Train like an athlete, even if you have no intention of ever competing in your chosen sport. If you want to make greater progress and improve, you should treat yourself more like a competitive athlete.
Being a competitive athlete, whether in strength sports or a more professional sport, takes serious commitment and sacrifice. Not everyone wants to take their fitness and training regime to the level of a competitive athlete, but applying the 5 laws that dictate an athlete’s life to your own life will grant you the results you seek (or beyond) with greater success in less time.
1 - Training
(side note: I always refer to “workouts” as training in accordance with viewing yourself as an athlete).
Treating your training and fitness like an athlete consists of one thing. Create goals. Make them as specific as possible and break them down into shorter term components to get towards the end goal. Everybody wants to get something out of their training. Whether you want to get stronger, lose weight, improve your endurance, or anything else specific to your preferred sport, set a real goal and work towards it.
Even if you love your sport and are happy to practice it every single day, goal setting will further motivate you and drive you towards whatever you want to attain even faster. Having a tangible goal that you are striving to attain will open your eyes to a whole new level of appreciation for your sport.
If lifting weights or cardio is your “sport” then your probably already loosely have one of these goals set in place, but in order to accelerate your progress and break through plateaus you need to focus your attention on one goal at a time and get after it. If you’re working on building strength, direct your attention intensely at one particular area for four to six weeks and crush it. Do the same for hypertrophy (muscle building). This is where weak point training comes in to play. Click here to read about the training I've been doing to target my weak pressing strength for the last 6 weeks. Fat loss is a little more general, since you’re trying to lose fat all over and heavy lifting, which tends to build strength (no kidding) is also the best way to accelerate fat loss with your workouts. Trying to improve your cardiovascular endurance? Focus on a specific goal, like your mile time, distance in 15, 30 minutes, etc. You get the point.
2 - Nutrition
The very best competitive athletes don’t let anything past the gates of their mouth hole if it does not serve a purpose in improving performance in their sport. Nutrition and the foods that you eat are the fuel that drives your performance and revs the engine that gets you towards your goal (which you should have set by now, as per Law 1). Nutrition is also one of the top recovery factors that you can work on improving between training sessions to get back on the grind and working towards your overarching goal sooner and with more intensity. You don’t have to take it to the extreme that a professional athlete does, but keep this in mind if you’re going for your second (or third) cheat meal of the weak. Think about what it is you are trying to achieve when you are buying your groceries, preparing a meal, or digging into the fridge at midnight. While the majority of people are looking to control and reduce the amount they eat, eating like an athlete may mean that you need to eat more, if you are currently trying to build muscle or gain strength. The focus on eating more food typically starts with more protein.
Law 3 - Recovery
The very best athletes take their recovery from training as seriously as the intense training itself. Maximizing recovery includes nutrition, sleep, relaxation techniques, various sports therapy modalities, and supplementation.
Top-performing athletes sleep a lot. Professional athletes have the responsibility of this being part of their career and can therefore focus on getting 7-9 hours of sleep each and every night. For the rest of us, who aren’t being paid for our sport, 7-9 hours of sleep per night isn’t always attainable, but it should be something that you strive towards if you are going to train like an athlete. Sleep helps your body relax and recuperate between training sessions so that you can fight another day towards reaching your overarching goal.
This is an under-valued modality of recovery, even by most professional athletes, but it can provide life-changing benefits. Deep breathing and meditation can help an athlete better handle the pressure of a competition situation and can help you better handle the stress of work and life, as well as react with composure in emergency situations. Relaxation also consists of scheduling more time to do things that you enjoy doing. If your sport is a low-intensity one, this is an easy win-win as you can simply practicing it will get you towards your goal and be relaxing. For strength sports, you can’t just lift more weights as your relaxation practice, even if you love lifting, as it still stresses the body. You are going to have to dedicate some time to another enjoyable activity that’s more relaxing, if you choose to apply this law of athletics.
Various sports therapy modalities can be as expensive as you have the budget for. Professional athletes spend incredible amounts of money on getting professional sports therapy treatments, like massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, active release and professional soft tissue treatments, and cryotherapy to name a few. If you receive any sort of health benefit coverage for alternative medicine, make use of it as it will best suit you to help you deal with stress and recovery so that you can progress towards your goal quicker. There are also very affordable options to choose from that will help you relax and recover, including foam rolling and stretching to help tight or injured muscles relax better. You can also include contrast showers or ice baths which help to promote recovery and systemic relaxation.
Supplements play a very small part in athletic performance and recovery. Don’t worry about this factor, focus on the bigger picture of training more like an athlete. If you have trouble sleeping, look in to melatonin. For overall health consider getting more Vitamin D and Fish oil. You can read more about supplementation for strength performance in my free ebook. Just put your email in the box at the end of this article and you’ll get instant access to it.
Law 4 - Overall Health and Longevity
A serious competitive athlete does every other little thing to gain an additional performance advantage and maximize the longevity of their competitive sports career. If your sport isn’t cardiovascular-based this includes doing additional cardio on top of your training for optimal health. This is especially important in the sport of strongman where cardiovascular endurance is an under-appreciated competitive advantage that will allow an athlete to move quicker and recovery better between events than his or her fellow competitors.
Being mindful of your health also entails getting blood work done and regular check-ups with your doctor to make sure that everything is optimal and taking action promptly when there are deviations.
The discipline to control other lifestyle factors, like smoking and drinking, are also applied by the very best athletes looking to extend their career and longevity.
Law 5 - Mindset
The mindset of a competitive athlete is truly amazing. The discipline and ability to remain calm under pressure are incredibly applicable to all aspects of life. Whether it’s handling an emergency situation, or having the ability to avoid procrastinating and grind through getting work done, the athlete mindset can help you.
By treating yourself more like an athlete through the 4 other laws you will automatically be tapping in to the power of unlocking the mindset of an athlete as well.
Start Making Greater Progress Today
Think of yourself more like an athlete and apply the 5 Laws of training like an athlete to the practice of your sport. Set goals in your training, eat with a purpose, rest and recover with intent, and you will unlock the mindset to conquer anything in your way. Get after it.
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