Get­ting his kicks

“At train­ing there’s al­ways fun or jokes’

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Johnny Sexton | The Shape I’m In - Irene Feighan

THOUGH Ire­land’s Johnny Sex­ton has had more than his fair share of in­juries, he’s not about to com­plain. In fact, he’s re­mark­ably zen about it. “You’re go­ing to get in­jured as a pro­fes­sional ath­lete at some stage in your ca­reer, no mat­ter what sport you do,” he says with­out as much as a hint of frus­tra­tion.

If there’s any ag­gra­va­tion it’s be­ing un­able to play matches. “It’s def­i­nitely one of the worst parts of be­ing a pro­fes­sional. It can be tough men­tally.”

It must help that he has had years of train­ing in how to deal with the men­tal chal­lenges that come with play­ing sport on a full-time ba­sis.

“That’s one of the most im­por­tant as­pects of the game now. When you think about how much time you need to spend in the gym to get a lit­tle bit stronger, you can be so much bet­ter men­tally by just do­ing lit­tle things off the pitch that don’t take very long.”

He’s in­jury-free these days and is head­ing into the busy in­ter­na­tional pro­gramme this month.

It’s also hec­tic on the home front. He and his wife Laura Pri­est­ley re­cently be­came par­ents for the third time when So­phie ar­rived in Au­gust.

How has he been man­ag­ing the ad­di­tional work­load at home? “I’m very lucky with Laura. She does the ma­jor­ity of the work. She’s bril­liant and makes sure I can still be a good pro­fes­sional while try­ing to be a dad.”

Their two older chil­dren — Luca, four, and Amy, two — are ad­just­ing to the new ad­di­tion to the fam­ily. “Luca un­der­stands a bit more, he kind of gets it. But Amy is a lit­tle bit put out. There’s a new baby in the house and she’s not the young one any more. She’s adapt­ing.”

What shape are you in?

I’m 33 now and prob­a­bly in as good shape as I’ve ever been in. I’d a time when I had a lot of in­juries one af­ter the other. It was re­ally frus­trat­ing. I spent time at the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry where phys­io­ther­a­pist Enda King gave me a pro­gramme that I’ve de­vel­oped over the past two years.

If you have an in­jury most of the time you heal that par­tic­u­lar in­jury and you won’t try to fig­ure out what’s caus­ing it to hurt other parts of your body. That was a big change for me, try­ing to fix other lit­tle nig­gles in my body — my neck, my shoul­ders — would help my back and my ham­strings.

It was a full-bod­ied ap­proach to get­ting there.

What are your health­i­est eat­ing habits?

We’ve a very good Le­in­ster nu­tri­tion­ist, Daniel Davy. The days we’re train­ing we are eat­ing a lot of car­bo­hy­drates and the days we are not train­ing we are try­ing not to eat many. Also, we try to get a lot of pro­tein in for re­cov­ery. It varies from day to day.

What are your guilti­est plea­sures?

A take­away pizza af­ter a game.

What would keep you awake at night?

Lots of things. Sleep is an is­sue I’ve strug­gled with over years. I need to be good with my habits and make sure that I get a good night’s sleep. I’m quite a big wor­rier. There would be a lot of things on my mind.

How do you re­lax?

I’m pretty nor­mal. I spend time with my kids and when I’m not spend­ing time with them I’m try­ing to spend time with Laura who I don’t re­ally see [out­side of home] that much any­more be­cause she’s look­ing af­ter kids all the time. If we can we’d go to the cin­ema or go out for din­ner.

What’s your favourite smell?

I al­ways find home smells a cer­tain way. When you are away a lot and you come home there’s some­thing nice about that.

What would you like to change about your ap­pear­ance?

I’ve real slopy shoul­ders. I’ve got slagged about them over the years. Paul O’Con­nell is the big cul­prit there. A new pair of shoul­ders would be nice. Also, I don’t have the best skin. I still get a lot of spots, un­for­tu­nately.

When is the last time you cried?

At the fu­neral of one of my dad’s friends dur­ing the sum­mer. I would have known him grow­ing up.

What traits do you least like in oth­ers?

Bad man­ners, ar­ro­gance.

What traits do you least like about your­self?

Lack of pa­tience.

Do you pray?

Yes. My kids go to mass with their granny and grand­dad on a Sun­day morn­ing. And my wife and I would go oc­ca­sion­ally.

What cheers up your day?

At train­ing there’s al­ways some type of fun or jokes go­ing on. And the kids are at a good age now when they are com­ing up with dif­fer­ent things. They would al­ways make you laugh.

HIGH FLIER: Johnny Sex­ton is a new brand am­bas­sador for Mace stores, which is launch­ing a series of com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives.

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