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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’s Sports Psychology

May stresses the importance of living in the present moment. In Gordon’s case, that means always keeping his eyes and mind on his car, on the road, and on the racers around him rather than worrying about winning.

Worry can clutter your mind and slow you down, says May, who often advises athletes to use what he calls the “stop-think technique” to eliminate unwanted thoughts. It’s quite simple. Whenever a negative or distracting thought enters your mind, say “Stop.” Then picture something positive and peaceful, such as a beautiful beach. “It’s a conditioning technique,” says May. “With practice, the image becomes a reward for stopping negative thoughts.”

For Gordon, being ready to compete means being relaxed.

“I’ve been racing since I was 5 years old, and I think it’s all about being relaxed in your environment, being comfortable in the race car, and having been involved in nearly every possible scenario in the race car over the course of 30 years. I try to block out any distractions that could mentally affect me before a race. It’s a routine I’ve had in place for many years.”

May also says most athletes overtrain, believing the more they practice, the better they will perform. That, says May, is a myth. An athlete’s goal should be to find his or her own optimal training level and stick with it. “People need to figure out that sometimes less is best,” says May, who urges the athletes he works with to take regular breaks from their training to remain fresh.

“Performance will drop without diversity,” he warns.

Jeff Gordon, Champion for Children

Gordon’s 2007 season may be proof that diversity pays off. After several lackluster seasons, Gordon started the 2007 Sprint Cup Series as a newlywed. Halfway through, his wife, Ingrid, a Belgian model who recently appeared in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue spotlighting top athletes’ wives, gave birth to Ella. While adjusting to his new roles -- first husband, then father -- he drove all the way to second place, his best finish in years.

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