Getting his kicks
“At training there’s always fun or jokes’
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.