7 Tips for Bullet-Proof Athletes

Training tips to become a well-rounded athlete

tips for athletes
tips for athletes.

No one is born an elite athlete. And even those rare athletes who have an innate ability to excel at a given sport have to work at it. Athletic success depends on a wide variety of factors that combine genetics, experience, interest, pure determination, and possibly a bit of luck.  So even though you may not have been "born to run" there are some basic training principles that will help you reach your personal best and get the most from your training while staying injury-free.

By focusing on those things you can control, you can build your sports skills slowly, and over time you may bump up your sports performance dramatically. Here are some tips for taking control of your athletic progression.

1. Build Mental Fitness

Building mental fitness may be the first place to begin improving sports performance. Having the right mindset and the right attitude can overcome many of the training mistakes and poor habits some  athletes fall into. Simple sports psychology methods you can use such as calming anxiety with centering practices, visualizing the outcome you desire with mental rehearsal, improving your own self-talk and keeping the right perspective, can help you move gracefully through both training and competition. Regularly using sports psychology techniques not only helps you get a mental edge, but these techniques allow you to reduce anxiety and stress in your day-to-day life as well.

By simply changing your mind and your expectations, you may find your behavior changing automatically.

2. Build Core Stability

Whether you are playing Lacrosse or hiking a mountain trail, excelling at a sport requires a solid base from which you can initiate powerful movements, and maintain coordination and agility.

Maintaining balance and good body alignment is also a big part of preventing injuries. Core strength and stability are essential in order to maintain muscle control during athletic movement. Building core strength is a fundamental part of nearly every conditioning program and is one of the most important skills an athlete can master. Whether you play field or court sports, swim, play tennis, golf or do a little bit of everything, be sure to include core-strengthening exercises at least two times per week.

3. Build Endurance

Endurance isn't just for marathon runners. Having endurance helps you reduce fatigue and allows you to compete longer and at a higher intensity whether you are playing tennis, golf, soccer or even rock climbing.  Even if you are a power athlete, and your sport demands short, high intensity bursts, you need cardiovascular fitness and endurance to continue repeated high intensity efforts. 

4. Build Strength

Building strength for your sport can help you stay injury-free. Added strength not only makes movements more powerful, but it can delay fatigue, protect joints from injury and help maintain posture during activity. Building strength is most important for power athletes, but every athlete can benefit from participating in a well-balanced full body weight training routine, particularly in the off-season.

If your main sport is focused on endurance, added strength may not be as essential as developing the correct technique and sports-specific skills. However, if you are just starting a new sport or if you are interested in exercise for general fitness and wellbeing, practicing specific weight training routines designed to build strength will help keep you safe and strong for just about any sport you play.

5. Avoid Injuries

Injury prevention is more than luck. Taking precautions every time you train, as well as paying attention to nagging pains, twinges and soreness is essential to avoiding the most common sports injuries.

Some of the fundamentals of injury prevention include: warming up adequately; using the well-fitting equipment, and footwear; getting enough rest; heeding any warning signs of injury; preparing for the weather; and staying hydrated; and using common sense when you exercise. Following these safe workout tips can reduce your risk of common sports injuries and help you train more effectively.

6. Feed Your Muscles

Staying hydrated and well-nourished can be the difference between getting to the finish line in good shape and bonking. In general most athletes will do well to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and lean protein and choose foods with the least amount of processing and packaging.  It's also critical to stay well-hydrated during your longer workouts or when exercising in hot, dry or high altitude conditions. Check out the basics of good pre- and post-exercise nutrition. 

7. Never Ignore Pain

It's not always an easy distinction to make, but there is a big difference between pain and discomfort during exercise. Pain that comes in the form of sudden, specific, acute twinges or a nagging ache in or near a joint should be taken seriously. Pushing through this kind of pain is one of the fastest ways to get injured. The reality is that pain is the body's warning that there is a problem. Discomfort, on the other hand, generally  is associated with overall fatigue, burning lungs and muscles, and rarely causes long-tern damage to muscles or joints. Exercise may at times feel uncomfortable and may make your legs burn and your lungs gasp, but if you feel aches and pains, it's wise to back off, or stop the activity and rest until the pain stops.