance. The coach is an idiot who hates you. The guy ahead of you sucks but the coach likes him better. Add your own reasons here.
But it’s a cold hard fact that some players will play, and some will sit. And if you’re one who sits, the way you handle it will determine whether you can change that.
Five things that will NOT get you more playing time:
- Deciding the coach is an idiot who hates you.
- Skipping practice and workouts because you know you won’t play anyway.
- Slumping over on the bench pouting about it.
- Watching what’s happening in the stands instead of watching the game.
- Watching your parents in the stands screaming that the coach is an idiot who hates you.
Your best chance of getting more playing time?
That’s it. Be ready, because at some point, the coach is going to look in your direction and say, “You.”
And you’ll have a split second to react. Maybe someone gets hurt or isn’t playing well or does something the coach doesn’t like, and suddenly you’re going to be the “next man up.” Will you panic? Did you pay attention in practice? The opportunity may last a minute or a whole game, but what you do in that time is going to determine what you’ll be doing for a long time afterward.
If you do well and impress someone, you’re in the system. Now the coach knows you can be trusted, and you’ve added a weapon to the team’s arsenal going forward. But if you don’t do well, you’re probably done. The next player will get the opportunity you didn’t grab. You got your chance…you may not get another.
If you’re serious about getting more playing time, ask yourself these questions:
- Have you done the work that allows you to step in, fully prepared, and show you should have had that job all along?
- Are you staying mentally sharp and focused, even when you don’t know if you’ll play?
- While you’re on the bench, do you laugh and joke with teammates, or are you seriously engaged in the game?
- Are you noticing your opponents’ (and your teammates’) strengths and weaknesses?
- Are you just looking at the game or are you actually watching it? Are you just hearing the coaches along with the rest of the crowd noise, or are you actually listening to what’s being said? Looking and hearing—like every other fan in the stands–will keep you on the bench. Watching and listening like an involved teammate will keep you ready.
Be ready. Watch. Learn. Pay attention.
And by the way, this isn’t just about sports. Especially true for business as well: At some point, someone is going to mess up or an opportunity will surface, and the boss is going to give you a chance to show what you’ve got.
MJ used to tell his teammates at the beginning of the season: “I’m going to pass you the ball one time. If you don’t do something with it, I’m not throwing it to you again. I can miss a shot on my own, I don’t need your help for that. So make something happen, ’cause you’re only getting one chance. Earn it.”
Even at the highest level of competition, plenty of pros don’t start for their teams or get to play in every game. They don’t like sitting on the bench either. The smart ones show up ready to play. The others wish they still had that seat on the bench when they eventually get cut.
Bottom line, whether you’re a superstar or the last kid off the bench, anyone can show up, work hard, and listen. Nothing will have a greater impact on your playing time than your ability to do those three things.
Written on August 25, 2015
“Fall guys?” Here’s my definition: The guys who cause your career to fall. For every star athlete, they are a reality; I call them the PHDs. Why? I wrote about this in my book RELENTLESS:
Some years ago I worked with a star athlete who had one of the most legendary entourages in the history of bottle service. A solid entourage is a thing to behold.
Basically you have a bunch of unskilled, untrained, generally inexperienced losers from the old neighborhood or some other unknown origin, guys who showed up to a party and never left, all swarming around hoping for a stray groupie or a free drink. Then those losers bring around other losers, just to show they know how to party for free. Always free, because none of these bums have a dime in their pockets.
The entourage usually stays away from me, because I never hesitate to say: “Explain to me why you’re hanging around here for the next three hours while we’re working out. Go read a book, get the car washed, pick up the cleaning…just get out of here, you serve no purpose.”
And technically, I guess that’s false, because they actually serve two purposes: 1) telling a superstar how great he is and 2) filling the role of PHDs—Professional Holders of Dicks.
One day I’m going to make PHD T-shirts, congratulate these guys on their accomplishment, and hand them out; those guys will wear anything they get for free.
When your rent, car, meals, drinks, and entertainment are completely paid for by a “friend” who happens to be an athlete, when you can’t do what he does to earn all that money, you have one real responsibility: Do everything in your power to protect him, his name, and his success….because without his success, there is no you.
What happened to the superstar I mentioned earlier? He got hurt, needed surgery, spent a few months rehabbing…and his entire crew slithered off into the night to search for someone new to bankroll the party. One day he’s surrounded by an entourage of grateful dick holders, the next day he’s just got me and an ice bath. No posse, no one kissing his ass, no one to tell him he’s the man.
When you’re the one everyone else leans on for financial support, social support, emotional support, and every other kind of support, you already know that when people say, “It’s lonely at the top,” they’re talking about you.
Who do you trust? Anyone? No one? Tough question, because no matter who you are, part of success means recognizing the people who can help you get where you want to go, putting all the best pieces in place. You have to surround yourself with people who can operate at your level of demanding excellence. You can’t be unstoppable, or even great, if you can’t do that.
Athletes are surrounded by an endless parade of experts on everything; they have coaches, trainers, doctors, agents, advisers, wives, parents, and, yes, the dick holders. Everyone has an opinion. Know what you know, and what you don’t know. Most of the time when we ask for advice, we don’t want the truth. We want the answer we’re seeking. Be open to advice that goes against what you want.
Surround yourself with those who want you to succeed, who recognize what it takes to be successful. People who don’t pursue their own dreams probably won’t encourage you to pursue yours; they’ll tell you every negative thing they tell themselves.
Attaining excellence means seeking and accepting the truth, and adapting as necessary, not just settling for the convenient, easy route. –TG
Written on August 21, 2015
When you tell everyone you’re the best, just be prepared: That statement comes with consequences.
Because even if you only said it to kick yourself in the ass and elevate your own game, you definitely just elevated your opponent’s game. So you’d better be able to take your performance to the next level, because if you don’t, your opponent is going to have the greatest game of his career. And he’s taking the rest of his team with him.
You just took the target off your back and slapped it right on the front.
There’s a difference between effective confidence and mindless trash talk. Every time I talk about this, someone points out that MJ was the greatest trash talker of all time (which he would dispute, pointing out Larry Bird deserved that honor). But they both knew their legendary trash talk wasn’t meant for the other guy; it was another way for them to heighten the pressure they put on themselves. Because once you’ve told others how bad you’re about to mess them up, you’re gonna have to deliver on that promise.
And they always did. Few athletes can consistently do the same.
I understand the need to show public confidence, especially when you’re the guy everyone else is looking to for leadership. But the greats don’t have to say it out loud; they show it with results. Watch the top NFL quarterbacks: You will not hear Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning or Tom Brady brag about superiority…they’ll just play and give others credit, and let you decide for yourself. Do they believe they’re the best? Absolutely. But they say it to themselves, not to you. And when they no longer believe it, they know it’s time to go.
When you back yourself into a corner, it’s usually because of something you promised and didn’t deliver. Control what you say and how you say it. Because if you don’t, the other guy is waiting to prove you wrong.
Confidence is silent. Let your end result do the talking, and if you have to talk, let it lead to your end result. –TG
Written on August 13, 2015
You know this image: Star athlete works out in front of the cameras, trainer sends it all over social media so you get to see 15 seconds of video and some photos showing him training like a psycho beast. You don’t know what he did the rest of the time, but for those few moment, it’s a great show.
You know why there are so few photos of MJ training in the gym?
Because when you know you can show the results, you don’t have to show the work.
Contrary to what most people believe, total exhaustion is not the ultimate goal of effective training; there’s a huge difference between an exhausting workout and an effective workout. An exhausting workout pushes you to failure. What happens when you work to failure? No speed, no strength, no explosiveness, no form…and no results. Failure in every way. Probably not what you intended.
Anyone can run your ass into the ground; it takes a smart coach or trainer to be sure you’re really accomplishing something. A trainer who is obsessed with pushing you to your physical limits every single minute is missing the most important point: Exhaustion is not the ultimate goal. Results are.
When someone tells me he worked out so hard he puked—and thinks I’ll be impressed—all I can think is, Was that your goal? To get sick? That’s not effective training. Even after you clean yourself up and get back to work, you know you’re not going to be able to give your maximum effort. You sabotaged your workout by forcing your body to train inefficiently.
Although I have to admit, it’s a great way to show a lazy athlete how out of shape he really is.
An effective workout trains and teaches the body and mind to consistently perform at a high level both physically and mentally. Effective training combines speed, strength, and explosiveness all at once, all three working together in full force, over and over, not just for one short burst of glory. Example: If your coaches make you do wind sprints to get in shape, what’s the end result? You might get some initial benefit, but after a while without time for recovery, are you still improving? More likely you’re just getting worn out, severely limiting your ability to improve in other areas. Exhausting yes, effective no.
Look, I have no problem with trainers trying to take an athlete where he or she hasn’t gone before…as long as it’s based on knowledge of the athlete’s body and evidence that the athlete can benefit. But too often, the sole purpose is to outdo the other trainers, and show some trendy new technique that benefits no one but the trainer’s Instagram.
So how do you know if you’re getting an effective workout?
The intensity level varies every 2-3 workouts
It’s okay to feel soreness at first when you’re trying something new. If that soreness turns into pain over a period of time, something is not right.
Beware of a workout that emphasizes speed OR strength OR explosiveness; those three components of athletic performance must work together and be trained together. If you just focus on speed training, you’ll get faster, but if you move on to strength training and stop speed training, the speed regresses. A good program allows you to train for all three at once.
And the obvious: Improvement. Does the workout translate into better performance and success for your specific sport or activity?
Bottom line: a great trainer won’t just push you to do more…he or she will teach you to push yourself. Crave the results, and the effort becomes effortless.
Written on August 7, 2015
There’s no such thing as a meaningless game. Doesn’t matter if it’s the first preseason event or a midseason All-Star Game or the last game in a losing season, a champion shows up to play.
I told this story in my book RELENTLESS, because it’s the perfect example of how the greats compete:
During the 2012 All-Star Game, things got a little intense: Dwyane fouled Kobe, gave him a concussion, and broke his nose. Even for a regular-season game that would have been a lot of damage, but this was the All-Star Game, and a lot of people thought Dwyane was out of line.
That’s a Cleaner. He sees a situation, his killer instinct kicks in, and he attacks. I own this. This is what I do. No hard feelings.
But this story is about two Cleaners, and after the game, there was Kobe, surrounded by an army of doctors and league officials and team personnel trying to examine him and get him to the hospital. He can barely move, nose busted, head ringing, and he’s refusing to go. Why? He wanted to see Dwyane and address the situation.
Eventually we got him to leave, Dwyane apologized the next day, Kobe refused to miss a game, and the story faded away. No hard feelings.
That’s how Cleaners compete. They dish it out, they take it, and they make sure everyone else does too.
But not everyone can take it. I have this theory, yet to be disproven, that most players 6’10” or over cannot handle harsh, confrontational criticism. With someone 6’9″ or under, you can get in his face and just blast him. But any taller, he’ll just lose it and go right into a shell. I think it comes from a lifetime of being stared at and gawked at for being so much bigger than the rest of the population, people pointing and making height jokes, so the tall guys become more sensitive and self-conscious. They’re just emotional softies. They can be complete killers in competition, but they’re also the guys you have to pat on the back, boost their confidence, and make them feel good about what they’re doing. The little guys? You can call them every name imaginable and they keep right on going.
I bring this up to give you an example of how different people respond to competitive smackdowns.
This was back during one of the Bulls’ championship runs, and Scottie Pippen was trying to get Luc Longley fired up during the Finals. All the players were together before the game, and Scottie was talking to Luc, who stands 7’2″.
“Need you to bring your A game,” said Scottie.
And before Luc could respond or even nod, Michael whipped around in front of everyone and said, “Bring your A game? Bring a game.”
Luc was done. I don’t think he scored once. Confidence shot. Goodnight.
Michael didn’t know—or didn’t care to know—how to psychologically deal with teammates. For all his countless gifts as a player, sensitivity to others was not among them. He was driven to attack, dominate, and conquer in every way. Whatever he had to do, he did it, and he expected the same from every individual around him.
Get on my level, or get the hell out of my way.
This is at the core of my message to sports and business groups alike: In anything that requires teamwork, when you’re the guy at the top, it’s on you to pull everyone else up there with you, or everything you’ve built comes crashing down. Not so easy for someone who demands excellence of himself and has no tolerance for those who can’t or won’t rise to that level. Does he dumb himself down so he can fit in, slap people on the back, tell them they’re great, and hope everyone can rise together? Or does he stand up there alone, set the example, and make everyone else work harder?
The answer seems obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t want to stand alone under the glare of the spotlight, because as soon as you reveal what you’re capable of, that’s what everyone will expect of you. But when no one realizes how good you are, you don’t have to be the guy making miracles and running the show, no one will expect much, and everything you do will seem heroic.
Easier that way.
Easier, that is, if you’re okay being average.
A lot of gifted people will lower their skills to close the gap between themselves and those around them, so others can feel more confident, involved, and relatively competitive. I’ve seen Kobe do that briefly when he has to, as a way to bring his teammates into the action and keep them engaged. It’s a conscious decision to make the other guys feel as if they were one team, not one superstar surrounded by a second-rate supporting cast.
Michael went the other way and came right out and said it: that’s my supporting cast.
His message was clear and unrelenting: Hey, I’m not bringing my game down so you can look better; you bring your game up so you can look better. He refused to put his own game in the backseat just to give other guys more action, unless you proved to him you could handle the responsibility.
During a game, Michael would assess who was and wasn’t giving 100 percent and make his own adjustments. He never showed frustration on the court; his body language and demeanor never changed. He’d just say, “You’re not playing tonight? That’s fine, I’ll play for all five of us. You keep it close into the fourth quarter, I’ll do the rest.” And he’d do it in a way that uplifted everyone else, as if that were the game plan all along.
It’s far more typical for stars to get aggravated and emotional when their teammates don’t show up, and then everyone falls apart because all that emotional energy is completely destructive.
But Michael never showed it inside the lines during a game. He always stayed positive, always had fun out there. After the game he was like Genghis Khan: he’d go after your balls and your head and everything in between. But during the game, while he was in that Zone, it was all about taking control, staying cool, and getting that end result.
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Fear and respect: Whether you’re in sports, business, or any competitive field, you’re not here to make friends. You’re here because you’re fighting to be the best, to crush the competition, and you’re not afraid to show it.
Let them know you were there by your actions, not your words or emotions. You don’t have to be loud to be the focus of attention. Think of the Godfather: he was the quietest guy in the room, surrounded by everyone else waiting to see what he would do or say, and he never had to say a word to get his message across.
Or the parent who just gives the kids that look; no lecture, no speeches. One look, maybe a word or two, and there’s nothing more to say. Complete control. That’s fear and respect in action.
I wrote about this in my book RELENTLESS, and it’s the #1 topic I’m asked about when I speak to business groups: How to use mental toughness to crush the competition.
The loudest guy in the room is the one with the most to prove, and no way to prove it. A Cleaner has no need to announce his presence; you’ll know he’s there by the way he carries himself, always cool and confident. He’s never the blowhard telling you how great he is; he’s the quiet guy focused on results, because results are all that matter.
When people start broadcasting what they’re going to do, and how great they’re going to be when they do it, it’s a sure sign they’re still trying to convince themselves. If you already know, you don’t have to talk about it. Talk never goes up in price, it’s always free, and you usually get what you pay for.
You enter with confidence, and leave with results. That’s how you intimidate your opponents without saying a single word.
Michael Jordan had the best intimidation technique I’ve ever seen. You can’t do this anymore, but before certain playoff games, he’d walk into the opponents’ locker room on the pretense he had a pal on the other side and he had to say hello. Now, if you really knew him, you knew that was completely ridiculous because Michael didn’t care about saying hello to anyone, especially before a game. But try telling that to the guys in the other locker room, getting ready to play. The whole team would be sitting there, thinking about facing the world champion Chicago Bulls . . . and in walks Michael Jordan. I don’t care how long any of them had been in the game, when Michael Jordan walked in, you’d notice. He’d open that door, and the whole place would suddenly go completely silent. Everyone and everything just stopped. You could see every pair of eyes following him, watching, wondering, waiting to see what he was going to do. He’d only stay a minute, just long enough for a brief handshake with whomever he knew (or pretended to know), a quick nod around the room, and he’d leave as quickly as he’d arrived.
The Black Cat, we called him. There and gone before you knew what had happened.
He wouldn’t give it another thought. But for the stunned players sitting in that locker room, they could think of nothing else. Mission accomplished: He’d gone into their space and lodged himself in their heads for the entire game. Now they’re no longer thinking about what they have to do, they’re thinking about him. Instead of clearing their minds and getting to that cool, focused performance Zone, their minds are heating up over #23. He’s got the entire other team talking to each other about how many points the great Michael Jordan will score that night, how many he’d scored the night before, the suit he was wearing, the automobile he drove. They were no longer his opponents, they were just a bunch of fans in awe.
A player might score 20 points the night before facing the Bulls, then 2 points when he got to Chicago. And then 20 again in the next game against someone else. That wasn’t strictly about the Bulls’ defense; a guy’s skill doesn’t deteriorate for one game. What changed? Only his frame of mind. He was thinking about playing against Michael Jordan.
Wherever Michael went, there was that undeniable element of fear and respect. Everyone felt it. Every game, he’d do something unforgettable, and no one would know what it was going to be. Even he didn’t always know what it was going to be. But he’d make you wait and wonder. He always gave the other team and the crowd a wow moment, sometimes an entire wow game. In the later years of his career, when he wasn’t going to dunk every night, he’d still sneak one in every now and then just to let everyone know he could still do it. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to remind the rest of the league, “You’re next.”
Cleaners always leave behind a taste of the fear factor to give their next victims something to think about, so everyone knows they’re coming; that’s the undeniable edge they give themselves. That was one of Tiger’s greatest weapons, knowing the rest of the field was looking back to see what he was doing, waiting for him to make his move. Every tournament, every round, every hole were all about him; the only thing anyone—including the competition—wanted to know was “What did Tiger do?” But when he was struck down by scandal and injury and his game deteriorated, the competition stopped worrying about him. He no longer commanded the fear and respect that had made him an unstoppable force. Everyone else’s skills didn’t just suddenly improve. But their mental focus did.
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It’s not a weakness to recognize your body’s need to recover, it’s a weakness to be so addicted to training and so scared to miss a day that your body can’t keep up with your obsession. A car will go farther on a full tank than on fumes; so will you. Active rest and recovery days will fill your tank, and allow you to go faster and farther the next day.
Notice I said ACTIVE rest and recovery. That doesn’t mean lying in bed watching TV all day; it means staying active and allowing your body to enjoy the effects of all the strength and conditioning work you’ve been doing. When I say rest, I mean no weights and no intense training; stay away from the areas you’ve been working all week. Do a stretch routine, use foam rollers on the areas that are sore and tender, take an ice bath, just mess around or play your sport.
An exception to the “no lying around watching TV” rule: for one rest day per week, shut it down completely. Take a mental break, a day you don’t have to think about training or playing or whatever else you usually have to do on the other six days. You will have earned it.
I want you to take that break. It’s not an option, it’s a necessity. Rest and recovery are an essential part of your training and conditioning; you can’t give maximum effort or get maximum results with tired, fatigued muscles. It’s not a sign of mental or physical weakness to take days off so your body can heal; I would never allow my clients to work every day without scheduled rest days. Rest is part of your training; it allows your body to recover and adapt so you can keep going and get stronger. Relentless training means smart training.
I’m not talking about taking a rest day because you woke up late or you were feeling slow so you decided to blow off your workout; that’s not a rest day, that’s just laziness. I’m talking about planned rest days that are built into your schedule, so you know in advance you won’t be working out. Effective training doesn’t happen by accident; you have to structure your workouts with careful intention. All my workouts–including Jump Attack, which I adapt for all my clients–include carefully planned rest days. Stick to the schedule and you won’t have to think about it.
And if you’re one of those people who never takes a day off and you’re happy with how you’re performing, imagine how much better you’d perform if your body was fully rested and working at 90 to 100 percent capacity instead of maybe 60 to 70 percent. If you’re never resting, you’re never able to give your best.
Your rest days also give you a mental recharge, a little time to get your mind away from training and the hard work still ahead of you. Even the pros have to take time away from the daily grind, to clear their heads and blow off some steam. When Michael was getting ready for the season, he shut down everything else except his workouts and golf; the golf was to give his mind that mental break so everything wasn’t about the workouts. Other guys spend time with their kids and families, manage their business relationships, work on their charities, just something that isn’t all about training and athletics. Even if you’re completely focused on your sport, you have to think about something else occasionally or you’ll go nuts. You can’t be strong from the neck down if you’re not strong from the neck up, so take the time to clear your head and refocus.
Excerpted from JUMP ATTACK: The Formula for Explosive Athletic Performance, Jumping Higher, and Training Like the Pros, by Tim S. Grover. All rights reserved.
WHEN YOU’RE IN THE ZONE, YOU SHUT OUT EVERYTHING ELSE, AND CONTROL THE UNCONTROLLABLE.
Quiet, dark, alone. Always alone, even in a crowd, even when you’re surrounded by an entire arena of fans screaming your name. Alone in your head, alone with that buzz no one but you can feel . . . no outside static. No distraction. Right now, all about you. That dark side pushing you, burning in you, driving you . . . do it. Do it. You can hear your heart, you control every beat. You control everything. Somebody is talking at you . . . but you don’t hear and don’t want to. Later tonight someone—media, colleague, family—will say you’re a jerk, rude and uncommunicative. They don’t get it and you don’t care. “In your own little world,” they say. Yes. Exactly. Get out. Leave me alone. Leave me alone.
You’re in the Zone.
You know others around you are emotional. They feel scared or jealous or excited or they’re too clueless to understand what’s happening, but you feel only readiness. No emotion, because in the Zone the only sensation is anger, a quiet, icy anger simmering under your skin . . . never rage, never out of control. Silent, like a storm that moves in slow and dark, its violence unseen until it hits, and can’t be measured until it moves on.
That’s the impact of a Cleaner in the Zone.
Everything you feel, all your energy, it’s right under the surface. No ripples, no waves . . . no one can see what’s coming. Leave the drama and chaos to others, that’s not you. You’re saving it all for what’s ahead.
Because once you step into the Zone, that’s it. You own time.
Anyone who has experienced the awesome power of the Zone will tell you it’s deeply calm. It’s not relaxing or peaceful—this isn’t yoga—but intensely focused. And once you’re there, you have no fear, no worry, no emotion. You do what you came to do, and nothing can touch you. But what takes you to that elusive space where you’re fearless and powerful, where you can completely trust yourself to just let go? How do you find that perfect internal silence that people talk about but can’t ever really describe?
One thing I know for sure is that we all have a trigger that puts us in the Zone, something that ignites our competitive intensity, laser focus, and a relentless craving to attack and conquer. It’s different in every individual, and no one can tell you how to get there. But I can tell you this much: it comes straight from the part of you I call your dark side, which we’re going to discuss in the pages ahead. Truth: when you’re finally able to let go and be who you really are, that’s what puts you in the Zone, and only then can you control your fear and inhibition. Without that deep instinctive component, it’s like trying to light a lighter that has no fuel inside. You get a lot of sputtering little sparks but no fire.