More Than Fitness
As athletes, we tend to zero in on our sport’s performance demands and become hyper focused at following the training plan that will supposedly lead us to great success. So much attention is given to cranking out the best power, meeting consistent splits, total mileage, efficient cadence, proper form, warm ups and cool downs. This type of focus and dedication is required, but too often it takes over and we end up neglecting to provide our bodies with the wellness truly required to be the best at our chosen game. The longer we neglect the big picture of wellness, the more susceptible we are to breaking down and burning out.
So what does that mean exactly, the big picture of wellness? Well it means taking care of our bodies and minds to fully be able to support the stress of training and competition. Athletes that neglect their wellness are at a much greater risk of illness, malnourishment, poor recovery, increase stress, over use injury, over training, excessive fatigue, mental weakness, and a host of other issues. The base phase of training is an ideal part to begin including a greater focus on the activities needed to fully support the mind and body once training gets intense and competition begins.
These are the wellness activities you need to add to your routine as an athlete:
Sleep - Athletes need 7-10 hours. Quality is better than quantity, this is the time to start building your sleep. Start by investing in a sleep mask, ear plugs, a new pillow, turning of your phone, try a supplement, and staying in bed longer than normal to begin to form the habit of better, longer sleep.
Base Nutrition - Elite & Pro athletes know how to eat to compete, but most lack the ability to eat to be well. This is the time to start building a solid nutrition foundation for a healthy body that can withstand the stress of competition’s sugar heavy, fiber lacking diets. Consume meals heavy in plants (leafy greens, beets, tomatoes), complex carbohydrates (quinoa, squash, legumes), and proteins (salmon, eggs, tempeh), fats (avocados, coconut, nuts, seeds).
Functional Nutrition - This goes beyond balanced plates of healthful foods. Small additions of adaptogens such as cordyceps, reishi, and maca can go a long way to strengthen a system to better combat stressors. Seeds can help boost micronutrient concentrations that immunize and support cellular function. Beyond the ‘what’, functional nutrition is about the ‘you’; the personal & individual relationship to food. The athlete should try hard to be mindful and aware of personal needs during this time.
Tests - Athletes are accustomed to testing body fat, VO2max, and FTP. But there are many other tests an athlete can and should utilize that can provide insight into what your body may need. Adrenal stress, sex and thyroid hormone profiles, metabolic assessment, iron status, DNA, and stool analysis can all be extremely helpful.
Mindset - Competition is not only physically draining. Mental fatigue and stress can take a real toll on athletes. Adding meditation, visualization and positive self talk can be extremely beneficial.
Recovery - Use extra time to create proper recovery routines and establish them as habits. While your resources aren’t going to traveling and racing, put them towards extra recovery. Compression legs, massage, salt baths, foam rolling, cupping, acupuncture, etc… can all be valuable methods to increase physical recovery as well as decrease stress.