Athletes are some of the most competitive, driven, and disciplined people that you will ever meet. When they want something, they sacrifice their blood, sweat, and tears to make it happen. . . . literally. These attributes can certainly come in handy whenever it comes time to compete, but that same persistence can also hinder an athlete’s performance if they aren’t being mindful. For this reason, we have listed 10 ways that athletes can take care of themselves while challenging themselves.
Read on to learn how you can push your body, not punish it.
1. Fuel your body before your workout.
Whether you are training for that goal physique or training for a competition, there is one truth that never changes. Your body is a machine that needs fuel, and that fuel is food. Don’t neglect giving your body enough food throughout the day, regardless of what your fitness goals are. You might be able to make it through a workout while running on E, but you won’t be able to perform to your highest ability. Therefore, you won’t actually be getting the full benefit of that workout anyways.
Alternatively, you shouldn’t over eat either. The food you eat prior to a workout should help give your body the energy it needs to power through, not weigh it down. There are certain foods that can benefit you specifically when they are consumed prior to your workout (carbohydrates, potassium, and protein).
2. Fuel your body after.
It is imperative that you fuel your body before your workout, but it is equally as imperative to make sure that you are fueling your body after your workout as well. Eating the right foods after a workout can help the body replenish the energy that it exerted, build and repair your muscles, and recover so that you’re ready to do it all again tomorrow.
In the same way that specific foods can benefit you most when eaten prior to exercise, there are certain foods that should be eaten post-workout to provide your body with maximum benefits.
We’ve mentioned that athletes sacrifice their blood, sweat and tears in training and in competition. Let’s point out the fact that all three of those things contain water.
Athletes lose a heavy amount of water during their workouts. It is essential that they drink enough water to be able to lose and also that they drink enough water to replenish that lost supply once their workout is over.
If an athlete is dehydrated, they simply are not going to be able to offer peak performance. This applies every day, not just game day. Athletes who become dehydrated during a workout are shown to experience more pain post-workout than athletes who were hydrated.
4. Don’t skip your warmup.
Any athlete that thinks jumping straight into a workout routine without warming up, is a good idea, is wrong. Just imagine for a second that your muscles are rubber bands. Have you ever tugged on a cold rubber band? When your muscles are warmed up, they are able to move, stretch, and put in work. When their not, they are more prone to injury. If imagining a cold rubber band snapping doesn’t convince you to take the time to warm up properly, I’m not sure what else will. It might seem tedious, but taking the time to really warm up your muscles will make the biggest difference in how you perform and in how you recover.
5. Don’t flake on your cool down.
Not only should you warm up your muscles before you work out, but you should also take about 15-20 minutes to cool your body down and stretch after.
You might not feel that cooling down is necessary, but when the adrenaline goes away, you’ll wish you had. Failing to cool down after a workout can result in prolonged recovery, muscle cramps, and toxic buildup in muscles.
Cooling down your body can include static stretches, dynamic stretches, or a light jog.
6. Don’t over-train.
This is a prime example of how an athlete’s persistent nature could actually do more harm for their performance than good. It’s great to work hard and to want to see the results of your effort. Every athlete wants to feel that they are improving, but at what price? There is a way to obtain the results that you want without sacrificing your health to do so. Studies have proving that overtraining can actually be counteractive to your fitness goals.
7. Spend a day in the pool.
It’s hard to keep a true athlete out of the game. That’s because competitors compete. A true athlete is constantly striving to be better, as they should. However, it can be more difficult at times for an athlete to distinguish the one thing that might actually help them be better, especially when that one thing is just taking a break.
Athletes should take at least one day to out of the week to allow their joints and their muscles to recover. For the athletes out there that cannot handle the idea of being inactive for an entire day, a day at the pool may be the perfect solution. By spending substituting one day’s routine workout with a pool workout, athlete’s can aid their muscle recovery, give their joints a break, and increase their flexibility, all while also getting a complete full body workout.
8. Know what your goals are.
Why are you training? What is your mark? Some train for fun or in attempt to stay in shape. Others train to compete at a level that is higher than it was the day before. To some, the mark looks like an ideal time or body weight. To others, the mark looks like a set of statistics. If you identify what your goals actually are, you can train with intention. Your meals, your workouts, and other little details like your stretches and your routine all change to help you reach your goals more quickly without exhausting your body doing things that don’t fall in line with your goals.
9. Listen to your body.
There is a sense of pride that can be derived from pushing yourself further than you thought that you could, in fighting through the pain, and in giving your all until the final whistle blows. However, there is a big difference between being hurt and being injured.
As much as competitions are physical, they are mental as well. It true that athletes need to be hardworking, strong, fast, and agile. . . . They need to be strategic as well. Athletes should always listen to their bodies. Simply being cognizant of the way your body is feeling can help prevent injuries. It can also key you in on what it is you need to do in order to succeed.
Any athlete knows that the title comes with sacrifice. It is not always an easy job, and to be honest, they do not always want to do it. Yet, they continue to show up and give it their all only to show up and give it their all once again the very next day. It is who they are. Just remember, that as an athlete, you can still be all of these things (hardworking, dedicated, disciplines, and driven) and also take your body into consideration. At the end of the day, you should reward your body for all that they go through to get the job done, not reprimand it. Push your body, but don’t punish it.