Blistering heat, dripping sweat, aching for a refreshing cool breeze; hot summer days are well and truly upon us. And while these harsh conditions are a nightmare for some, for many Australians it emits feelings of excitement and anticipation – summer is cricket season!
While we catch the match, relaxed on the couch in our air-conditioned abodes, spare a thought for the cricketers, whose baggy greens and all-whites are their only defense against the sun’s harsh rays.
Mitchell Johnson, one of Australia’s most feared fast bowlers, shares how he fought fatigue, combatted dehydration and maintained composure, while frequently facing temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius.
Debuting for Australia at an ODI in 2007, Mitchell has learnt the importance of preparation and recovery to ensure he’s always playing at his best, in his time wearing the baggy green.
Mitchell learned early on in his tenure on the team that preparation time is serious business.
“Three days out was really the marker for me – the moment when I knew I had to start getting prepared, to mentally focus and really start thinking about what I was putting into my body,” Mitchell says.
“I have always been pretty good with what I eat, so for me it was more about making sure that I didn’t miss any meals, and was regularly snacking – particularly between training sessions.”
Diet is a crucial component of any athlete’s preparation, but hydration is absolutely essential. “If I wasn’t hydrated I knew I was running the risk of cramping, or not being able to concentrate on what my job was when I was out there on the field,” Mitchell says.
Measures of Success
With experience, Mitchell became more familiar with gauging his fluid levels, and came to appreciate the importance monitoring hydration could have on athletic performance. “We’d always weigh ourselves to measure our fluid intake both before and during matches,” Mitchell says.
Awarded the Allan Border Medal in 2014, Mitchell has been a greatly feared fast bowler both domestically and internationally.
“We also would do urine tests, where
the staff would take a sample the day before a match. That was a really great
indicator of knowing if you needed to up your fluids or not.”
And if he did need to lift his hydration game? Much like his bowling, it all lies in the technique. “It’s really about just sipping and taking the fluid in slowly,” Mitchell says. “You don’t want to be guzzling massive volumes of liquid.”
Mastering the mind
Playing international sport comes with a certain degree of stress and pressure, but Mitchell found ways to balance this intensity with some fun.
“If I’m up to bowl and the ball is in my hand that’s the time to be serious,’ Mitchell says. “But as I’m walking back to the mark I switch off, have a bit of fun with mid and mid off, or look around at the crowd and just soak it all in – really enjoy the moment.”
“Sometimes I listen to music and sometimes I don’t. When we were travelling I found that I actually really wanted to soak in the atmosphere on the bus too. It would really get me going and hype me up for the matches ahead.”
As Australia’s fourth highest test wicket taker, Mitchell Johnson made sure that he balanced focus and fun to help maintain a level head during matches.
During a test series particularly, cricketers face the challenge of having to back up their performance day after day. This is where recovery plays a pivotal role in the life of a professional athlete like Mitchell Johnson.
‘Once you walk off the field, you need to start rehydrating quickly – sipping on a Powerade or some water as you go about doing all the things you need to do,” Mitchell says.“You also really want to get some food in – I try to eat and have a massage within 20 minutes of coming off the field. Ice baths also really help with muscle soreness and getting your core temperature down, which is really good for those hot summer days.”