6 Things Smart Athletes Are Doing To Be Their Best

1. Learning! It amazes me how many people reach a certain level of sport and figure there is nothing more to learn. “I got this far, didn’t I?” I find these are the same folks that have a lot of regret 10 years down the road.

Meanwhile the best athletes in the world are constantly tweaking, adapting, looking for the next edge to stay at the top of their game. They use their coaches, personal trainers, therapists, dietitians, their peers; “how can I get better?” and sure enough they do. Push your ego aside, if Tiger Woods, Sidney Crosby, Beckham, et al can strive, and learn, and grow at the elite level maybe there are a few things you do not yet know!

2. Working smarter not necessarily harder. The old school dogma of more is always better is slowly giving way to a more informed approach to physical training that weighs competition demands against things like practice impact and intensity, common injuries and imbalances, individual weak links as well as where you are at in the competition schedule. Teams then structure training to reflect the peaks and valleys of training intensity knowing that athletes break down without balance. Simple terms; If you ran a hard 5km hill run yesterday then today should not be another killer leg day.

3. Standing up off the mats and training the core in athletic positions. I’m not saying to never do them but doing a lot of sit ups makes you a better puker not a better athlete. Yes the sit up action trains the abdominal flexors, but in sport or life those muscles seldom work in isolation .Stand up and make friends with the cable machine; punches, rows, resisted rotation, wood chops all done using the core to stabilize and keep the spine safe and all done in a position far more applicable to sport than laying on your back. Body weight training with TRX systems or gymnastics rings along with Bungees and huge elastic bands are other great ways to integrate the core.

4. Using foam rolls. These inexpensive yet clever little masochistic devices are the daily massage therapist you wish you had. Foam rolls are used to break down the `glue` binding nerves, muscles, vessels, and fascia as well as breaking down scar tissue and trigger points that make moving in balance very difficult. Use them whenever you can but many elite training programs employ them prior to ensure that things are moving as they should during the workout.

5. Stretching! Something else elite teams are doing is dynamic stretching after the foam roll and prior to the workout and then static stretching after the workout. Sport will inherently shorten and tighten certain muscles based on the demands of that sport. Various injuries and their compensations are also addressed through appropriate athlete specific stretching. I know its not glamorous, and you feel you should be working not laying around, but ask the best in the world whether they invest the time to stretch!

6. Eating as if performance depended on it! I`m not talking about twenty four- seven food Nazi obsessions where you feel guilty for having pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, that’s plain stupid. But I am talking about breaking daily habits that fill you full of fats, sugars, and empty calories. Also giving conscious thought to when and what fuel works best for you prior to activity. And don`t forget the glycogen window is only open for 10 to 30 minutes afterwards where your body will send fuel and building blocks straight to the working muscles rather than the potgutsky or hips.

There, a half dozen things you can embrace tomorrow to be better than you are today.

Ed Stiles BPE, Certified Exercise Physiologist is a member of the Alberta Sport Development Center’s Performance Enhancement Team and operates Peak Performance Fitness Services. He can be reached via email at asdc@mhc.ab.ca or at peakperform@hotmail.com.