WITH a glittering playing and coaching career that stretched over three decades, there was nothing AFL great Paul Roos hadn’t learned about conditioning the body.
But it was only late in his career, and with the help of his wife Tami, he discovered the importance of conditioning the mind.
When Paul introduced meditation sessions at the Sydney Swans in 2005, he admits he got some mixed reactions. But when the players went on to win the club’s first premiership in 72 years that same season, all those doubts suddenly vanished.
“When I started playing in the early 1980s, people would say ‘meditation’ and you’d look at them funny,” Paul said.
“There was a lot of time spent on the body, of course, but the mind was relatively untapped in a sporting sense.
“We introduced (meditation) training at the Swans prior to the grand final win in 2005, and then again when I went to Melbourne. The players love it, and the ones that practice it regularly get enormous benefits.”
As the first weekend of the 2018 AFL season draws to a close, Paul and Tami told me they still used the lessons they’d learned in the game — Paul as head coach of the Sydney Swans and Melbourne Demons, Tami as the team’s “mind coach” — at home with their family.
They have two young boys, Dylan and Tyler, and while they’re a very active family, mental health plays just as big a role as physical fitness in the Roos’ household.
“Practising quieting the mind, and mindfulness, is so important to us,” Tami said.
“You only need to look around now with the internet and social media, we’re on 24/7. To give our mind a rest — I call it hitting the pause button — for 20 minutes gives you amazing results.
“The boys have both learned to mediate, and so if they’ve had a tough day they might ask to mediate with me. It helps you to become more resilient, and that’s so important in every walk of life. If you know you have a tool that will help you de-stress, feel less anxiety and have more presence and awareness, then it’s a powerful tool to have.”
HEALTHY BODY, HEALTHY MIND
PAUL has been involved in the AFL, either playing or coaching, since 1982, and so fitness is something that comes easily to him and the family.
So much so that the entire family recently tackled a long hike to the Machu Picchu ruins in Peru — a gruelling, multi-day trek to the top of the Andes Mountains — where their fitness levels were a huge help.
“It was a pretty hard trek, and if you’re fit and health you can enjoy it,” he said.
“But we passed some people who were really struggling with it.
“But I’ve been involved in sport for such a long time, and I was able to develop good habits that extend after your footy career. I enjoy going for a run, playing basketball or tennis and just keeping fit — it’s just a part of what we do.
“We’re lucky — well, most of the time it’s lucky — we have two boys, and they love going out and playing golf or tennis, too.”
WHILE the thought of meditation usually conjures mental images of pretzel-twisted yogis with years (or several lifetimes) of experience, Tami is quick to point out that the key to obtaining mindfulness is simply starting.
“It’s quite simple, and any man woman or child can learn how to meditate,” she said.
“You just need to decide that it’s something you want to make into a daily practice, just like exercise or eating healthy. With as little as five-minutes a day you can make a real difference to how you feel.
“One of the biggest myths is that people think they’re only successful if they have no thoughts, and that’s not the case. The average person has 70,000 thoughts per day, and you’re just learning how to control them, rather than stop them all together.
“The biggest benefit is a reduction in stress and anxiety. You have more focus, your sleeping habits improve, you stop procrastinating.”
PAUL believes people don’t fully appreciate how big an impact what we eat plays in not just our physical health but our mental health.
“To be at your best you should try and give you body foods that help boost your mood, lower inflammation and support your gut health,” he said.
“These foods include things like salmon, tuna, nuts, eggs and olive oil.
“Also look to eat plenty of vegetables as they are high in fibre which is important for your gut health as well as yoghurt.
“I like to spice things up with hot chilli sauce and it’s great as it’s low in sugar unlike most sauces like tomatoes and BBQ sauce.”
Favourite healthy food: Salmon
Favourite treat meal: Pizza
Favourite drink: Good old H2O. It is so important for your health yet so simple.
Workout song: We are the champions. Queen
Motivational tip: Just get started. It’s worth it and trust me you will feel better and