For those of you who weren’t able to make it to #rmnbparty, we announced that Andrew Gordon will be blogging with us again this month. August is traditionally the slowest month when it comes to NHL Hockey news, so it’s a great change of pace to hear from Gordo about his mental and physical commitment to training through the summer. This is where players build the strength, speed and skill to compete in the upcoming season. Below Andrew talks about the mental toughness he’s developed to get him through. Photo by Kathryn Hedrick.
Hi Folks! Just when you thought you got rid of me, I’m back with a summer blog! The guys at RMNB and I thought it would be interesting to try and put into words a bit of what’s going on in my life (and in my head) since the season wrapped up a few short weeks ago.
I’ll start right up where my last entry left off: the post cup celebration. This season’s win was a much different feel than the first time. I remember a much deeper feeling of relief as opposed to the rush of excitement that I had as the buzzer rang in 2009. Don’t get me wrong, I was still on cloud 9, but as the heavy favorites going into the season, and again in the playoffs, the win was more of a weight off our shoulders than a celebration of our accomplishments. We were expected to win, and we did, so our job was done. No miracles or underdog stories. Just a job properly executed.
This lead me to the feelings I had for the following few days. After my first win I didn’t want to leave Hershey! I was having so much fun with the guys taking the cup all around the city and enjoying it, I wanted the championship high to last forever. This time around I was thinking about home almost right away. I had been through the cup festivities before and knew what to expect. All I wanted was to go home and see the friends and family I’ve missed for 20 of the previous 24 months. Being away eats at you when you are gone for long periods of time like we are every winter. Missing Thanksgivings, Christmases and birthdays pile up, and when April and May roll around, home starts looking pretty good (this is when a man’s will can be broken as I spoke about before).
For me these past two seasons, going home has been something to really look forward to. Some guys take off after the season ends and head to Vegas or some tropical destination to relax and put the long season behind them. I just need to get home. That’s the only vacation spot I ever crave. Home has become such a foreign place for me since I left at 16 and moved to Saskatchewan, that being home really does feel like a getaway in a strange place. I rarely see people I know, nobody knows when I am in or out of town or that I even play hockey anymore. It’s the complete opposite of everywhere I’ve played for the last eight years, and that’s why I love it! As good as winning the cup felt this year, I think the feeling of pulling into my home town made me almost as happy. No matter where you are from no place on earth feels like home, and I’m finding the older I get the more I appreciate mine.
The vacation was short lived though. Two weeks go by in a flash when you first get home. I spent a few days relaxing with my parents and sister, then went out of town for a couple weeks on a wedding tour before waking up one morning and suddenly realized I had to start training again! My body didn’t feel completely ready yet. My mind was still not wrapped around the fact that the new season wasn’t far off, but never the less I tossed on my shoes and shorts and went to work. The mental grind of the summer had begun. As a player I find the winter and summer seasons to be opposites of each other. In the winter, you come out of the gates in mid-September with loads of energy and enthusiasm, and as the season wears on you lose that vigor and just have to gut the season out till you get that fire back in the playoffs. As for summer, the first two weeks are miserable and you only get stronger and more disciplined from there. You have to break the bad habits you have created over the past 2-3 weeks and train yourself to limit what will hurt you in order to maximize what helps you. A great workout can easily be nullified by a Big Mac meal no matter how good it looks as you drive by. At first it’s hard. You want that burger. You want to go party on a Thursday with your friends. You want to run at 75% and chalk up your poor effort to the fact that it’s your first week back in the gym. But you have to be strong to avoid the temptation. I battle myself mentally like this every year, but I know these thoughts are coming, so I try to eliminate them before they can take over and ruin a good day.
Over the past few years I have developed what I have self-diagnosed as “athletic paranoia” (no, this is not a real condition). This is where I want to train all the time because I feel like I’m behind what everybody else is doing. I HATE skipping a workout because I have convinced myself that other players were out working at that exact moment while I was sleeping in. In some cases it’s probably true. When I was still playing in June, breaking my body down, everybody who didn’t make the playoffs or lost before we won had a head start on me. They were at home building themselves up. I take pride in my work ethic and I never want to be out worked. A player’s work ethic is one of the few things we can control, and in my eyes deciding not to work is deciding not to succeed. I remember watching a TV show on boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather. To get a mental edge during training he would wake up at 2am and go for a run or a workout because he knew he was working while his opponent was sleeping. Knowing he worked harder than his challenger allowed him to go into a fight with a different level of confidence (not that Floyd was lacking confidence to begin with). I’m not quite that extreme, but I will occasionally work out on a Sunday, or do a couple extra laps or reps when the workout doesn’t say so. This way I at least know that I’m doing more than is expected. If at the end of the summer that extra work allows me to lift one more pound, then it was all worth it.
In the offseason I have the luxury of working out with fellow Nova Scotian and Hershey Bears forward Andrew Joudrey. We grew up playing with and against each other as we only live about 25 minutes apart, and for the last few years we have teamed up as work out partners in the offseason. I find we are almost a perfect match in the gym. I think I am a bit stronger in the weight room, but he is a better runner on the track, so we both push each other to catch up in different categories. In past years I have worked out alone, and things have gone well, but having a partner allows you to work to an extra gear. I don’t want to quit or slow down because I don’t want him to see me fail. I don’t want to allow him to finish the run or the lift and have me fall behind. Seeing him succeed forces me to try to surpass what he has just done before me, and vice versa. If you miss a day, or have to leave a work out early, deep down you know the other guy is disappointed in you. We have grown to rely on one another for support, but also as someone to push you when you need a kick in the pants. None of this mini mental game is really talked about between us. It goes without saying. Not being there not only hurts you, but your partner as well. We work out as a team, but also as quiet competitors. The competitive nature in us both drives us to battle even when there is really nothing to compete over. Nobody wants to let the other get better alone. This is what allows me to jump out of bed at 5:45-6am every day. The first thought in my mind when the alarm goes off is “gahhh I want more sleep!” But my second thought is “I can’t let Jouds work out alone…and I bet nobody else is taking today off…I gotta get out of here!” Within minutes of that conversation with myself I’m in the car making the 35 minute trek to the gym for another day.
So, as of now I have been working out for a few weeks and I’m really starting to get into routine. I’m over the soreness and being upset about waking up early every day, and I’m starting to build up the hunger for working out that comes over time. When your days off make you feel more uncomfortable than days of pushing yourself to your limits, that’s when you really start making progress. I’m looking forward to the challenges that lay ahead for this season, and as much as I enjoy my time off I can already feel the itch to play again. It’s a good feeling. After all, how many people do you know who can’t wait for their vacation to be over so they can go back to work? Now you know one!
“I’ve got a theory that if you give 100 percent all of the time, somehow things will work out in the end.” -Larry Bird
Thank you for your time! Have a safe and happy offseason!
Yours in Hockey,