Proper nutrition and good quality sleep can go a long way
By Migie Felizardo, CSCS,CPT, Pn1 | Photo by John Arano /Unsplash | Additional photos by rawpixel and Gor Davtyan
The start of the year marks a time to set new athletic goals. And it doesn’t matter what kind of athlete you are—whether you’re a professional, an amateur, or even just a weekend warrior, there’s always the desire to perform better compared to previous years. Skill refinement through practice is one good way to achieve this, but there are other aspects of performance you can work on that could yield even better results. Efficiency (that is, focusing and working on the right things) is the key here, especially given that our bodies age every year.
With that, here are some resolutions that can make you a stronger athlete, both physically and mentally:
1. Follow a strength and conditioning program
Because of an increasing awareness about sports science, coaches and athletes are now emphasizing the importance of strength and conditioning. Which is good news, since it’s something that can significantly boost performance.
Following a proper strength and conditioning program—one that focuses on the athlete’s strength, speed, movement efficiency, and biomechanics, as opposed to just making better weightlifters out of them—is a great way to enhance physical capacities. These programs are comprised of compound movements like squats, deadlifts, single-leg exercises, pressing, pulling, core stability exercises, and weighted carries. There are a lot of variations to choose from, but just try to keep in mind that a basic program with good coaching will always be better than a seemingly advanced and complex one that is almost impossible to execute. So if you haven’t already, invest in a strength and conditioning program with excellent coaching.
The saying ‘no pain, no gain’ shouldn’t be taken too seriously anymore. Muscle discomfort during training is alright, but not when there’s an obvious risk of incurring joint injuries and muscle strains
2. Beat those aches and pains
The saying ‘no pain, no gain’ shouldn’t be taken too seriously anymore. Muscle discomfort during training is alright, but not when there’s an obvious risk of incurring joint injuries and muscle strains. The point of training is to elicit muscle growth, not annihilation. But sometimes athletes tend to romanticize having a lot of recurring injuries, even treating them like trophies—when the reality is that not immediately treating the root cause of injuries is something can easily end a potentially great athletic career.
And so if you have existing aches and pains, it’s crucial to have them checked by a physical therapist or a doctor. Also, learn proper recovery methods; do regular foam rolling and mobility exercises to establish and maintain good posture. You can also try other simple recovery methods like contrast baths, massage, TriggerPoint performance therapy, yoga, and pilates.
3. Pay more attention to nutrition
The nutritionist Alan Aragon once said that “every meal is a short-term investment in how you feel and perform, a mid-term investment in how you look, and a long-term investment in your freedom from disease.”
If you haven’t done enough to improve your nutrition, then now is the best time to start. Take a look at aspects of your diet and eating habits such as food quality, portion control, supplementation, and meal frequency; track calories and macronutrients; always stay hydrated. Lastly, educate yourself about nutrition. Precision Nutrition is a good place to start in learning about sports and exercise nutrition.
4. Sleep better
Never overlook healthy sleeping habits. Clear thinking, quality performance, and good digestion, among many others, are dependent on good quality sleep. For this resolution, it’s not enough to just try to sleep earlier. You can do so much more for your body by trying these habits: de-stressing before going to bed, turning off electronic devices, taking a bath for relaxation, avoiding alcohol and caffeine (ideally, six hours before bedtime), clearing your mind, and making your room as dark as possible.
Never overlook healthy sleeping habits. Clear thinking, quality performance, and good digestion, among many others, are dependent on good quality sleep
5. Boost mental toughness
It’s one thing to train to become physically stronger, it’s another to make a conscious effort to develop mental toughness. Enhancing your physical capacities doesn’t necessarily make you more confident and focused—what could help with those aspects of performance is tapping into sports psychology. It’s best to try to consult with a sports psychologist, but you can actually try simple methods like giving yourself positive pre-game self-talks, setting specific goals, watching films of your previous performances, engaging in post-practice and post-game reflections, breathing while listening to music, and reading about how top athletes prepare themselves mentally.
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