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.
Get in the Groove
Most pitchers exhibit a wary monasticism on the days they pitch, shunning teammates and retreating into themselves. Not Gonzalez. Gio doesn't want to stress anybody out because that tension might rub off on him. "I try to play my music real loud," he says. "Just put some Motown on, just keep it real loose, kind of get everyone loose in the clubhouse, just very talkative."
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