Athletic Performance: Dos and Don'ts
If you're about to begin training for the first time, here are ten helpful, tried and tested guidelines for getting the best results. But these suggestions aren't just for beginners - they apply to everyone. If you're a seasoned athlete, these tips could remind you of some points that have been squeezed out of your regime.
Athletic DosDo warm up. This is one of the most vital components of a training session. Warm ups help prepare your body for what is to come. By raising your core body temperature and increasing blood flow you will minimise the risk of injury, and help your body to perform at its optimum level.
Do stretch. Flexibility training is a vital component of almost all athletic pursuits, and should be included in every training session. Stretch after your initial warm up, to avoid muscle tears. Also stretch at the end of your training session, to consolidate flexibility, relieve muscles, and avoid blood pooling.
Do drink plenty. Bring water or an isotonic drink to your training session. By the time you feel thirsty, your body is already becoming dehydrated, meaning your performance is already suffering. Drink small amounts of fluid before, during and after training to avoid this.
Do keep everything written down. Keep a written training programme handy, including a set of measurable objectives that you want to achieve within a set time. Keep your training log up to date. Without measuring your progress, you might never get to where you want to be.
Do get plenty of rest. The type of training you do will impact upon this, but even the most intense training regimes call for at least one full day off per week. Additionally, ensure that you get at least seven or eight hours of sleep per night. Sleep can aid muscle recovery, and help consolidate coordination and hand-eye motor skills.
Athletic Don'tsDon't over-train. This is probably the most important Don't for enthusiastic athletes. Try to fluctuate between very hard and more moderate training sessions, to allow your body to recover. Remember that your body isn't improving while you are training: Your body gets stronger in your rest and recovery period.
Don't train when injured. Some athletes make the bravado claim that you can train “through” or “past” an injury. But in almost all cases, training on top of an injury will only make it worse, and can even cause a fairly mild injury to become permanent. Rest is the only cure for the majority of athletic injuries.
Don't under-eat. As an athlete, your body needs fuel. If you are training hard enough, you are highly unlikely to pile on pounds of fat – so don't skimp on breakfast! You need the energy to push yourself to the next level.
Don't rely on supplements. There are as many sports supplements as there are athletes in training. A well-planned, well-balanced diet will provide you with everything you need to perform well. In some circumstances, certain supplements can provide the “cherry on the cake”, but the net benefit of these highly expensive products is at best limited. The same is doubly true of exotic-sounding supplements and foods that make extraordinary claims: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Don't give up! Throughout your training, you will experience peaks and troughs, both physically and mentally. Your physical progress will increase over time, but you will also experience the “plateau” effect, where it seems that you aren't improving, no matter what you do. Don't panic, this is a natural part of the training process. Talk to friends, talk to your training partners, keep going, and you will get through it.