Self-care is one of the most important and consistent aspects of every champion, across every sport. No matter what sport you love, your favorite athlete takes care of themselves almost more than they take care of the equipment they use. And they engage in self-care longer than the time they spend preparing for their game.
One of the main things they do is recharge. Whether you’re an athlete, a parent, a teacher, a businessperson or anybody — you also need to recharge from time to time. That’s right: You’re no better than your phone battery.
To get into and through the NFL, I had to master recharging myself. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. I’ve tried many different “recharging stations” to put me at my best, and here are my five favorites. Here’s how I rebuild the energy, the focus and the resolve to continue to succeed at my stated goals, no matter where I’m at on that journey.
1. TAKE TIME TO SLEEP WELL AT NIGHT
As I write, Roger Federer just played 4.5 hours of tennis in New York City to win his set and score an opportunity to move on in the U.S. Open. Roger Federer also sleeps 12 hours a night.
The number-one recharger is sleep, hands down. One of the first things the Pittsburgh Steelers did in training camp was bring in a sleep doctor, Dr. Mah, to speak to us. She studies sleep and performance and has worked with the Golden State Warriors, Stanford football and the like. That’s how important good sleep is for performance!
Sleep is the number-one activity you can do to recharge. Now, some of us have kids. Some us have to be up at 6:00 in the morning. Some of us have a routine that doesn’t allow the 9 to 12 hours of sleep that is actually recommended by performance sleep doctors.
I get it. I’m a parent too. Sometimes I don’t get that much snooze time. As a broadcaster, sometimes I’m taking my notes after the kids go to bed, and then I’ve got to wake up early to catch a flight.
The good news is that sleep can happen in a couple of different ways. If you can’t get your sleep at night, fit in a nap. That brings us to recharge #2.
2. POWER NAP
Naps are not just for babies and grandparents. Naps are top-notch rechargers. Dr. Mah, the Steelers’ sleep doctor, said 15 to 40 minute naps are all that you want. (Before the Super Bowl, though, I would always nap for one to two hours.)
It doesn’t matter where or when I found my nap time. Sometimes, it was at the end of my week. Or during my week to recover from traveling, to recover from being a dad, to recover from working. That’s okay. Naps work — scientifically. They recharge your mind and body and get you back in your game.
One of the biggest mistakes we make when trying to outperform ourselves is ignoring our sleep. Instead, we guzzle down caffeine. And then another cup of caffeine. And take a five-hour energy shot. And we do not admit that we still feel tired.
When you are tired, take a power nap. Recharge yourself with something that works. It’s important. I’ve even taken a nap at my broadcast station — I walked in 30 minutes before the show, closed my eyes for 15 minutes, then woke up and did a great show. Find your sleep time. Find a space to steal a nap. Then get your z’s.
3. GET IN THE DARK AT NIGHT
Another tip the sleep doctor gave us was to sleep in the dark. Really dark. No street lights, no screens, no night lights. Blackout blinds are your friend. Light pollution in the room where you sleep at night can seriously interfere with the quality of your sleep. As long as you are going to take the time to sleep, you want to get the most out of it.
At night and in the early morning, also minimize your exposure to blue light. It’s not what your body thrives on at that time — blue light keeps you awake! I bought blue-light neutralizing glasses to wear in the evening. You can grab yourself a pair online for about $7. As soon as I get home, I put those things on. I’ve increased my quality of sleep, increased my dreams, increased my physical recovery when I sleep and I feel better in the morning.
By cutting down on blue light, I’m starting my body’s release of melatonin earlier. That means I fall asleep faster, more easily. Find yourself some blue-light-blocking glasses and see what they can do for you. Some folks use them for all computer work, but especially before bed. You’ll block the blue from your ceiling lights, the TV and any screens like your phone.
In fact, blue light is such a known problem that many phones come with an app or night setting that shifts your phone display away from blue (it will look yellower or redder). Turn that on and schedule it to start a couple hours before bed. Start sleeping like the champions you know and love.
4. JUST MOVE: LIGHT ACTIVITY
Frank Sinatra was famous for just sitting in the steam room and never working out. Reggie White was rumored to have never lifted a weight, but to only have sat in the steam room. (Of course he lifted some weights.)
Doing a light activity can be beneficial for recharging, whether it’s going for a 20-minute walk or just moving your body a different way. For me, doing yoga often works.
Tai Chi is huge in many cultures and for many people around the world — for a reason. Light movement or slow, focused movement can have a powerful impact on recharging you, reframing you and giving you the perspective you need to complete your day, to be a champion of your day.
5. GET A FOOT MASSAGE
Like Lieutenant Dan says in the Forrest Gump movie, “Got to take care of your feet.” You’re on them all day. If you’re tired, your feet are doubly tired, because there’s two of them. Lol. One of my favorite recharging stations is a foot massage.
I get these all the time, often at airports or in busy downtown areas of the cities where I broadcast. It started when I was in Las Vegas once; I got a $20 foot massage on the strip. I sat in this special chair and they rubbed my feet, hitting all these reflexology points.
I nearly died from joy.
Trust me on this one and find yourself a foot massage or a reflexology massage. They say it massages the whole body from the feet. Try 10, 20 even 30 minutes if you like it. It will change your life.
If you don’t believe me, ask yourself when was the last time someone rubbed your feet? Exactly. Go get a foot rub. Recharge. They’ll hit a point in your big toe that’ll tickle your right hip. You’ll relax in a way you’ve never relaxed.
The next time your phone or laptop needs to recharge, do something to recharge yourself too. Start to plan out a regular afternoon nap or take a walk during lunch at the office. By sleeping in the dark, napping, doing some light workouts or getting a foot massage, you can recharge yourself for focus and success. Try these out and find ways to recharge that work for you.