“Secrets of Elite Athletes” written by Kusal Goonewardena published in Great Health Guide (March 2017). If you are trying to improve your healthy lifestyle by working out…. great news, you have two main things in common with elite athletes. Firstly, we are all seeking results from working out. Secondly, exercise related injuries set us all back. Read more on what we can learn from athlete’s fitness journey.
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Fitness: Secrets of Elite Athletes
written by Kusal Goonewardena
WHAT SECRETS CAN ELITE ATHLETES TEACH US ABOUT WORKOUTS & FITNESS?
Whether you are trying to improve your workout at the gym or training for a half marathon or triathlon, then you have a surprising amount in common with an elite athlete. Firstly, we all want to see improvement. Secondly, we all face injury set-backs occasionally.
1. Welcome obstacles & challenges: All health and fitness regimes will encounter roadblocks. An injury or an illness may stop you for a time. The test is having the fortitude to ease back into your regime when you start feeling better. Elite athletes know that every time they successfully overcome an obstacle, their mindset improves.
2. Embrace effort: Even elite athletes can succumb to thinking ‘there is no point to all this’ or ‘it won’t make a difference’ or ‘this is too hard’. They overcome these thoughts in several ways, but a key is to maintain effort by chipping away. If your task seems overwhelming, break it down into smaller, more achievable lots. Remind yourself of how good you will feel later, if you make an effort now.
3. Not trying to ‘ride out’ injuries: I have seen many cases where people succumb to injury from trying to push through pain – yet elite athletes know that pain is their signal to stop. Sure, we all know heroic stories from professional sportspeople who persevere with injury, but remember that their livelihood and reputation is at stake and these heroic acts often come at great cost. For the rest of us, pushing through pain, risks time off work and time away from the sport or exercise that you enjoy.
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4. Rehab exercises are also preventative: Athletes take rehab very seriously, but the rest of us tend to skimp on rehab exercises once the pain goes away. The secret that athletes know is that rehab exercises are also preventative exercises. Even if your body is feeling better you may continue to enjoy significant benefit from those rehab exercises.
5. Recovery is essential: It’s common to over- do it when you love a new exercise routine or sport. Elite athletes place a high priority on recovery. Anyone can benefit from adopting a short recovery routine – preferably one which doesn’t involve alcoholic drinks after each exercise session! You may be surprised by how much elite athletes put into recovery, from warm-down exercises and stretches, to ice baths, compression garments and finely honed activity timetables. You may not need the ice baths favoured by elite athletes, but anyone can benefit from using the correct warm-down recovery routine after training and playing.
6. Change a treatment if it’s not working: Elite athletes expect results quickly and so should we, yet too many people continue getting the same physio treatment even when there is no change. You should see a change in three sessions or less. That’s how quickly athletes expect a response and it is a good rule of thumb for anyone. Seek a second opinion if there is no positive change after three sessions. If you have a chronic condition which may take longer, you should at least expect to see a detailed plan, along with incremental improvements in this time.
7. Sleep: Elite athletes are serious about sleep because it’s so important both for mental and physical recovery. Prioritising sleep may require cutting down on alcohol, or putting down the electronic devices an hour before bed. But have no doubt, that just ensuring regular sleep, may be enough to give your performance a lift.
8. Using positive affirmations: Many elite athletes have had great success using positive affirmations – these are sayings that prop you up and pep you up. For example, an athlete may say: ‘Each and every day I am a better athlete’. Telling yourself a positive affirmation in the early morning and again late in the evening, can be remarkably effective. It could be something as simple as ‘I am better today than I was yesterday’.
9. Welcoming criticism: In your journey toward a healthier and fitter lifestyle, you may come in for criticism – hopefully this is constructive and from someone you respect, such as a physio, personal trainer or exercise partner. A healthy ‘elite athlete’ mindset enables you to learn from it, take it on board and improve – you won’t see it as a personal attack and your ego won’t be bruised.
10. Consider meditation: People may be surprised how many elite athletes use meditation to achieve bigger and better things. The only requirement is an open mind. But as everybody is different, some meditations will be more effective than others.
Anyone, at any level can emulate elite athletes’ approach to fitness.
Managing injuries and sleeping well is critical.
Mindset is at least as important as your physical abilities.