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.
Around 5:30 p.m., as stadium speakers cough to life, Gonzalez dunks himself into a hot tub for two minutes and then a cold tub for three minutes."At the beginning, when you get in the hot tub, it keeps the blood flowing – your body's keeping loose, your blood's boiling real rapidly, nice, smooth," he explains. "When you go in the cold tub, it just tightens up, everything just tightens up," which is good not because Gio is looking to pull something, but because the suddenness of the change forces his body to run a systems check. He exits the cold tub and dries off, letting his body get back to room temperature. "You want your body to feel like it's brand-new every time you get on that mound," he says. "It's the same routine, the same mind frame, but your body doesn't get used to it because you don't do the hot and cold on a daily basis. You only do it on the day you pitch."
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