PiG's take on the Healthy Mindset

23 Jan 2014 - Potter

Team Exile 5's Potter interviews PiG for the upcoming Season 2 Qualifiers and check in with how he prepares.

Hi PiG, thanks for taking some time out to do an interview with me.

A lot of your blogs recently have talked about being healthy and focusing on maintaining a good mentality while playing the game. What brought about the decision to make these changes?

Growing up I was into a lot of sports, especially field-hockey, long-distance running and kickboxing so I've always been aware of how much better you feel as a person when you're fit and healthy. However, I didn't keep up with these after finishing school, and due to lack of discipline and motivation I would only do intermittent gym sessions¬¬¬ and running. I guess this all kind of compounded when I decided to make Starcraft my profession. It's not an easy field to make it in and I was 100% focused on my goals as a coach/caster/streamer as well as a player. For probably my first year of full-time Starcraft I almost never saw my friends, had little time for my girlfriend and almost never saw my family. I was working non-stop cementing myself in the community by posting across forums with strategy advice, guides and coaching events as well as hosting stream-shows. Every second that wasn't doing that I was playing the game or watching streams/tournaments involving players I looked up to. In hindsight I wasn't very time-efficient, but being so set on achieving my goals did help me move forward. The downside was sitting at a computer all-day I became very unfit and with my focus spread across multiple areas and no organised approach to my endeavours I was inefficient, and my mental health suffered from isolating myself and not living a balanced lifestyle.

I think I hit a point where I'd achieved more with the game then I'd ever really thought I could, but I still had much further I wanted to go. I hit a plateau with my play around the same time as I began getting a lot more support from my team Exile 5. Dot also became heavily involved as a manager for myself and my team and took a lot of responsibility for the admin/media off my shoulders. So it was at this point I was given the opportunity to fully focus on the game, purely as a player. I no longer was trying to create a job for myself, now I just needed to perform as a player and achieve results. This didn't happen as planned last year and I underperformed at a lot of events. I suppose that finally being given a great opportunity and letting myself down was what really motivated me to change and develop how I applied myself. I only had one focus now, if I failed at a tournament I couldn't say "Oh well I spent all week coaching and my streaming has gone really well so it's ok" - Now it was the only thing I had to improve at. I guess I hit the point where blind passion couldn't solve the problem anymore. I actually had to be professional to push further.

It naturally followed that I needed a healthy, positive mindset WHILST practicing consistently and for long hours so I could improve. I needed to see my friends and go out partying or to let off steam once in a while to keep my sanity. I needed to make regular time for Dot so our relationship was happy. Most importantly I needed to exercise regularly so help mitigate mood-swings and rage, to keep good vibes running through me. I needed to learn to organise my days meticulously to do this, to set realistic goals that I could consistently reach, and to be overall consistent in my efforts.

TLO is also doing this sort of thing, do you take inspiration from his blogs and regime, or have you got a personal one drawn up?

I was starting to do some of these changes before I saw TLO's blogs, but I definitely felt I could relate to his situation. I learnt a lot from how he schedules his days and his focus on sport/exercise really reinforced my own understanding that exercise is absolutely vital for me to perform well in-game. I also started looking at other small things like how to avoid getting sick during events, more of a focus on ergonomics and so forth. I have my own personal adjustable timetable I use every day unless it's a day-off from practice. I'm not someone who likes doing the same things in the same order every day so it changes day-to-day, but there is a certain formula.

A "standard" day would be waking up at 9am and immediately going jogging + stretching.

10am-11am is for cooking and eating breakfast whilst catching up on current events via SCreddit/TL and social media as well as replying to emails, booking in events/coaching and adjusting my calendar. 11am-3pm SESSION 1 (Usually just practice, whether ladder, custom-games, watching replays - but coaching also fits into these sessions) 3pm-5pm Lunch + TV, relax. 6pm-7pm shop for any groceries needed + cook dinner (I often don't eat till later as I have a late lunch) 7pm-11pm SESSION 2 11pm-1am - Free time before sleep. Often skimming vods for Korean zerg play.

I often adjust this to only have just one SESSION if I have to deal with admin work, setting up streaming/social media/hardware or some other commitment. I’m also happy to only play 4 hours in a day if I'm effective in spending my time watching replays and taking notes

I try to schedule one day with completely zero practice per week. I found this allows me to follow my schedule much tighter as if I try to push to 7 days a week, 8+ hours playing a day then I get rapidly diminishing returns and the stress and pressure interrupts my ability to play my best and think dispassionately about the game.

Obviously keeping calm has helped you improve by leaps and bounds, what are some strategies you can suggest to a notoriously angry gamer when things don’t go his way?

Making sure you're healthy outside the game, physically and mentally, is the number one step for most players. Other than that, I think letting go of your ego and focusing on improvement is vital.

Playing on Korea, you would generally suffer the effects of lag more than your opponent, as a Zerg player this seems especially problematic, how do you manage to not blame every loss on lag?

Well having a healthy mindset helps you realise that some delay, especially if it is stable, is only minimal. At good times I can get as low as 155ms to Korea, though it's normally closer to 180ms. This is completely playable and I feel like top 50 GM on Korea is completely attainable. When I'm laddering lots I often hover as high as 80th so I know with more practice and focus I could do better. That being said when I was in Korea playing with 2ms from the PRIME house it was incredible. When you play with that every day you're capable of doing so many cool moves and using more aggressive, momentum-based styles.

Touching again on the change in diet, are you maintaining the Paleo diet you were previously on, or have you switched to something else?

Nope, I've put some weight back on since I've been off it for a long time now, but because I'm exercising regularly I don't really mind. The main thing I value is feeling good physically and the mental positivity that comes with it. As nice as it would be to be ripped/skinny or whatever I just love food more then I like the benefits of any of that :P. I do actually really enjoy the Paleo diet though, I especially love not having to deal with post-carb lethargy, which most people are so used to they don't even realise it's avoidable. But it's a big pain when travelling or eating out, and there are very few "instant" Paleo options, so I'm not sure if I'll go back on it for a while.

You’ve been talking a lot about raising your fitness levels, how has this affected your Starcraft, if at all?

Having more physical endurance definitely helps at LANs. When you spend all your time indoors, 3-days of 14-hours a day at an event can really drain you. Besides learning to avoid too much talking to people and conserving energy, actually being physically fit just makes me able to handle this without getting as sleepy. So especially under poor conditions, fitness helps a lot. I guess it's also had a big impact on my mindset, as I get very negative when I don't exercise, and my improvement slows down.

Ok let’s start to come down from the serious stuff, last one. Put yourself back in Challenger league, if you get into a 2-0 lead again, what will you do different this time around to boost yourself into Premier league?

Haha, just win it :P. I'm pretty confident in my ZvP since that match was the first time I properly did lots of hard training in the matchup. I think one key mistake that led to 2 of the losses with Crank was lazy pylon-hunting. I don't make that mistake anymore

Now to round out with a fun question, there have been reports of a scary Terran player from x5 making a return to Starcraft, what can you tell us of his apparent “magical” abilities? (cos my name is Potter huehue)

Apparently he's going to be playing on his Xbox controller which is clearly superior to mouse and keyboard, so bronze-league better watch out!