When the Patriots and Rams square off this Sunday for Super Bowl LIII, all eyes will be on the players who have trained their entire careers to get to this point. Aside from rigorous physical training, top athletes need to pay close attention to their mental well-being — which is closely tied to their performance on the field. From keeping a consistent bedtime to embracing mindful recovery methods, these seven NFL players inspire us to further prioritize our own well-being:
Tom Brady enforces an early bedtime
While science shows that adopting a habitual nighttime routine can improve our sleep and our cognitive function, setting a bedtime is important for the physical body, too — and Tom Brady is hyper-aware of its effect on his athletic performance. “I do go to bed very early, because I’m up very early,” Brady told WEEI-AM. “I think that the decisions that I make always probably center around performance enhancement.” Brady prides himself on going to sleep as early as 8:30 pm, and he says the consistent bedtime allows him to be his best, both on and off the field. “I want to be the best I can be every day,” he added. “I want to be the best I can be for my teammates.”
Jon McGraw embraces meditation
Jon McGraw, the NFL veteran who spent his final years on the field with the Kansas City Chiefs, co-founded a mindfulness and performance company called Vision Pursue after seeing the powerful effect that ancient wisdom and meditation can have on any high-performing career. “A lot of my career, I didn’t get to enjoy, even though I was living my dream,” McGraw said, reflecting on his history of performance anxiety. “There were a lot of times where I convinced myself that it was probably better than it was.” After reading the works of philosophers and authors like Eckhart Tolle, McGraw was inspired to take the lessons he learned and teach others the power of infusing mindfulness into mental and physical performance.
Rob Gronkowski prioritizes recovery
During his time on the New England Patriots, Rob Gronkowski has suffered from injuries, and today, he says recovery is key –– both physically and mentally. “When I was 21 and starting off in the league, I’d finish a game… [and] not put a lot of time into recovery at all,” he told Men’s Health. “When you’re young, you feel like you don’t have to put in that extra work.” Currently coming off a serious back surgery, Gronkowski admits that he wishes he had started his recovery habit earlier: “Everyone wishes they could go back in time and give their younger selves some advice… I would tell myself how important it is to treat your body right from the beginning.” Gronkowski also says his physical setbacks have inspired him to mentally persevere through challenges. “It takes a lot of mental toughness,” he added. “But it can make you stronger.”
Randy Gregory goes to therapy
The Dallas Cowboys’ Randy Gregory has spoken out about his struggles with mental health, and his candor is helping destigmatize mental illness in sports. In an interview with ESPN, Gregory recalls being in a “bad place,” and admits he hit his “lowest point,” which propelled him to start going to therapy. “I knew there was a chance that I would play again if I did the right things,” he said. “Therapy has always helped.” Gregory says that his consistency allowed him to re-prioritize by truly putting his well-being first. “Just being consistent with that, a healthy dose of medication, and then just being able to realize what I have on my plate, my priorities, and being happy, not only with what I’m doing, but with myself internally, has been the biggest help,” he concluded.
Eli Manning makes mindful nutrition choices
All top athletes need to fuel their bodies with the right foods for performance, and when it comes to Eli Manning’s diet regimen, he pays close attention to the nutrients he needs to feel his best. When asked about the intention behind his healthy diet, Manning told ESPN that his goals always come down to “feeling healthy” and being mindful about what he puts in his body. “It’s a lot of veggies, fruits, and proteins for the most part,” he said. “Just eat healthy, [and] eat smart.”
Russell Wilson puts family first
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife, Ciara, are very open about how much they prioritize their kids –– and even with his busy schedule, Wilson makes the effort to put family time first. From his heartwarming “All that matters” Instagram posts, to his helicopter-flying birthday presents, Wilson has proven time and again that he places his fatherhood first, and career second –– no matter the season.
Von Miller dedicates time to his passion project
Denver Broncos player Von Miller is not only enthusiastic about football. The outside linebacker is also a chicken farmer, and he calls his Texan chicken coop his “happy place.” When an interviewer asked him what his teammates originally thought of his side hobby, they “thought it was a joke,” but Miller takes pride in his farm-raised chickens, and the hobby brings him joy when the pressure of football feels stressful. “Once you really get to know me and where I’m from, then you get it,” he said. “And when you come see my farm… you get to know me a lot better as well.”
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