Stuart Hogg has ordered his work-life balance after the disappointments of the “season and a half put in to a year” and is “re-energised” for the new international season.
The Scotland captain visibly wilted under the mental and physical strains of a gruelling lockdown season. He balanced the responsibility of leading his country while also playing almost every week for Exeter.
After a fine Six Nations, the full-back shaded in form and lost his place in both the Exeter and Lions test sides.
‘Physically, mentally drained’
“I just felt I was physically drained, mentally drained, after we had a season and a half put in to a year,” he said.
“I was struggling with how the back end of last season finished – dropped for the (Gallagher Premiership) semi-final and the final for the Chiefs and then I wasn’t selected for the third Lions Test match.
“That’s something that really hurt me personally. I wanted to make the difference and not go back to those mindsets that I was in back then.”
Hogg asked for and was given two extra weeks with his wife and family and trained on his own, “trying something a little different”.
‘I have looked after my body a lot better’
“I managed to drop roughly five kilos in weight, and have looked after my body a lot better over these past couple of months,” he added.
“It’s just trying to get myself in the best possible place physically and mentally to go out there and perform. I have loved being back in with the Chiefs. I look forward to being part of the Scotland team as of next week officially.”
The inspiration for the change came from England prop Joe Marler’s film on his struggles with depression. The practical element came from the Scotland national team’s wellbeing coach, Ben Scott.
“I watched Joe’s documentary towards the back end of last season,” he continued. “We spoke and said I could relate to 90 per cent of what he went through.
“I found it really quite refreshing that somebody else was going through very, very similar things. It was a good conversation with Joe which made the world of difference.”
‘He’s worked wonders with us’
— Autumn Nations Series (@autumnnations) October 26, 2021
Scott was who Hogg sought out when he realised he needed to re-order his priorities.
“I’ve spoken to Ben since the Lions tour,” continued Hogg, who has been in Oriam with the Scotland squad even though he’s not eligible for Saturday’s test against Tonga.
“We’re fortunate to have him in camp and he’s worked wonders with us as individuals and as a team.
“We’ve seen examples in the last year or so at the Olympics and other sporting occasions. People haven’t been able to be themselves or perform to their full ability because the mental side wasn’t where it needs to be.
“With Ben, we’re learning all the time about different things to help us with our mindset and mental health. For me it’s been a massive difference since the Lions tour.
‘I want to be in a position to look after myself’
“I wanted to be in a position to look after myself, to plan my weekly schedules every single week. To allow time for family, a bit of me time, and ultimately to perform at the weekend. That’s what I’m judged on.
“It’s all about getting your purpose in life and your purpose in rugby. As soon as you get that everything starts to become a lot easier.”
That means prioritising time with wife Gill and their three children, and focusing on mind as well as the body.
“The brain’s a weird and wonderful thing,” he added. “There’s all the ways that you have to be the best you can possibly be. It’s been hugely exciting to learn and I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I can do.
“I feel refreshed and re-energised.”