Today, we are sharing with you Part 2 of this series on being a dedicated athlete. You can check out Part 1 right here….
4. Taking your food quality seriously:
Not all sources of calories and macronutrients are created equal. As an athlete you should be aiming for the maximum micronutrient density for your macronutrient and calorie intake. For example, you could theoretically meet your calorie and macronutrient intake needs with rich tea biscuits as your carbs, cheap industrially processed meat as your protein and peanut butter for your fats. On the flip side you could meet your needs with local potatoes for carbs, meat and organs from locally raised and butchered animals as your protein, and high quality dairy and coconut oil as your fats. The difference between these food choices may not vary with regards to total calories or macronutrients but could not differ more with regards to vitamin and mineral density as well as the potential inflammatory nature of the poor quality foods (the gluten and other wheat proteins in the biscuits and the likely oxidised and rancid omega 6 fatty acids in the peanut butter).
5. Taking your flexibility seriously:
If we did not have cars or chairs and if we did not spend hours every day hunched over looking down at phones/computers/desks then we would most likely not need to do flexibility work. However we have and we do. Pretty much every client we have has had issues with short hip flexors and pecs, rounded upper backs and forward head poking chin posture. These tightnesses result in weak cores, glutes and upper back muscles aswell as back/neck pain. If you are not identifying and addressing your flexibility issues and limitations caused by 21st century life on a daily basis you are not maximising your athletic potential and you are not taking the necessary steps in minimising the likelihood of injury.
6. Taking your technique work seriously:
As a GAA player are you practicing your skills in a ball alley on a regular basis and watching footage of how top GAA players position themselves and make runs both on and off the ball? As a runner are you keeping an eye on your mechanics and staying on top of bad habits such as poking out your chin and letting your chest collapse and your shoulders round when tired or heel striking thereby slapping on the brakes and causing dodgy foot mechanics. Movement in every sport is massively technical and needs to be focussed on to be optimised.
7. Taking your mental preparation seriously:
Everyone is different with regards to what makes them confident and what makes them insecure as well as what mindset suits them best for competition. Some people perform better when hyped up or while some perform best while completely relaxed. There is no 1 size fits all strategy but 2 books I can highly recommend are “The Art of Learning” by Joshua Waitzkin who was a chess master then later martial arts champion and “The Book of 5 Rings” by Miyamoto Musashi who was a man that travelled around 17th century Japan essentially fighting people to the death eventually murdering more than 60 other trained killers in duels. You could put in great training, recovery and nutrition practices but if your mindset is off when it comes to the competition it could all go to waste. Do not leave anything to chance.
You may very well have achieved some success in your sport over the years including very little if any of the above habits. You should however ask yourself a very simple question; could I have accomplished even more or at the very least accomplished what I did with more ease and less injuries?
Could that 30second second PB have been a 1minutePB had you properly experimented with various macronutrient breakdowns and dialled in the best nutritional strategy for fuelling your race day?
Could that last second attempt at goal off your bad side have gone in and won your club the game if you had been that little bit less fatigued because you took your recovery from previous sessions more seriously and had spent more time in the ball alley refining your skills off that side?
After a while the training becomes a habit and a part of your life. It becomes easy. The rest of the habits are hard and require more work simple because you are not used to doing them. If you consider yourself a serious athlete however these are basic necessities to include in your lifestyle to aid in the quest for performance optimisation on competition day. Just as training sessions became routine after a while so will the aforementioned habits.
The difference between success and failure in sport can often come down to centimetres and split seconds. Treat it as such and take the necessary steps to optimise your potential.
“Today is victory over yourself of yesterday, tomorrow is victory over lesser men” – Miyamoto Musashi 1645
This Article is By Ciarán O Regan, BSc | Head Coach at ACLAÍ
Ciaran has served as Strength and Conditioning Coach for Limerick Minor Football for the 2012 and 2013 seasons as well as the Limerick U21 Footballers for the 2013 season. He has coached with Young Munster RFC, and also interned with Munster Rugby. He has also coached on an individual basis with people as varied as those simply wanting to get healthier and lose weight all the way to high level runners returning to the track after injury.
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