As you watch the summer games, you might be feeling inspired to work out like a professional athlete. It’s important to note that these athletes have rigorous training routines that may be difficult to keep up with for people who work from 9 to 5 every weekday. However, there are important aspects we can pull from their training and apply in our own fitness programs.
These elements are a part of most professional athletes’ training regimens:
Elite athletes train to compete in particular events, but their training involves using a variety of exercises. Incorporating various activities into your training routine is essential to work out different muscle groups and not overtrain certain muscles. This technique is known as cross-training, which also has the added benefit of decreasing the risk of overuse injuries or strains. For example, if you’re a runner training for a marathon, spending a day or two off from running and in the weight room lifting light weights can prevent creating major strains on your knees.
Set attainable goals for yourself.
Professional athletes have one goal in mind: to be the best in the world. You might not be able to train like these athletes, but you can still be the best you can be. It is important to know your bounds and determine how much you can push yourself each workout session. You can set attainable goals for yourself by following the SMART guidelines: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. SMART goals allow you to easily and specifically track your progress as you work toward your broader goals.
Pay attention to other lifestyle habits, like diet and sleep.
Whether you’re training for a professional event or something more recreational, diet and sleep should not take a backseat to your training plan. It is essential to keep a well-balanced lifestyle to stay in top shape. Nutrition shouldn’t just be on your mind the hour before and after your workout; a diet for athletes is an all-the-time consideration. Eat carbohydrates before a workout to fuel your body for what’s to come. After a workout, pack in the protein to recover and rebuild your muscles.
Along with nutrition, sleep is another way your muscles recover. As one of the more cost-effective recovery techniques, most athletes try to get at least eight hours of sleep a night. If your body doesn’t get enough sleep, it releases the hormone cortisol, stunting natural muscle growth and energy production.
Take some time off from intensity-focused workouts.
Even though professional athletes keep up these rigorous training routines, they still give themselves a day off from intensity-focused activities to do something less strenuous. Low-intensity workouts keep athletes from overtraining and overexerting themselves. Signs that you need a recovery day are sore muscles, fatigue, and emotional changes. Examples of light activity exercises include yoga, walking, casual swimming, and leisurely biking. Dr. Thomas Parr, orthopedic surgeon at St. Luke’s Health–Sugar Land Hospital, explains the most beneficial number of days for the average person to exercise.
Create a mental toughness to push past days you might be lagging.
Some days “mind over matter” is the motto that will get you out of bed and to the gym. Professional athletes require a lot of mental toughness to be as good at their sport as they are. A way to train your body to push through the most difficult parts of your training is to challenge yourself at the very end of your workouts. The end of your workout is in sight, and you are counting down the reps to being done. Something you can do to build up mental toughness is writing out different challenges to draw from randomly and complete.