UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. -- I tried an experiment during my summer break. It was called “Operation: Be a Normal Person.”Ultimate fail.
I had a few weeks off before I head back to Sweden to resume training and prepare for the second half of the season at Gothenburg. I decided that it was best for me to take a complete break, both mentally and physically, for at least a week. That’s where my plan kicked in.
Finally, I could relax by the pool and not worry about the sun draining my energy. But I got bored just standing in the water I so started doing the pool recovery exercises I’ve learned over the years to loosen up my muscles. Plus, I kept checking the time to make sure I wouldn’t miss the Confederations Cup games.
I went out to eat with friends. The normalness plan was going really well. I had no hint of soccer gear on and we talked about regular people stuff. Until I remembered I hadn’t done my ankle exercises in a few days! Good thing no one would notice if I did them inconspicuously under the table.
I tried laying out in my yard. But why just lay there aimlessly on the towel when I could do some planks to strengthen my core?
And even watching a movie was tough going. It wasn’t my fault I couldn’t focus when the foam roller in my living room kept catching my eye. My IT bands were tight!
One of the learning curves of playing professionally has been figuring out my body’s most effective training rhythm. There are so many factors that go into being able to perform at my best at the right time.
I used to have to train every day. Even if I couldn’t really train I would make myself touch the ball a bit just so in my mind I hadn’t broken the chain of consecutive days of training. I probably went a few years without missing a day. Eventually I realized that taking a day off — or even a more substantial amount of time (I know, blasphemy!) — can be even more beneficial than training nonstop.
Although it’s always a struggle to temporarily free my mind of the discipline I have instilled over the years, I did get some good rest over my break and had a lot of fun while doing it. But I guess being normal is just not for me. I’ll always think Cristiano or Beckham when I see a No. 7. I’ll always make plans and goals when I’m supposed to be relaxing and going with the flow. I’ll always arrange my day around a big game on TV. And I’ll most likely always identify myself as a soccer player above all else.