For a guy who earns his paycheck doing physical labor, Gio Gonzalez spends a lot of time sitting around waiting. The left-handed starting pitcher for the Washington Nationals works hard on game day to shake off the idleness that can overtake hurlers between starts by following a set and stringent program that prepares both his muscles and mind to lead the Nats when he's asked to take the mound.
Athletes may break into the bigs because of talent, but they stay there because of consistency. Designing a program – even one that is limited to game day – is the key to staying productive and healthy. Gonzalez has averaged more than 17 wins and 200 innings since 2010 – and, with a 7-3 record and a 3.03 earned run average through the first half of this season, he looks primed for another good year. This consistency, he says, is the result of his well-honed routine, which begins the moment he wakes up.
When Gonzalez is pulled from a game, he doesn't head to the bench. Instead, he jogs over to the clubhouse and keeps his cardio going. "As soon as I'm done pitching, I will go into the weight room and I'll do a good 20 minutes of cardio just to flush out the arm, to get some of the lactic acid in there out,” he explains. "I don't like the icing process. I think it's only good for swelling." He completes his postgame workout with shoulder stretches. Then he reemerges to "watch the rest of the game with the guys."
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