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Health & Balance

NASCAR Star Jeff Gordon’s Healthy Life on and off the Track

What drives this champion to win on the racetrack, as a husband and a dad, and in his quest to help kids with life-threatening conditions?
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Jeff Gordon Balances Racing and Fatherhood

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series features the league’s best racers. Though it’s gone through several name changes over the years -- before Sprint, it was the Nextel Cup; before that it was the Winston Cup -- its schedule has remained one of the most grueling in motorsports. Drivers compete in 36 races over a 41-week season. The races are hundreds of miles long, around oval tracks that only turn to the left. Gordon has been racing the circuit for 15 years. Naturally, Gordon, who turns 37 in August, had always thought racing kept his life in the fast lane. He didn’t realize how wrong he was until last June, when Ella Sofia was born.

“You think you are busy until you have a child,” Gordon says. “It turns out that my life was not busy until Ella came along.”

He’s not complaining. Quite the contrary. Gordon has embraced fatherhood and feels blessed by it. “I love being with Ella,” he says. When asked what, if any, changes his daughter’s birth has forced on his career, he jokes, “Traveling is much different” for him and his wife of almost two years, Ingrid Vandebosch. “We have to carry a lot more baggage.”

Then he turns serious.

“To me, the two are separate. When I’m at work, my mind is focused on my job, on driving. If you have a great weekend, you’re on a high. When it’s a bad day, you just want to get away from the track. But no matter how good or bad my day was, coming home, it’s all put aside. You don’t have a choice. I’m a realist. It’s tough. So is racing.”

Learning to balance one’s personal and professional life can be a great challenge, especially for people like Gordon, used to succeeding in everything they do, says Jerry May, PhD, a specialist in sports psychology and professor emeritus at the University of Nevada, Reno. May has spent the past 30 years working with elite athletes -- primarily U.S. Olympic athletes, who, like Gordon, are at the very pinnacle of their game. He has also worked with leaders in many other professions, from doctors to judges to CEOs.

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