Fitness for the Competitive Athlete
Author: Sierra Klotz, Physical Therapist & Athletic Trainer Fit To Excel
Amidst this crisis, it can be very challenging to maintain the competitive edge and find motivation to keep up the intensity of training. Here are five tips to stay in the game when the time comes that you can return to competition:
1. Participate in regular group fitness classes. It is recommended to do intense strength training 3x/week. This is best done through a class so that you have the motivation to keep it up and maintain the appropriate intensity. This exercise is meant to put your muscles into anaerobic respiration in which you feel the muscle burn. Because of this discomfort, it is recommended you do these training sessions through on-line group fitness classes. Fit2Excel is offering these classes at: https://www.fit2excelvt.com/classes/schedule/
2. Take advantage of nature. It is also very important to keep up your cardiorespiratory endurance by doing longer duration and lower intensity workouts. These can include bicycling or jogging. In Vermont, we are fortunate to have many hills and dirt roads which are perfect for jogging and bicycling… and you’ll never know what you might see! Make sure that you do this in a safe way and always wear a helmet when bicycling. To be ready for your sport, it is recommended that you do aerobic activity 5 days/week for at least 30 minutes.
3. Train specifically for your sport. There is a principle in exercise physiology called SAID or Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. It is important that at least 3x/week, workouts include specific skills to your sport. For instance, if you are a gymnast, make sure that you are practicing somersaults, flips, pikes, V-ups and L-sits. If you are a soccer player, do sprints and find a large wall where you can practice shooting and passing the ball. I know it is very disappointing for all spring athletes who are missing your sports, but it will feel good to throw a ball with a family member if you are a baseball/softball player or to jump hurdles, sprint, throw the discus or train in whatever sport you compete in with track and field. By spending time in your specific sport training, you are keeping your muscles strong and fine-tuned for the demands of your sport.
4. Keep your Mind Strong. The difference between winning and losing lies largely in how strong you are mentally. The more disciplined and determined you become, the easier it will be to train hard and get physically fit. Once you have the physical fitness and strength needed for your sport, you will likely be up against many opponents who have the same level of physical fitness. What will be your key to victory? When game day rolls around, your key will be the tenacity, focus and mental clarity of brain strength. There are many mental techniques and tips to have this competitive edge and many of these training skills can be practiced during this time of physical distancing. You can research mental training techniques and mindfulness techniques, some of which I have included in past blog postings. Another great option is to consult a trained professional such as Sheila Stawinski, sports psychologist for UVM Division 1 College teams and GMVS, a feeder program for the US Ski team. You can call 802-871-5423 or e-mail [email protected] to set up a consultation with Sheila.
5. Sleep. Never underestimate the power of sleep. I have highlighted this in a couple previous blogs to recover from illness and keep your immune system strong to prevent getting sick. It is also very important for sport performance. Labron James averages 12 hours of sleep/day. (Forbes & ESPN) It is recommended that you get a baseline of eight hours of sleep/night with one hour added on for every hour of physical exercise that you get. For example, if you work out for two hours during the day, it is recommended that you get ten hours of sleep that night. During sleep, our muscles recharge, our bodies are flushed of harmful chemicals and our brains are re-booted for mental clarity and focus. Regenerative rest is just as important as the workouts that you plan into your day.