Manchester City and England star Raheem Sterling has credited meditation with improving his performance and recovery.
The footballer said the practice had bolstered his mental resilience, adding that he meditated in the summer during England’s run to the final of Euro 2020.
“Meditation has improved my thinking but also my body conditioning,” he told The Times.
“The more I do it, the better I feel. At the end of last season my legs could sometimes feel a bit ‘aggy’ [aggravating], but meditation helped my recovery a lot.”
His comments came as the 26-year-old was announced as the new global ambassador for the meditation app Headspace.
“I have a platform as a football player and I don’t just want to put my name on things. This is something I use and it works,” Sterling said.
He said that meditation – the “breathing, focus, relaxation of the body” – could “create a space from those mental battles” that professional sportspeople can face.
“I really want this for young people. For a long time I was probably the type of person to say, ‘Meditation? Nah, not for me.’ I knew about it but I didn’t go there.
“But then I went through a difficult period where I couldn’t stop the thoughts in my head. I couldn’t stop a certain negative feeling taking over. Everything I would normally do wasn’t working and I had to overcome it.”
Despite being one of Manchester City's most prominent stars, towards the end of the 2020/2021 domestic season he was not always in the starting line-up for his club. But that was only months before the start of the delayed Euro 2020, leading to speculation over his normally assured place in the England team.
“For the first time in my career I wasn’t playing as much as I would have liked. I was feeling a lot of frustration and we had this massive tournament on the horizon. I had to do something to get into the zone for the national team.
“And so I made a decision: when I get to the England camp, I’m going to take time for myself and try something new.”
While England would ultimately fall at the last hurdle, losing on penalties to Italy, Sterling’s goals against Germany, Croatia and the Czech Republic were integral in getting the team that far.