You aren't Peyton Manning. But chances are--at some point--you'll have a clutch meeting or presentation where a successful performance is vital.
So how do you prepare for your own crucial game-day situation? For some insight, I reached out to EXOS founder Mark Verstegen, a Phoenix-based coach, trainer, and entrepreneur. Ahead of the 2014 World Cup, his company--a 2015 Inc 5000 company, which designs and delivers health and performance programs for elite athletes, the military, and business leaders--worked closely with soccer legend Miroslav Klose, who holds the record for most goals in World Cup history.
As it happens, Klose closed his career by winning the 2014 World Cup with Germany. At the time, Klose was 36. So in many ways, his journey parallels what Manning's might be, if Manning--as an older, supremely accomplished, superstar--can close his career with a title. That was another reason I wanted to speak to Verstegen. He never trained Manning, but in Klose, he's worked extensively with a team sport legend whose career trajectory is extremely comparable to Manning's.
In his 2014 book, co-authored with Peter Williams, Every Day Is Game Day: Train Like the Pros With a No-Holds-Barred Exercise and Nutrition Plan for Peak Performance, Verstegen says there are four pillars to training for a top performance on a big day: Mindset, nutrition, movement, and recovery. Here's a brief explanation of all four, along with his advice about how to modify each pillar if, like Klose and Manning, you're an older athlete or leader hoping for a final big day. In addition, Verstegen explained how to apply this preparation blueprint to business settings, before a major meeting or large-audience presentation.
Your mindset is your method for preparing with minimal distractions. For a veteran athlete--or a longtime professional who has survived many a major presentation--mindset is often the one part a coach like Verstegen does not have to worry about. "When you've got an athlete who's shown longevity and productivity, exceeding the normal career life span, it comes with amazing technical and tactical knowledge," says Verstegen. "That's a massive benefit."
With Klose, he says, he could just see in his eyes a certain calmness and appreciation for the big moment--and how rare and special it is. "It's the knowledge that comes from having been there before," he says. Klose completely grasped the precision he'd need in his preparation rituals and habits. Athletes of Klose's pedigree understand that these rituals and habits helped them achieve great heights in the first place. So they are often eminently coachable, highly communicative, and receptive to all feedback.
What you eat and drink can help you maximize your performance on your big day. For an older athlete or executive, a common issue is minimizing the inflammation that can come from daily training and bodily stress. The right fueling foods and hydration can decrease inflammation and maximize energy levels, to the point where you enter your big event--no matter what time of day it is--peaking with energy and awareness. "This is just one more thing you can control to help ensure the outcome," says Verstegen.
As with mindset, this is an area older star performers already grasp the importance of. If they had poor eating habits, they likely wouldn't be performing at a high level in their mid and late thirties.
Verstegen believes elite athletes exhibit mobility, stability, and power. For an older elite athlete or professional, the training required to exhibit all three traits has to be more concentrated--especially when a big game or presentation is on the horizon.
The older athlete must refine his training rituals so that he enters the big game at peak energy, as opposed to being burned out from the preparation. "The intensity needs to be very high," says Verstegen. "The volume actually needs to be quite low."
In business life, the equivalent of this would be how an experienced executive tends to avoid cramming or pulling all-nighters before a big presentation. She might even take a day off before the big day to stay refreshed and energized, knowing full well that the years of mindful repetitions have prepared her. By contrast, younger leaders might err on the side of pulling the all-nighter. When you're young, you can get away with it.
This is the fine art of allowing your body and mind to rest and recharge. "Recovery is the limiting factor to performance, especially with an aging athlete," says Verstegen. So in the weeks leading up to a big game, Verstegen will schedule a conscientious tapering of training goals, designed both to provide the proper recovery time and to ensure the athlete has plenty of gas in the tank for game day.
Older athletes--and successful, experienced executives--tend to already understand a great deal about recovery. They know, for example, that they perform better when they maintain a consistent bedtime and wakeup time. They also know, in advance of a big presentation, to avoid activities which might be surreptitiously draining or dehydrating. For instance, if you have a party or social event the night before--even if you don't drink--you might still get drained by all the standing you're doing, or even (if you're an introvert) by all the conversations you're having. All that energy, says Verstegen, "comes out of the same budget" you'll need to perform on your big day.
If there's an overarching theme to Verstegen's blueprint, it's this: All you can do is control and win the process. If you prepare properly for whatever can unfold on your big day, you'll face every circumstance with the confidence of someone who has put in her hours, and knows what's what. And in any life circumstance--let alone a football game--that's all you can do.